China Factory Audits
China Factory Audits: What questions should you be asking?
Whether it's yourself, a colleague or a 3rd party sourcing company that conducts your China Factory Audits - it's an operation that simply needs to be done at some point. Keeping costs down is a wonderful thing put we need to be mindful not to squeeze to tight in this area - it's really about managing your risk. China factory visits can be really great, really difficult, can be very interesting and can even be a bit shocking. You are certain to have experiences to conjure lots of different adjectives, boring is unlikely to be one of them no matter how many visits you make.
When speaking about factory audits in China, it is assumed that we have completed a great deal of research on a list of potential supply partners. Normally, I would target finding a nice round number of 10 who can supply the product to the required specification and standard. Dependent on the product it may not always be feasible to get 10 viable options but you really should have 8-10 as a target to then shortlist to 3-5 from your initial research. When you are sourcing companies in China you are really doing a lot of research to shortlist your best options. Before making any big decisions the all important China factory audits need to take place.
China Factory Audits - So what Questions should you be asking?
Having a good structure for the information you would like to gather from your China product sourcing missions is essential. It is too easy to go through a few days visiting factories in China on a whirlwind trip and suddenly realise you are struggling to clinically assess one supplier from the next. The first supplier definitely provided the best dinner but I can't quite remember...what product testing equipment they were using or what they said their capacity for product design was.....hmm.
In the Factory Visit Audit Report here are some of the main question areas we highlight in no particular order of importance.
- Buildings & Facilities: What makes up this suppliers facilities and how are they being used?
- Management Staff: Who are a few key personnel and do I have their business cards?
- Factory Workers: What is their schedule like? What is their demeanour like?
- Production: What are the main products that you witness? What are the major equipment types in use? Do you know production capacity? Are there critical factors to running production?
- Warehousing & Storage: What condition are products being stored in? Is there any security or any risk to damage or theft? Is it an organised space?
- Quality: Is there a quality process visbily in place? Would you pigeon hole the production into low cost or is their attention to detail and workmanship? How are quality issues dealt with internally? or externally from a sub suppliers?
- Product Development: Does the supplier have concrete experience in product development of their own brand or overseas client's products? Are they experienced in mold manufacturing or how do they outsource this?
Get the full China Factory Visit Audit report.
It might all seem like of lot of questions and and a bit "forensic" but actually these are basics that you need to cover. I'm not saying you need to get the lab coat out, strap the goggles on and have the clipboard on your arm with the red pen ready every time but there is nothing wrong with a level of it and all of it dependent on industry.... at least the "clipboard" slash notepad element when you are starting out importing from China. You definitely need to take some notes and images and that's a different process for everyone. After a while most people will start to develop a sixth sense for what they need to ask/record, then the questions like the ones listed above will become and ingrained list with a few additions and subtractions depending on what you are looking at.