Outsourcing product assembly to China may seem like the easiest and most cost-effective solution to getting your product out on the market, but there are plenty of things you should consider before taking this route. If you’re not careful, you could end up spending more money on additional time and resources to get your products back than if you had stayed within your home country. To help you save yourself from these potential pitfalls, here are 9 things you should know before outsourcing product assembly to China.
1. Confirm The Basics
When you’re outsourcing anything, it’s important to make sure you have as many details worked out in advance as possible. That’s what makes product assembly different from most business processes: there’s no room for last-minute changes or rework. When dealing with international outsourcers like those in China, things can be even more complex; for example, if a supplier misreads your email and ships 100 units instead of 10, it could cost you thousands of dollars (and waste even more time). It is critical that you confirm every detail—length and width of each piece, exact location of holes or slots—before starting work. If any instructions are unclear or seem incomplete, ask your supplier to confirm them before proceeding.
2. What Are Your Shipping Requirements?
One of your primary concerns should be where your products will ship from. If a made in China label is part of your business plan, then it’s important to understand what your options are for product assembly and shipping. What kind of shipping timeline do you need? Talk to multiple suppliers and share your expected lead time, incoterm and final delivery details? One big perk of manufacturing in China is flexibility. Your candidates can go great lengths to win your order. Figure out what your priorities are and don’t easily settle on one option too soon. Depending on what’s most important—quality or price—you might have some better options than others.
3. What Is Your Communication Style?
One of the most important steps in product assembly outsourcing is making sure you’re communicating with your supplier effectively. Choose a communication style that works for you and stick with it: whether it’s email, phone calls/video conferences, instant messaging, find out what your preferred method of communication is and don’t waiver from it. If email is what you like best, make sure that your emails are on time and detailed; if you prefer conference calls, try to speak over each other as little as possible; if video conferencing is easier for you, get into a routine where both parties participate instead of just watching. The IM application, WeChat, is widely used in China. If you prefer instance responses, this might be the way to go. Regardless of how formal or informal you think your communications should be—stick with one style that works best for both parties.
4. Do You Need To Check on Quality?
If your product is new or complex, then you should definitely have someone on-site check on quality control. If it’s a well-established and simple design, some entrepreneurs may choose to trust their suppliers more and forgo regular visits. Either way, keeping in contact with your supplier can go a long way toward preventing mistakes before they happen. With the pandemic going on, it’ll be nearly impossible to travel to China physically. You might as well make good use of technology, like video recording! Use it to record yourself demonstrating how your product works so that you can send it over if questions arise during production (for tips on how best to do these types of videos). WeChat is great since it can work in any countries.
5. How Important Is Price?
One of your most common concerns is likely price. Oftentimes, people are under time constraints and are forced to choose what they think is a lower-cost option. But often, you end up spending much more when poor quality or communication causes delays in production and parts get lost in transit. The best way to ensure that price isn’t a deal breaker for your product assembly is by finding reliable manufacturers who adhere to agreed-upon pricing structures. Finding a manufacturer that doesn’t sacrifice quality or support for low costs will keep your project on schedule and under budget—not just at launch but moving forward as well. By establishing clear ground rules with your manufacturers from day one, you can reduce problems that lead to overruns later on down the line.
6. Do You Need Drawings/Sketches?
Sending drawings/sketches is ideal if you have a firm idea of what you want your product assembled, but no prototype. If you’re still in process with your design, it’s a good idea to wait until it’s finished before sharing. That way, whoever you hire can work off something concrete and visual. Many outsourcers use CAD technology for products with multiple parts or components; because foreign workers don’t always speak English fluently, drawings are a must for these types of projects.
7. Do You Have a Timeline?
Give yourself a deadline for when you want your product assembled and shipped. When outsourcing overseas, it can be difficult to gauge how long things will take, which can cause stress as you try to juggle multiple deadlines. Having a set timeline will allow you to manage your schedule more accurately. Many companies that work with foreign manufacturers are also able to provide assistance with logistics and shipping should you need help getting your products delivered on time.
8. Set Up Quality Control Throughout Manufacturing Process
When you’re outsourcing product assembly to China, it’s important that every stage of manufacturing undergoes quality control. Inspecting your products at each step ensures that a simple mistake or oversight at one point in production doesn’t snowball into a mass shipment of defective products—which can mean expensive returns, dissatisfied customers and even lawsuits. It can also help identify exactly where problems arise—and thus where additional quality-control measures should be implemented. Quality control is particularly important when outsourcing manufacturing because a hasty approach may skip important steps. For example, some manufacturers will cut corners by putting too much glue on an item or not applying enough pressure during gluing—both of which could render it unusable or prone to breakage.
9. Find the Right Supplier and Start Communicating with Them
It’s important that you find a company that specializes in product assembly. Some companies are not able to assemble products, and will send your components to another supplier who can complete assembly. Finding a reliable, competent partner will help make outsourcing a positive experience for both parties. Once you’ve found someone you want to work with, communicate clearly and directly in order to make sure each party understands what’s expected from them. Transparency is especially important when it comes to communication, as that way you’ll avoid misunderstandings or confusion which could delay your project schedule.
Shield Works is always ready to be your trusted partner for product assembly with our in-house and bilingual engineers. If you have questions regarding our contract assembly service, please don’t hesitate to contact us!