When sourcing a new chinese supplier, apart performing a factory audit to verify their production capability, there are a few questions you should ask either during formal or informal meeting. In this article I will explain which question I usually ask to them and why I ask them.
Sometimes I ask those question to learn about the people themselves. It is always interesting to hear about people story who created business.
About the owner
- Who is he/she ? This allow me to know who I should talk to if I have a very serious problem.
- How many owner own this company ? If there are several it means that a concencus may be needed between the different owners to take a decision in case any being necessary.
- What is his background ? If he is only a sales, I am not very confident about it because when problem rise everything will turn about money mostly only. Also for technical discussion this is not very good
- What did he do before launching his company ? If his previous job is related to the current industry it means his experience will be greater than if he just started
- Which province is he from ? It is sad to say but over the years I have noticed that some provinces habit are better than other. It is the same than if you say that people in New York are more money oriented that in the Kansas. In China, I found out that some province people have better attitude toward business than in other. I know it may sounds weird but when sometimes I hear the owner is from X or Y province or city, I instantly know which position to adopt. I also know if the negotiation will be hard or not
About the people who is in charge of my order
- What is their background and what did they study ? If I hear an engineering background I feel much better than if I hear they only have english speaking or studies background because I know then that she/he will only be a translator but when it will comes to discuss about technical issue as it mostly happen in design, engineering and manufacturing the communication will be difficult. I may use some technical words in english and she/he will not understand it becaue the vocabulary will be too limited.
- How long this people have been employed in the company ? If less than 1-2 years and working in another industry before, it doesn’t make me very confident because she/he will not know well about the industry.
- Who else could back up my sales contact if the sales contact is not available?
About the workforce
- How are they paid ? Per pieces or per hour ? If they are are paid per piece we may think they are incentived to work faster to make more money. When you work faster you are also pushed to make more mistake so payment per hour of work is better on a buyer view point
- Are they difficult to manage? If yes why ? If they are and the reason is they leave the company go and come back, it potentially mean they are not happy to work there, hence they are more prompt to make bad work.
- Is there a high turnover ? Who is the worker which has been staying at the company the longest and how long ? This give you an idea of if the people like to stay in the company or not. It may depict if they are well treated and if they like the work they do.
About their other customers
- Who are they ? Big, small, from which country ? This give a pretty good idea of how you can position yourself as a client to this company and may allow you to activate leverage or not.
About the company itself
- How long it has been existing. If long this mean the business is relatively stable. If only 1 or 2 years becarefull because it means they may not have a lot of experience and you might be their beta tester…which may mean you will go trough the first issues
- What are the last machine or investment they have made recently and how long it takes to cover the cost of those investment? If they have acquired an expensive machine it means they have to cover the potential loan they took to purchase it, hence they have more pressure hence your price might be not very competitive (not always but sometimes)
- Does the company is private owned or public owned (it happens sometimes for very big factories they are public owned). If they are public owned it means they willbe supported by the government so they potentially have a bit a more flexibility on pricing
About manufacturing manager
- How do they train workers ? This is very interesting to understand if they have a standard methodology to train workers and employees or not because it give a rough understanding of their organization
- How do they manage workers doing some mistake ? Do they sanction or do they train ? I prefer a factory who train rather than sanction
I am sure there are many other things which can be asked but those questions are most of the one I usually ask. I will update this post if I find other to add.
Is there anything I forgot ?
What about their process controls? When an operator cuts a piece of metal, when a die casting machine is at work, how do they know if the result is good or bad? Do they only wait until the QC department comes and does inspection? Do production people have an understand of what to do and what not to do as far as setting up their processes goes?
You are right, those are questions to ask too, thank you for highlighting. 🙂