Whenever I have a client manufacturing something in China, I always recommend visiting the manufacturing facility. There are many benefits to visiting your manufacturer regardless of where they are, but from my experience, it’s even more important when your manufacturer is overseas. The cost to visit may seem high at first, but can you really afford not to? Here are some reasons why we recommend taking the trip:
1. So your factory knows you
There are more than 1 billion people in China, and they have a culture that dates back over 5,000 years. This culture drives much of what the people do and believe, and one of the biggest aspects of their culture is relationships. Relationships govern almost everything that happens in China, and if you don’t have a relationship with your factory, you will almost definitely struggle with your production. Visiting China allows the workers at your factory to get to know you and it shows effort on your part to establish a relationship with them. Simply visiting your factory can make a huge difference in improving issues in communication, cooperation and quality.
2. So your factory likes you
Along with letting your factory know who you are, a visit can help your factory like you more, which will improve your experience working with them. Giving them sincere compliments — no matter how small — can go a long way. Other ways to build the relationship include offering to take them out to dinner, bringing small gifts from your hometown, and learning a little bit of Chinese. It’s also extremely helpful to bring somebody with you that does understand their language and culture and can communicate on a deeper level with both managers and line workers. Bringing someone along who has put in the time and effort to learn Chinese and understands their culture shows your factory that you are serious about working with them and want to invest in making the relationship work.
3. So you know your factory
In addition to letting your factory know who you are, visiting them is important so that you understand their point of view as well. Because the culture is so different, it can be eye-opening to realize how your products are manufactured. Seeing the working conditions, environment and processes can help you appreciate more of what goes on behind the scenes at your factory. Employees in China have an unbelievable work ethic and often work ten hours a day or more, six days a week. Seeing everything operate will help you better understand why issues are happening and what can realistically be done to resolve them. It breaks down the walls that often get put up when trying to work remotely, and will show you what’s really happening at your factory.
4. So you’re protected
Understanding your factory and building a relationship with them will also help you protect your business when producing overseas. One of the most common concerns of overseas manufacturing is protection, including both intellectual property and counterfeit items. Though both IP fraud and counterfeit products exist in China, visiting your factory can prevent many cases. In our experience, most IP fraud comes from a violated relationship, and visiting the factory can help you avoid those situations. As stated above, relationships are a vital part of the Chinese culture, and if you have a positive relationship with your factory, they will protect you and work with you as if you were family. Visiting them will also help you see if the claims they have about certifications or product features are real. Many counterfeit situations occur simply because the business owners didn’t know that they were working with an unsubstantiated factory. Unfortunately, without ever seeing the factory in real life, you won’t know you have a counterfeit product until it’s too late.
5. So you can resolve issues
Seeing your factory in person will also help you work together to resolve issues. Manufacturing issues can occur regardless of where your production is taking place, but trying to resolve those issues in China is even harder because of the distance and language barriers. While visiting the factory, you can see problems first-hand and help your factory work through the problem-solving process to find a solution that works for both of you. Doing this in person speeds up the process and gets your products to market faster instead of trying to explain things remotely, hoping it works, and then waiting for samples.
Having a positive relationship with your manufacturer is vital for any business and developing this relationship in-person is one of the best ways to get things running more smoothly. Trying to operate without visiting can be extremely dangerous and costly; a couple thousand dollars for the trip is well worth the money.