Importer’s Guide on How to Manufacture a Product in China

Mar 09, 2022 Chapter 2. Supplier

Introduction to Manufacture a Product in China:

Are you designing or developing a new product that will be manufactured in China? Unless you have been doing this professionally for years, it can be a very challenging experience.

I have been working with companies in your situation for over 10 years and this guide may be right for you. It won’t give you an exact map because there is no such thing. It will warn you about the 3 main pitfalls you need to avoid and a list of “best practices” that the best companies should follow.

Everything in this guide is written from the perspective of a startup or SME launching a new product. Nothing here is out of your reach (or “only for big companies”).

 

Should You Manufacture in China?

Big companies that sell a lot in the US are moving some of their proven products to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, etc. That’s right. True. But let’s say you want to develop new machinery or electronics quickly and remove all unnecessary obstacles. In this case, you will most likely need to manufacture a product in China for the following reasons.

  1. – You will be close to a wide range of component suppliers, surface treatment facilities, etc.
  2. – The tooling can be manufactured quickly and (relatively) cheaply.
  3. – human resources, especially expertise in different technologies and processes, seem to be unlimited.
  4. – China’s infrastructure and its network of service providers are unparalleled in Asia.

 

 

 

3 Fatal Mistakes That Will Hurt Your Ability to Effectively Manufacture a Product in China

This section could be titled “The domino effect of manufacturing products in China.” Making 2 or 3 critical mistakes at the beginning of getting a product manufactured in China can often lead to a host of other serious problems. I recently looked at the millions of dollars wasted on Coolest Cooler, a Kickstarter project that failed miserably.

I discussed this topic with people who confirmed my observation that the same types of problems tend to plague companies developing and manufacturing a product in China. They are usually caused by a few mistakes made early in the process. Here’s how it usually unfolds.

Manufacture a Product in China mistakes

 

 

Fatal Mistake 1. Not Having a Proper Strategy and Plan

This usually leads to companies falling into the hands of the wrong type of supplier. The following are some examples.

  • – Partnering with ODM manufacturers because they already have relatively similar products… Taking the risk of being the source of your own new product ideas
  • – Working with a trading company that may not have much control over what happens in the factory
  • – Working with a large organization that will never devote its best resources to your (small) project
  • – Working with a manufacturer that doesn’t even have the right engineering capabilities

 

Many companies come to us after becoming frustrated with an unsuitable supplier. We have noticed that this original mistake is often the root of many other problems: 

  • -Excessive trust in one supplier and the lack of a backup supplier become a huge problem when it is time to end the current relationship (which I will cover later). It is important to cultivate backups for any project other than a small one. Even if you are not 100% production-ready, they should be at least half.
  • – Ignorance of the huge gap between R&D (a few prototypes of a product made with components from random suppliers) and NPI (certified products, off-the-shelf tools, off-the-shelf production processes, off-the-shelf test stations, qualified suppliers, and the ability to transition smoothly from product development to volume production). Because it is ignored, even bridging this gap can take up to 6 months of hard work!
  • – Since the buyers had no realistic judgment of a successful (i.e. largely problem-free) mass production run, they made three serious mistakes.
    1. Believing the supplier’s optimistic projections (which often turn out to be overly enthusiastic) without asking for a concrete plan and challenging it. Yes, of course, it can be shipped in 3 months…
    2. Promising to go to the market to eager retailers and/or crowdfunding backers at unrealistic dates and delaying delivery by 6-18 months!
    3. Promising the market and investors a certain product before the product design has really matured. What if the material eventually needs to be changed to make it mass manufacturable? And a part of the software that has to be certified?

 

 

Fatal Mistake 2. Not Signing the Proper Agreement at the Beginning of the Relationship

A proper agreement is critical, but it is often put on hold and forgotten …… until buyers begin to suspect (or obvious signs of misconduct). Here are some of the key advantages it will provide.

  • – Get the supplier to commit to keeping the bill of materials (i.e., the list of all components and their sources and prices) open to you. Some manufacturers will accept this if you ask for it from the outset.
  • – Make the supplier aware that all developed intellectual property is yours. Yes, this should be “normal,” but in China, it is not ……
  • – Leverage in the event of supplier misconduct. This applies if you make the agreement enforceable in the supplier’s country.  Get to know China’s manufacturing law as much as possible.

 

The most important thing is to do this at the beginning. Once you start to get a product manufactured in China and you’ve put in some time, they’ve made some progress and they know you’re not going to leave them. Good luck getting them to sign your agreement at that stage… It’s often too late.

What happens in this situation? It doesn’t always happen, but the supplier may raise the price. Or they may offer poor quality. Or they may take your tools and/or products hostage when you start threatening them with fines.

These situations have killed thousands of new product manufacturing projects. Don’t be one of these casualties. The solution is well known and requires only minor adjustments to apply to your situation.

 

 

Fatal Mistake 3. Over-Relying on Your Chosen Supplier

Because you tend to rely on your manufacturer and delegate the entire project to them, you take no precautions.

(This is in addition to the lack of proper protocols, which exacerbates the effects I mentioned above.)

The most common symptoms of this mistake are as follows.

    1. – The buyer does not know the critical component supplier (or the plant that performs the critical surface treatment (e.g. plating, painting, etc.)). This makes switching to a new supplier more difficult, as everything must be started from scratch.
    2. – There is no (micro) management of engineering work. The buyer has no drawings, schematics and other non-recurring engineering deliverables. Again, leaving the current supplier means starting from scratch!

This is the core of our company’s work and many importers come to us for this type of work. Unfortunately, when they realize how little information they have on hand and how bad their alternatives look, they sometimes decide that their only viable solution is to try to salvage their current supplier relationship ……

This decision drives them deeper into their hole. Sometimes they find a way to bring some products to market and get some oxygen. However, they are often digging the graves of their own projects. It’s often wiser to admit failure when they run out of money and have no clear path forward.

 

 

 

 

Are you “Ready to Manufacture a Product in China”?

A friend once told me that many companies come to Shenzhen or Shanghai to buy products that are not “China-ready.”

Every year thousands of companies are formed to develop and manufacture new products, and they are not “China ready,” they have the confidence to do it without proper advice and support.

It’s like trying to learn how to make a parachute after jumping out of a plane. Buying an off-the-shelf product is already challenging. Developing new and munafucture a product in China from scratch is several orders of magnitude more difficult and risky. It’s really brave to do this without taking the time to understand the script ……

 

What are the signs that you may not be ready to manufacture a product in China?

  • – You meet with a potential supplier, and they go out of their way to make you feel at home. The boss takes you out for a gorgeous dinner. You’re impressed. However, all of this is just the standard way to make a sale in China. It doesn’t mean they will treat you as a VIP customer throughout the relationship.
  • – You have confidence in the factory.” They work for Microsoft. “Sounds good, but it doesn’t mean anything until you have tangible proof.” They’re on Apple’s supplier list, “It’s better, it’s verifiable, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. I know this first-hand – we’ve seen a large and well-known group repeatedly cheat small importers for Apple.
  • – You make all kinds of assumptions, and they are very, very dangerous. I’ve written a list of 21 common assumptions before, and here are a few examples.
    1. You assume that NDA is NDA and that you can use the template used in your home country. In reality, this doesn’t work in China.
    2. You find Alibaba.com. You believe that all the information you read there is true. You think the “Gold Supplier” badge means they are more secure than others. All wrong.
    3. The manufacturer says they will make the tool. You assume that the tool manufacturing (and all the sensitive IP that comes with it) will be done within its four walls in a room. You assume it will be yours. You assume they will give it back to you if you ask for it. You assume they will not use it for other customers. Think again!
    4. The supplier tells you that they are moving their plant to a new location. You assume that this is like moving your office to a new building. At best, this is a serious disruption that causes a significant slowdown in their production for 1 or 2 months (which is really optimistic). At worst, the plant is closing, and they are subcontracting your production to a 10 person shop in a garage with no follow-up quality.

 

Please note that one should not generalize these observations. Not all Chinese manufacturers are unethical and incompetent – although many certainly are. Some are very good… And they are very busy, which means they are unlikely to be interested in small projects which also require a lot of engineering work.

Manufacture a Product in China

 

 

Steps to Manufacture a Product in China

If you think that the random supplier you encounter is likely a risk, you will take more precautions. This is the right mindset to have when doing business in China.

And to mitigate such risks, the first step is to determine the type of “ideal supplier” you need to find, which brings us to the next point: How to have a product manufactured in China?

 

 

1. Develop a Smart Strategy and Realistic Plan

Are you excited about a new product concept, eager to see it come to life, and afraid that your competitors will enter the market before you do? Beware of the “rushed entrepreneur” syndrome. As I wrote above, you are about to explore the quasi-unknown territory. You need first to gather some information about your expectations. Don’t rush yourself into trouble that could (and should) be avoided.

 

Consider all aspects and implications of product design

What causes the most delays? It is too late in the process to fix the problem. Problems are 10 times more expensive and time-consuming if you find them during the prototyping process rather than during the initial design or in production rather than during prototyping.

The following are some examples of important considerations that are often skipped early on but at a high cost.

  • – Do you need a level of finishing similar to Apple products? Don’t choose a manufacturer that works primarily for Walmart.
  • – Will the retail package come together? This means the packaging needs to be sturdy enough.
  • – Does the user expect the battery to be fully charged within 1 hour? This will have an impact on the charger, battery type, etc.
  • – Do users expect to be able to replace parts? You need to make this operation easy and consider potential safety issues.

 

Spend some time planning your next steps

Remember Dwight Eisenhower’s famous quote, “Planning is useless, but planning is essential. Have you ever thought about the different steps of your project, all the way up to “the first batch has been made and shipped out of China”?

People with no experience in product development systematically underestimate the amount of time and effort required. Here are two examples.

  • – Electronics design experts will tell you that at least 3 prototypes (for enclosures and electronics) are needed. Each iteration takes time.
  • – If your product will not fail prematurely in the hands of users, then you will need to run highly accelerated lifecycle testing (HALT). This is an additional cost, and you may need to wait for the results before confirming the product design.

 

That’s why last year, we presented a roadmap for complex hardware products developed and manufactured in China. It’s not exactly optimistic, but it will get you thinking about what you might do right or wrong (that’s the point). Work with people who have done it before to adapt this plan to your specific situation.

 

Are there any milestones?

In your plan, you may want to include milestones, ideally a phased approval process (review before moving on to the next phase).

manufacture products in China

 

Note: This is common in established organizations and certain startups that need to convince investors; in most startups, it is usually not formally addressed.

The following are examples of classic milestones.

  1. – Confirmation that the industrial design (i.e., the external appearance of the product) is attractive to the typical consumer (and/or retailer) prior to detailed 3D work
  2. – Drawings
  3. – Confirm that a similar looking prototype is attractive to the typical consumer (and/or retailer)
  4. – Confirm that proof-of-concept prototypes successfully perform the 2 core functions
  5. – Confirm that similar working prototypes meet the required specifications
  6. – Obtain third-party product certification to comply with relevant regulations

 

 

Expect some delays

The sad reality is that most projects are delivered late. And, the more complex the project, the more likely they are to fall behind schedule. Many studies show this to be true.

In this article, we show a typical example (the project actually took twice as long as planned). Psychologists call this tendency the “planning fallacy. You may not be able to escape it.

Consider this when preparing your financial projections – every fixed cost (e.g., monthly salary) adds up to a spike in your overall costs. In this sense, paying for services rendered, rather than hiring full-time staff, usually reduces the risk of the project.

 

There are often solutions that can save time… But they can be high-risk

The following are some examples of time-saving initiatives.

  • If you’re not sure about compliance, you can lab test components before production and wait for the results. Or you can risk going directly in production.
  • A small trial run prior to volume production is useful for capturing any problems in the process, sometimes even in incoming components. You and the factory may decide to go straight to mass production with the risk of incurring a lot of rework, scrap material, and shipping delays.
  • Your prototypes may contain parts from untested suppliers. Finding and qualifying quality suppliers can take time. Again, you and the factory may decide to take the risk of quality problems with your first components.

 

 

 

I hope you have read the beginning of this article. The “3 Fatal Mistakes” I mentioned above are the absolute pitfalls you need to avoid.

You also need to know what the biggest risks and assumptions are in your project. Here are two examples.

  • – If you assume that a particular technology can be used for the purpose you have in mind, and if this is very uncertain, then the first thing to do is to use proof of concept to address that assumption.
  • – If you believe that the risk of being copied is highest, consult with an attorney who works in IP and is familiar with the Chinese business environment before discussing your product idea with others. On the other hand, it would be very inefficient for you to visit ten companies in Shenzhen without telling them what you need to do.

 

In particular, spend some time mitigating market risk

As consultant Eric P Rose advises hardware startups, you should make sure there is a demand for your product, and you should understand the nuances of that demand before you invest a lot of money and effort into making that product a reality.

 Studies show that 42% of startups fail because they offer something that the market doesn’t value. This is actually the number one reason for launch failure!

In addition to market research, one way to limit market risk is to develop a “minimum viable product” as version 1.0 of your product.

  • – Show your target users/buyers virtual (computer design only), physical “look-alike” and physical “work-alike” prototypes to get feedback in the process and make adjustments as necessary
  • – Get to market faster with a simpler product, get real-life feedback, and make informed decisions about what’s in version 1.1… Or 2.0!

 

 

What certifications are required for the country/region of sale?

You need to know this from the start, and it may take some research.

For example, many of the electronics we develop for our US customers require FCC and sometimes UL certification. This must be planned from the initial design stage:.

  • – Placing components on the PCB in the wrong way can lead to FCC failure (in our experience, conducting design reviews and simulations has proven invaluable);
  • – If you develop a mobile power supply and the retailer requires it to be UL certified, it is a good idea to spend some time looking for a battery supplier that has already obtained the same UL certification.
  • – The certification needs to be done on pre-production prototypes after the tooling has been processed and almost all of the engineering work has been done. Redesign at that stage can be both expensive and time-consuming.

 

 

How Do You Choose a Manufacturer in China?

You need to find the right type of supplier for your needs. One way to classify suppliers is based on their business model.

  • -Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) – if you want to leverage their existing technology, keep your investment low, and act more like a distributor than a product owner.
  • -Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) – if you don’t mind working the “Chinese way,”: the supplier hides some of their elements and then develops the product for you according to your design. The OEM specializes in buyers who need to buy such types of products.
  • -Contract Manufacturer (CM) – If you are ready to pay for development and tooling and have a clear contract, this can provide you with much control and visibility. You’ll be fighting 3 battles with CM and they might work against each other:

1. Getting the CM to understand your product and figure out how to produce it.

2. Figuring out what troubles or issues the CM might have with the manufacturing and assembly of your product in China.

3. Getting the right price for the each component.

 

 

Another way to go is by their size. I usually divide them into 3 main categories.

China manufacturing supplier types

 

  • -Smaller plants may be “light” in terms of engineering resources and quality control.
  • -Larger organizations tend to be slower and more expensive. Finding the”best fit” can take some work. What is the most appropriate process for prototyping custom-designed parts (if any)?
  • -Traditional CNC machining, 3D printing, or more common methods such as stereolithography, selective laser sintering or vacuum casting? This information can drive your search for the best partner for initial prototyping. Typical Chinese factories usually do not have such processes in-house but can help with post-prototyping. We will discuss this in more detail in “Elements of Solution 4”.

 

 

2. Build Your Supply Chain on a Solid Foundation

Your new electromechanical products may contain dozens of components. In many cases, the success or failure of a development project lies in a series of mistakes when building the supply chain. Here’s how to avoid them.

 

Identify, screen, and qualify suppliers. By now, you have the ideal type of supplier. You may have thousands of options in your product category, so you need to filter them down.

First, make sure you are not dealing with a trading company that pretends to own and operate a factory. Business registration checks are quick and easy and can help you clear these.

You also need to make sure they are doing a good job at increasing production. Conduct process audits on one or two key factories. Engineers can visit them and look for risks in the most important areas.

In-depth conversations and keen observations are also important. If the owner was once a salesperson and had been reinvesting profits in real estate, these are usually not good signs.

find a manufacture in china for your product

 

 

Never let the middleman obscure visibility

Don’t let an assembly plant build and “own” your entire supply chain.

  • -If one of the component suppliers has quality issues, those issues may never be resolved well and you will not be able to send a good engineer.
  • -You will know very little about the profitability of the assembler. We’ve seen it in the 60% to 80% range.
  • -Assemblers may raise prices and/or under-deliver, and you may have trouble rebuilding your supply chain. For example, you do want to maintain the same anodized finish on the product surface, but most anodizing shops can’t reproduce it.

 

Don’t try to control every aspect of the supply chain

Some suppliers are critical, and some are not. You don’t have unlimited resources to allow your manufacturer to choose suppliers for screws, connectors, etc.

However, you need to identify a few key rows in the Bill of Materials (BOM).

  • -If the material comes into contact with food, you need to ensure that its
  • supplier is aware of regulatory requirements.
  • -If the housing is made of injection-molded plastic, you need the factory to be able to provide consistent quality.
  • -If glues are involved and could create serious problems, you will need MSDSs.

 

Provide backups for each key supplier

This may not be possible when you develop your product and first order. However, you will need to think about it at some point.

It’s also helpful if your order volume recovers faster than expected – that’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem if your key suppliers can’t follow through as quickly as needed.

Remember, it takes time to bring in new suppliers. It can be a huge waste of time to wait until a backup is needed to come back and start choosing suppliers again.

 

 

 

3. Set the Right Expectations from the Start

One of the three key mistakes I outlined at the beginning of this article was failing to reach the right agreement with the vendor from the start. It is actually more complicated than that because more than one document needs to be prepared.

In addition, documentation and legal agreements are not enough. You need to adopt the right strategy and make the right decisions.

 

Define your needs and criteria

The first thing to do. Communicate your needs clearly! No Chinese supplier can guess what the users of your product need or require as well as you can.

Start drafting a product specification sheet (including a stamp if possible). It will be very useful at all levels – for the engineers working on the prototype, the purchasing staff, the manufacturing staff, and all inspectors throughout the process.

Once prototypes that look similar and work similarly are approved, they must be cataloged as part of the standard. Once a pre-production prototype (where the part comes off the mold used for production) is approved, it will become the new standard. And so on.

 

Confidentiality strategy

Once your product is successful in the marketplace, it is likely to be copied by Chinese companies (whether it is made in China or not), and fighting them can be very difficult. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of being copied until then. Here are 4 classic strategies.

  1. Have an attorney draft a confidentiality, non-use, and non-circumvention (NNN) agreement that applies in Chinese courts and has each Chinese supplier sign it before you disclose any confidential information to them.
  2. When you contact and screen potential suppliers, show them parts or products that are different from your part or product but require a similar process. Then, show your product to only 1 or 2 “best fits.” Be sure to check your potential suppliers in two ways.
  3. Nature of business: Are they a trading company that has to send your IP to an outside plant? Once it is sent outside of their organization, there is usually no way to control it.
  4. In-house engineering capabilities: Can they do their own design and engineering work, or do they need to work with external parties?

 

Avoid raising funds on Kickstarter and Indiegogo too early in your project, as some unethical companies may even reuse the photos you prepare as part of their marketing materials!

 

 

Segmenting the supply chain (the “black box” concept)

In China, some buyers have a particularly nasty surprise: one of the bad guys in their own supply chain notices the product’s success and decides to sell it in competitive channels by creating additional quantities and using it.

It is particularly disruptive because when you develop version 2, they may beat you to market if they have enough information.

To avoid this, we have set up this approach for several clients.

  • -We buy components from different suppliers who never get the full picture and don’t even know what the final product does, in what distribution channels it is sold, under what brand, etc.
  • – We manage the final assembly (including testing and packaging) and shipping, and all parties involved are in the dark.

 

Development and Manufacturing Agreements. Companies working with Chinese manufacturers to develop new products often forget to specify their requirements in two areas.

  1. Open a BoM (Bill of Materials) – a good BoM includes a complete list of the parts used to manufacture the product, the names and contact information for all suppliers of these parts, the price of each part, the minimum starting quantity, and the lead time for ordering each part, etc.
  2. All intellectual property generated in the course of this project shall remain your property and all deliverables shall be sent to you immediately.  As our favorite attorney writes, “Chinese manufacturers are often more willing to bear all the costs of product development because they want to own the resulting product, and foreign companies often agree to this without realizing that this may mean that the Chinese manufacturer will ultimately receive the product and its associated intellectual property. Negotiating all of this is usually simple when working with contract manufacturers. Working with OEMs can be difficult, and using ODMs is always very complex (or impossible).

 

Quality verification and validation plans for prototypes

If there is no documented test plan for your product, how will the engineers working on the prototype know if they are doing a good job?

For example, you need to test prototypes for.

  • Conformity (safety, battery cells, etc.)
  • Performance aspects, including stress testing
  • Ruggedness
  • For all important features

 

(When documenting this plan and making updates to it, make sure its contents end up in the spec sheet we mentioned above.)

 

 Pushing the product to its limits

It is also recommended that you plan functional testing outside of

“normal” use. For example, we are working on a battery-powered skateboard. We have tested it on flat roads and dirt roads, on slopes, etc. Basically, do not limit yourself to the optimal operating window (shown in green below).

quality control in China

 

Reliability test labs can apply the same logic. You don’t have to set all this up yourself. All the results you collect in this way will inform you of the limitations of your product at design time. You may decide to make design improvements.

 

Tooling and other non-recurring engineering (NRE) investments 

Take the time to plan before giving the green light to these types of investments.

Buyers tend to trust their suppliers too much in this regard.

For example, how many shots will the mold allow you

to make for plastic injection molding? The type of steel used will make a big difference – for example, a mold made from P20 steel may start to require a lot of rework after 40,000 shots, while H13 steel may be suitable for 1 million shots. The harder and more durable the steel, the more difficult it is to a machine. Molds take more time and cost more. But it may be exactly what you need. You need to know and specify all of this.

 

Trial runs before mass production

I’ve already mentioned this, but it bears repeating.

  • Some components are custom – have the supplier of these components do a small batch and figure out how many pieces are “good to go the first time.” If the percentage is less than 90%, you will face a sharp and sudden price increase.
  • Your product is also new on the assembly floor. Ideally, they have some custom tooling ready for assembly and testing. A small run on the assembly line is best to confirm process readiness. The more complex and new the product, the more problems will be found in this way.

 

 

Production Quality Monitoring

You approved a prototype, and you think the R&D engineers know what you want …… But what about the production and quality inspectors? If you can, be there in person during the first batch production lot. Observe your entire quality control process. Now, don’t assume that inspectors will solve all your problems. They only detect problems – preferably at the source, and usually, this point in time is a few hours or days later. Once you find any quality pitfalls, the key is to get the manufacturer to set up and fine-tune the correct process controls.

When the second or third batch comes in, don’t expect production to go smoothly. As I described before, with the Chinese production model, there is usually a long probability of delay.

 

 

 

4. Get the Design and Engineering Right

Assuming you have followed all of the suggestions I listed above. You have a strong plan and a good idea of what to do. You have found the right and qualified suppliers. You have clarified all the right requirements and obtained a written agreement.

You still need to maintain control of the technical aspects. It’s not easy to get competent and experienced people to focus on your project and do the right thing.

 

Don’t go to a Chinese manufacturer too early

Some people don’t spend enough time on their product design, and they hand over an immature design to the manufacturer. This is often misguided for the following reasons.

  • Manufacturers make money when they buy materials, convert them (in “mass production” batches), ship them out, and get paid. Expect them to keep the best people busy with these activities.
  • Chinese companies tend to live in the short term. You may be able to “sell” your project to them and get some good engineers to work on your new product development, but after you send them a long list of improvements needed for their second prototype, they may be reassigned to other pressing issues 3 months later. After that, the project may slow or continue at a glacial pace.
  • They are experts in operational sourcing and manufacturing and are usually weak at assessing which materials make the most sense, finding new suppliers, etc. This means they won’t provide all the help you need to make great products or just to solve the problems you encounter. 

 

In other words, work with a design firm and supply chain management company until you can bring a proven design to the manufacturer. It will be faster, and they will give you better quality work. (Obviously, this comes at a cost.)

 

Work with someone who has done it before

Your product is unique. It has its own set of challenges. Don’t work with engineers trying to figure out how to use CAD software or our protocols, or design and development will drag on for a long time!

There is usually a logic process that needs to be followed (example below).

  • PCB Logic Design Process

Designers and engineers should be able to explain it to you. If they can’t give you examples of similar projects and the typically followed steps, it’s a sign that you’re about to work with the wrong people.

Manufacture a Product in China mistakes

 

  • DFM (Design for Manufacturing)

The more unique your product is, the more important good DFM advice is. Any improvements completed in the design phase will cost less time and money than in subsequent phases.

 

Part of this analysis can be simplified to a checklist – here are some examples.

  1. -Can we reduce the number of components?
  2. -Can we find ways to simplify the design and reduce costs?
  3. -Can we make assembly easier and thus increase efficiency and quality?
  4. -What materials are most appropriate?
  5. -How can certain elements be miniaturized?.

 

In addition, a good designer or engineer can review your product design, often with many questions and comments, simply by drawing from their past experience interacting with Chinese manufacturers.

 

Preventing Design-Related Defects

Most quality problems found in this area come either from design or manufacturing. Poor design can lead to many problems that may only appear after 6 or 12 months of use.

The more robust the design, the less likely you will experience quality problems. But what makes a sturdy design? It simply means that it will be more forgiving of variations in manufacturing conditions and that defects will be less likely to occur.

Assume that critical operations depend on physical and/or chemical processes. There is always an optimal operating window (in green below). For example, the parameters might be pressure and temperature in the injection molding machine.

China manufacture optimal operating window

 

If the optimal operating window is small, small variations (which may be unavoidable) will lead to quality problems. Also, if the manufacturer finds this phenomenon, they will not be held responsible when you complain to the customer.

 

 

Manufacturing and Testing Processes

You need to design your product, give it shape (prototype), and test it. Also, someone needs to start the design process and test it.

We have seen buyers force their manufacturers to speed up to the point where they start assembling the product without thinking about the assembly steps, training the operators, and preparing any inspection/testing process.

In these cases, everything goes wrong, and shipments are very late.

How to avoid skipping important preparation steps in a hurry? Start work while validating the final prototype and making the tools. This takes some planning and coordination but is worth the extra work.

 

These are just a few considerations you need to consider when designing and engineering work that will affect the cost, quality, and success of the final product in the marketplace. Once again, make sure you work with experienced people and allocate the right resources.

 

 

 

 

Manufacturing Products in China Conclusion

I’ve heard many people say, “How to manufacture a new product in China. We never know where it’s going”. If you don’t plan hard, you let an untested manufacturer do all the development work. It’s very wrong.

Your product is new, and you will have to deal with the associated risks (technology selection, market acceptance ……)

You will need to repeat this process three years later when you successfully brought your innovative product to market and develop its second (or third) version. You may decide to simplify some aspects of the design and spend more engineering time in one key area. You may take steps to prevent certain risks and take time to plan the next step. You may even switch to a more appropriate plant type.

If this is the first time you manufacture a product in China, this process might seem very scary. Ideally, When you first start a new product manufacturing project, you will have (mostly) done all of this (mostly) correctly. That’s the goal of this article. But- it can be a long journey. Contact us if you need any help to manufacture a product in China.

 

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