Once you've narrowed the field and located several potential manufacturers (I recommend finding at least 3), it's time to start your due diligence. The challenge is to know as much as you possibly can about the company and their facility.
Your manufacturer is one of the most important relationships your company will have. You are essentially interviewing a potential partner for your company. You'll need someone who is reliable, trustworthy and responsible who can produce a quality product competitively priced and can deliver on-time. Proceed with caution and curb your enthusiasm about hiring until you've asked some important questions.
The initial contact with the potential manufacturer should be to narrow down what kind of manufacturing they do, making certain they are a good fit for your product. So if they make just T-shirts you probably don't want them to produce bridal gowns.
You wouldn't get married on
the first date and you don't
want to make a decision on the
Here is a basic check list:
1. Make sure they understand your industry and are familiar with your type of products. Ask for their expertise in your area.
2. What types of materials do they use the most? Again if they generally sew knits for T-shirts they would not be a likely candidate for sewing silk bridal gowns.
3. What other companies have hired them? Ask for references and then contact the references.
4. Visit the workroom or factory after the initial conversation makes them a candidate. Look to see how clean and organized it is. Does there appear to be a work-flow? Seeing with you own eyes can be very telling.
5. Check the workmanship of similar items. Is it the quality you are looking for?
6. Is everything done in house? Sometimes small factories will send some processes out – make sure you know that everything is under one roof.
7. Ask who is would be in charge of your project and make sure to meet them. What's your instinct about this person? Have you established rapport and are they taking the time to answer all your questions
8. What are the lead times required? What information and supplies do they require prior to production if they are not supplying everything?
9. When is the deadline for a counter sample to be complete and approved prior to production?
10. What is their quality control procedure? How much time will you have to inspect the goods after you receive them?
11. What are the payment terms? These are generally negotiable to some extent.
12. You'll certainly need to know the price per unit - but do not discuss price until you know two things #1 What is your bottom line which means you need to know ahead of time and #2 Are they capable of doing the work and do you want to work with them?
13. What is the cost of samples? Good samples are a necessity when you are selling – they show your products to buyers and your orders will be derived from showing the samples. Know how many you need, by what date. Costs are often based on production per unit – such as 3 times or possibly more.
Remember the first time you work with someone is usually the most challenging. My rule for manufacturing is to inspect what you expect. Keep in contact, show up to view the progress. And remember your specification sheets are key components -and you need to know they completely understand them. Time and quality are essential when taking your product to market.