We receive frequent emails with questions like “How do I find a factory in China” or How do I find a contract manufacturer in China?” The short answer is that it takes a good deal of due diligence and on the ground ability to visit and qualify a supplier. Many individuals who want a product made in China will select a sourcing agent to find a reliable supplier in China. But what are the requirements to finding a good sourcing agent and how much does a sourcing agent cost?

A China sourcing agent (or rep in any country in Asia) is an individual or firm who interfaces between a client seeking a good supplier or manufacturer in China on behalf of a brand or company. Often the difference between a good and bad experience is not the fault of either party but lies in planning, details, strategy and communication. It is just as critical to research and qualify a China sourcing agent as it is a factory. In fact, if a company has more than one item slated for product development the agent’s role becomes even more important.

The top qualifications of a professional sourcing expert in China or Asia include:

Experience.

The person or firm you select for assisting with Asia or China sourcing should have years of experience in both a brand’s industry and product materials and manufacturing. Developing stainless steel products is far different than injection molding. A good agent should have a high degree of technical proficiency around design and manufacturing details. They should understand how to open and read 3D drawings and should be asking for all testing requirements for fit and finish.

References.

This is often the most overlooked detail when finding an agent in China or any country. A true professional should be able to provide specific examples of products they have worked with in the past. So long as there are no conflicts of interest or competitive concerns, an agent should be quite open with providing two or three personal references of existing or past clients who are open to speaking about their experience.

Questions to Ask.

In both speaking with references and in selecting a sourcing agent the top questions to consider include the following and should not always be “yes or no” questions but rather “tell me how you do it” inquires.

  1. How long have you been in the category/industry/worked with specific materials?
  2. How many different factories do you currently work with?
  3. How do you identify the best supplier by product/client? Here you should be seeking examples of how they audit a factory and the critical factors are they considering. The list should be large and include parallel information on experience, materials, financial health, references, minimum order requirements and most importantly Quality Control. IMPORTANT: Ask to see examples of factory audit reports to see if they have a consistent and documented process.
  4. What do your services include and how are you paid. This should be clearly communicated. Ask to see examples of an agreement.
  5. Ask the agent to give examples of a difficult challenge or situation between a factory and client and how they resolved it.

Finding the best factory in China or Asia for a new product can be like finding a needle in a haystack. It takes time and due diligence. Finding the best sourcing agent for manufacturing your product in China is equally or more important and requires the same effort.

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