On international trade forums, there are lots of stories shared about bad experience of working with a wrong supplier, they look daunting. However, you can avoid the majority by following right steps to successful sourcing in China:

Step 1. Assess suppliers’ ability to communicate

Many buyers begin the process of sourcing from China by trying to looking for suppliers based on whether they can offer the product they want at the right quality level and price. But a supplier’s ability to communicate is equally important. In fact, poor communication between customers and suppliers is one of the major causes for manufacturing troubles.

Pay attention to the following when communicating with a potential supplier:

• Responsiveness – How long does it take for your main contact to respond to your questions, comments and concerns?

• Attention to detail – Are the responses you’re receiving thorough and complete?

• Clarity – Does the supplier communicate clearly so that you can easily understand?

Step 2. Request product samples from the factory

Requesting product samples is an easy, no-commitment option for narrowing down your list of potential suppliers. An important step when sourcing from China, asking for product samples helps you gauge whether or not the supplier can actually provide what you’re looking for. Most reputable suppliers are willing to send a product sample to interested parties for a relatively small fee.

Obtaining a sample lets you scrutinize every aspect of the product, from the parts and materials used to product dimensions and the supplier’s attention to fine details. With samples in hand, you can:

• Check parts against an approved bill of materials;

• Conduct lab testing for material composition for products like fine jewelry where quality of materials is important; and

• Run comparison testing against samples from different suppliers or an industry benchmark.

Step 3. Audit the supplier’s facility

An important part of finding the right supplier is visiting the factory to conduct an audit. This is as true of sourcing from China as it is anywhere. You may choose to visit the factory yourself, but most importers generally send third-party professionals to conduct a more formal audit. There are several common types of audits used to assess a factory, the most common of which is the supplier review for quality and capability.

Step 4. Set clear expectations for product requirements

If there’s one area of manufacturing importers is least likely to give adequate attention to, it’s setting clear expectations. It may seem like a simple concept, but unclear expectations are the chief cause of the majority of problems related to product quality, nonconformance to specifications and shipping delays.

You should attempt to set your expectations as soon as you make contact with a prospective supplier. But at this point, having likely chosen a supplier, there are a number of ways you should continue to do this throughout the sourcing process.

Step 5. Conduct product inspection

An importer can generally inspect a product at multiple stages of production. Which stage and how frequently to inspect largely depends on your budget for quality control, your shipping deadline and your product complexity. There are three main types of product inspection defined by when they occur:

• Pre-production inspection – A pre-production inspection typically looks at the raw materials and components that will be used in manufacturing a product.

• During production inspection – A during production inspection allows for checking the goods during various production processes, in addition to checking material use and workflow. This inspection type is especially beneficial for shipments of large quantities with continuous production, products that involve many different processes and products that are vulnerable to defects that can’t be reworked at the later stages of production.

• Final inspection – A final inspection is an important step before you pay for the order, it allows for sampling check of complete products, from safety, function, aesthetics, usability, as well as packaging.


When working with a new supplier, there’s always the potential for unforeseen issues. It’s impossible to predict everything that can go wrong. But you can protect yourself, your investment and your customers by following the above steps.


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