These days I am exhibiting on a trade show (China Sourcing Fair in Hong Kong).
Every time I attend a fair to find new clients, I am amazed by the number of buyers who say “Oh, so you visit factories all over China… You must know some good factories… Can you give me a list?”
I can understand them. They see salespeople (who can say whatever they want) and samples (which might come from many different factories). There is no way of making sure what production will look like, whether there will be delays, or whether the managers are honest.
This is what I typically respond:
We don’t provide any help for sourcing, because we have to be independent when it comes to approving or rejecting product quality. It could create some conflicts of interest.
We also have a strict code of conduct concerning confidentiality. We don’t use the information gathered when servicing one client for the benefit of another client. If you find a good factory, and I give their contact to another big buyer who takes all available capacity, will you be happy?
I think most quality control firms give the same response. But I know of some competitors who audit many factories (and get paid for it by their clients), and later “rent” this database to whoever needs to consult it. I would only advise to propose this service to experienced buyers… Certainly not to the new buyers that ask for it on trade shows.
Why? Let’s say I know a good factory that makes exactly the product a given buyer needs. Let’s also say the factory is roughly the right size, and it is used to export business, AND its quality system is flawless. This is already a long list of “ifs”. But let’s say these conditions are met. What happens if this factory subcontracts the order in a lower-grade workshop that makes unsellable goods?
As anybody who buys in China ends up noticing, Chinese suppliers subcontract a lot. It is so widespread, I often advise to do early inspections (to get an idea of product quality as early as possible) rather than factory audits.