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What to look for in an overseas manufacturing partner

By: Grant King - IndustrySearch Writer
25 March, 2015

So you've got a great new product you believe is going to turn the Australian market on its head and maybe even do some decent business worldwide. Now you're looking for someone to manufacture it and this article is going to make a few assumptions.

We will assume, for instance, that you've analysed your market and done your sums to determine who is going to buy your product and what they're prepared to pay. We're also going to assume that you've found no one locally who can match your prerequisites on quality and price. So now you're searching the world for that one special manufacturer. Here are some tips to help you find a good one.

Seek a creator, not just a maker

Basically you're looking for a contract manufacturer, someone who can take your design and produce it at a standard and price that matches your market needs. Ideally you want to find someone who can even improve your product and surpass your expectations. That's the manufacturer you want; the kind that exudes enthusiasm and a proactive attitude. They are the basis of a rewarding long term relationship.

Give them the once over

This is a serious relationship you're embarking on, so treat it as such. Ask all the questions you need to ask to find out if the two of you are suited. Is their operation clean, reputable and well managed with ISO certification for quality standards? Do they have any history of client disputes or financial calamities? Can they up the ante fast if the market goes crazy? Can they just as happily drop production when things lag? Can they ship direct to customers if required? Are the two of you actually compatible both professionally and personally?

Pay them a visit

If all the initial relationship testing is encouraging, it's time to make a date. Which leads to another question: where are they? Ideally your manufacturer should be an easy plane ride away, one that's not going to cut severely into your cash flow if you need to visit regularly. Your manufacturer should also be sufficiently versed in English or your first language to ensure nothing gets lost in translation. And it helps if their country has beneficial trade agreements with Australia.

Interrogate their ethics

If a major factor in choosing them was price, ask to see their operation firsthand; in other words the factory floor. Low labour costs are one thing, exploitation of labour quite another. So if such ethical issues are important to you, do what you need to do to ensure they're not of that ilk. If they have nothing to hide, they'll be happy to parade you past their working conditions to see exactly who is making your precious product and how. Remember, in a country like Australia the wrong kind of ex-factory savings can come back to haunt you.

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