China factory location. Why this is important

What people are saying about Mulberry Fields
“I have read through quite a few of your blog posts and have enjoyed them very very much. We do business in China and face many of the challenges you describe. Much of what you write resonates with me and there are some very helpful tips”   – from a company in Utah

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It is always a good idea when you are considering a new vendor to ask where their factory is in relation to their office. Why is this important ? The reason is that your vendor will be giving your order to the factory. If the factory is at some distance from the vendor’s office then communication may be neither timely nor efficient. In fact, vendors do not like to spend time at factories which, in China, are usually out in the countryside. Roads in China can be rough with lengthy traffic bottlenecks and I don’t think anyone – vendors or their customers – enjoy sitting in a car for 3 hrs on a crumbling Chinese road. Some vendors, I would venture to say, only go out to their factories when there is an emergency, a very late order or when they have a buyer in town.

But if you have a design driven product with a lot of requirements you need your vendor to be at the factory so they can communicate your needs to the factory manager and the workers and monitor quality closely as the order proceeds. . Therefore location of office vis a vis factory is important. If your vendor’s office is more than an hour away from the factory you have to ask them how they communicate with the factory? Are there computers so design or production hiccups that cannot be communicated over the phone can be emailed? Do they have any kind of video conferencing facilities? This is a reason why buyers need to make factory visits. Only they can determine these things for themselves.

You also have to consider the factory’s distance from the subcontractors. I remember being at a factory a couple of years ago. Some of my customer’s order was being outsourced. I had no problem with this but I wanted to go see the subcontractors (usually cottage industries set up in proximity to the main factory). However, I was told that the subcontracting “factory” was about 2 hrs from the main factory and that the round trip might take much of the day. That told me right there that the main vendor was probably not spending much time with his subcontractors. Who was making sure they were doing the order correctly? Who was making sure they were on schedule? Villagers after all do not have cell phones, faxes, PCs, teleconferencing facilities.

Ideally you want to find a vendor whose factory is within an hour of their office and where the subcontractors are within 30 min from the factory. These are very reasonable distances to navigate.. If your vendor has a factory that is 2 hours away from his. /her office then you should be concerned.

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