1. If you’re looking for a product already in the market and only want to make minor changes, chances are high, you’ll find what you need from a factory on Alibaba.
By minor changes, I mean changing colors, branding, or packaging.
Purchasing on Alibaba shouldn’t be taken lightly. You have to do your homework, find reliable suppliers, contact the factories to discuss MOQ, delivery times, and any minor customization. We’ll discuss how to go about this.
2. If you already have a design done and tested for a new to the world product, and what you need is a company to manufacture your product, you need an OEM service.
This is what Apple does; they design in California using their own R & D team and then outsource manufacturing to companies like Foxconn.
We recommend you start with an online search to find possible manufacturing partners, do as much research as you can, and get in touch with them through email and video calls to see if your project is something they can do.
Eventually, you’ll need to visit the factory or have a third party visit it for you; we’ll get into the details of all of this later.
3. A third scenario is when you need a company to help you with the full product development process and help you with the manufacturing.
If this is the case, you need an industrial design house.
An industrial design partner will help you select the right components, design the right look, do all prototypes, and apply for any certification needed in the place where the products will be used.
It will also find the right factory for your product and oversee the manufacturing process.
Below, you’ll find a simple infographic explaining what you need to look for when searching for manufacturers in China.
How to Find Manufacturers in China with Alibaba in 8 Steps.
If the product you want is already in the market, has low manufacturing complexity, and customization is not highly necessary, a do it yourself online approach will be enough to find your China manufacturer.
1. Go to Alibaba.com
2. Type in the product you’re looking for; remember to be as specific as possible.
If you’re looking for a toaster with an egg cooker, you’ll find it here.
3. Pay attention to the information on the product’s preview.
If it’s your first-time using Alibaba, pay attention to the information and icons shown on the right-hand side.
You’re going to want to choose verified factories that have a gold supplier and trade assurance badge.
- Alibaba Trade Assurance: This means you’re more likely to get your money back if, after a review, Alibaba determines that the factory didn’t meet its responsibilities.
- Gold Supplier: This means the factory is paying Alibaba to appear higher in the search results; this usually means the factory is serious about moving their business forward.
- Assessed supplier: This badge indicates that Alibaba has had a third-party company visit the factory and check its facilities.
If you’re not in China and can not travel to China, it will be ideal to find a factory with all three characteristics.
4. Click on the product you want to order and look at the company profile
Every product page on Alibaba has a company profile tab; click on it and read through it. The more professional-looking information it has, the better.
Here’s an example.
As you can see, they have videos of their facilities, trade shows they’ve been in, photos of their offices, and information on R&D capacity and Trade Capacity.
This is clearly a serious company that worries about portraying a good image.
You can go further in your research and take a look at their full-page in Alibaba. If you run into a page that has little information on it, discard it.
5. Put together a list of possible manufacturers.
You’ll get attention depending on how many units you want to order, who you are, and how busy the factory is.
If they’re too busy and your order is too small, they might decide to pass on your business.
That’s why it’s recommended to put together a list of 10 to 20 factories to quote with all of them.
6. Contact the Chinese Manufacturers
At the bottom of every product page, you’ll find a contact form you can use to get in touch with a factory representative but it is recommended to also look for a contact email.
Take your time to craft a message/email with all the necessary details, don’t just send a message/email saying, hey, I want 1k of your toasters in Pink, how much is it? Thanks
Chances are you won’t get a reply.
Instead, explain a bit about your company, ask one or two questions about the factory, write all the details of the product you’re interested in, ask about MOQs and lead times, and explain the customization you want, if any.
Also, ask about the payment method. We’ll provide you with an email template further down in this article.
7. Ask for a sample
This should be part of the email you send to the factory, but I wanted to have it on a separate “step” to emphasize it.
If a factory, for any reason, doesn’t want to send samples, then forget about that factory. Do expect to pay for any sample.
8. Proceed to make the purchase
After doing a bit of negotiation, whether it is only through emails or video calls and agreeing on a deal, comes the exciting part, making the purchase.
Before buying, remember to check shipping costs and taxes you’ll have to pay, do the math and see how much it will impact your profits.
We highly recommend making the payment through Alibaba, as it’ll be easier to deal with any issue that might come up with your order.
How to Find Manufacturers in China? – OEM
In this scenario, you already have the design of your product done. This means your company already invested thousands of dollars in the whole product development process.
Depending on your kind of product, the product development steps could be:
- Electronic Architecture
- Industrial design
- Mechanical engineering
- Firmware/software development
- Mold design and tooling
It’s a lengthy and costly process. Big electronic brands, hardware startups, medical and beauty brands, and even high-end clothing brands use OEMs for mass manufacturing.
To find the right Chinese manufacturer, you’ll start by doing an online search, then reach out to them by email, schedule a video call, and then visit or hire someone to visit your possible manufacturing partner. Why visit the factory?
Well, after investing so much capital and time in the development of your product, you don’t want to outsource your IP to a factory whose owners you don’t know and which facilities you’ve never seen.
1. Do an Online Search
Be as specific as possible. You can use a website like Alibaba or Made-in-china.com; they serve as powerful search engines for China manufacturers.
I’d recommend you to use made in china, only because I feel their interface makes it easier to find manufacturers in China that offer OEM services.
2. Make a list of possible Chinese Manufacturers
Click on the company name and, in the following view, hover over the company name. If you see a double checkmark next to the ODM and OEM option, then add the manufacturer to your list.
3. Contact the manufacturers in your list
Here are a couple of things that you should remember when you contact them.
Use a company email; it’s more trustworthy than a Gmail or Hotmail email.
In your message, include a link to your company’s website when you explain who you and your company are.
Please don’t send a bulk email to 20 – 30 factories with a short message saying, this is what I want, how much? And a link to a Google sheet for all of them to quote their price; chances are most of them will ignore you.
Here’s an example of a good email/message
My name is David, and I work for Company X (Link to the website). We specialize in selling home furniture for the “Country” market; we have been in the market for the past five years with increasing sales every year (If you can provide numbers, do it).
We’re looking for a manufacturing partner that offers OEM services.
We already have the complete design of our product done.
We’re looking for a long-term partnership; we need XXX units for our first order, and we expect to pay xxx per unit; a second-order would be made in X months.
We want to jump on a video call to discuss the cost of setting up a new production line, lead times, and other details.
We’d also like to sign an NDA before we connect.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Don’t hesitate to ask for an NDA. This email is just a suggestion; the point here is to come across as a reliable company interested in a long term relationship. Otherwise, you won’t get a manufacturer’s attention.
4. Get on a Video Call
After signing an NDA, get on a video call to discuss all the details of your product and manufacturing costs.
Any serious factory will take some time to analyze the project and get back to you with clear answers. Expect to have an exchange of emails discussing details of your product, quantities, lead times, and costs.
5. Schedule a visit to the manufacturing facilities
Once you reach an agreement comes the time to start organizing your visit or a representative of yours, to the factory.
This will let the factory know how serious you are about your project.
Visiting a manufacturer in China is essential to
- Understand their in house processes
- Find out if they’re working for a competitor (You might see company logos on export boxes)
- Meet with leaders in the company and get their name cards
- Get a real feel of the people you’re about to do business with.
- Visit the showroom and see up close the quality of the products they’ve worked on.
- Check their incoming materials and finished products warehouse
- Visit the central work station, is there someone inspecting quality?
If you can not travel yourself, especially with all current travel restrictions due to Covid-19, hire an agent in China to do the visit and report to you.
6. Close the deal
If, after doing the visit to the manufacturing plant, everything goes well, it’s time to sign the deal and move forward. If not, then it is back to step one.
Nobody wants to waste time and resources.
If you visit the factory and things are not what you expected and decide to drop the deal, you have to start all over again. That’s why it’s recommended to visit 2 to 4 possible manufacturing partners.
Luckily for you, manufacturers in China are geographically located in product category clusters.
Manufacturing by product categories and provinces in China
- Electronic Industry: Guangdong, Sichuan, and Shaanxi Province.
- Textile Industry: Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong, and Shandong Province.
- Leather and Feather: Hebei, Henan, Chongqing, and Ningxia.
- Metal Products: Zhejiang, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei, Henan.
- Glass: Hebei and Jiangsu
- Ceramics: Jingdezhen
- Furniture: Guangdong and Hebei
- Construction: Shangdong
- Household Appliance: Guangdong, Zhejiang, and Shangdong
- Artware & Stationary & Sporting: Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, and Hubei
- Paper & Printing: Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shangdong, and Fujian
- Machinery Manufacturing: Dongbei, Hunan, and Hubei
- Petrochemical Industry: Shandong, Liaoning, and Guangdong
- Pharmaceutical Industry: Tianjin City, Xian City in Shanxi Province
- Food & Beverage: Liaoning, SHnagdong, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Fujian, Hebei, Henan, Hunan, Hubei, and Inner Mongolia
- Motor & Bicycle: Taizhou City
- Automobile: Jilin, Hubei, Shanghai, and Yangtze River Delta
So, the chances are that, let’s say you’re looking for electronics manufacturers in China, you’ll find many located in the same city or province, allowing you to visit more than one company in one trip.
How to find manufacturers in China? – Industrial Design House
Let’s explore a third and final scenario, you need to find a manufacturer in China, but you still need a lot of help with product development.
Perhaps you only have a product idea, or maybe you have a very rough prototype or an early version of your product that you want to upgrade. Wherever the situation is, you’re not ready for manufacturing yet.
This means that there’s still plenty of work to do in R&D. You need industrial designers, mechanical, software, firmware, and hardware engineers (depending on your type of product) to work on prototypes and test market demand and product usability.
Oh, and test the product and work on getting certifications.
If this is your situation, then contacting a manufacturing plant in China is not an option for you.
The truth of the matter is that manufacturers in China care very little for new product development. They have an area of expertise they like to focus on and care about keeping machines running to meet their manufacturing KPIs because that’s what they are – Manufacturers.
Product Development Process for Electronics
1. Do a Google Search
The process is quite similar to the previous one, except that a product design company doesn’t have to be in China to get the job done. Still, the closer a product design company is to its manufacturing partners, the better.
Use relevant keywords, such as:
- Product Development Companies
- Industrial Design Companies
- Your Product + design and manufacturer (You could also add the location where you want the product development company to be)
Example: Product Design Companies in Taiwan/China
B2b electronic product design
2. Put together a list and contact them
We’re doing what we did in the previous scenario. You have to send them an email or get in touch with them through a contact form and explain what you need.
Remember to include as many details as possible, ask about MOQs and cost per unit. They need this information to know if the business makes sense for them.
Ask for a video call to get to know them better; before revealing too much information, remember to ask for an NDA.
3. Keep the communication flowing
Any serious product development company will need some time to analyze your project together with its manufacturing partners.
So, expect an exchange of emails and video calls discussing the product’s details and the business.
If you’re wondering why a product development company needs to consult the viability of the project with their manufacturing partners so early, well, it’s because of something called DFM.
If you want to avoid manufacturing issues, you must make sure the industrial design house you work with includes its manufacturing partners as early as possible in the product development process. You should not design in a vacuum; that’s the perfect formula for product failure.
4. Close the Deal
After making sure the industrial design house has the expertise to design your product, comes the time to seal the deal. Just like in the previous situation, it’s recommended to visit before closing the deal.
The good thing about working with an industrial design house is that you do not have to worry about the whole product development process; that way, you can focus on your marketing and sales.
Remember that a good industrial design house should have manufacturing partners capable of manufacturing your product. Therefore, you also don’t have to worry about finding a manufacturer after the product design is done; that is the industrial design house responsibility.
Other Options to Find Manufacturers in China
Local Trade Shows
It’s a shame that due to the pandemic, many of these events around the world have been canceled.
These events are the perfect opportunity to meet industrial design companies or manufacturers with the expertise and capacity you need for your project.
There’s nothing like doing business face to face.
The best way to find trade shows or trade fairs is to go to google and search.
China seems to be coming out of the pandemic turmoil soon, so who knows, maybe next year, all five major trade shows will be held.
If traveling for you is possible, perhaps you can attend one of these.
List of major trade shows in China.
- The Canton Fair: All sorts of products. It takes place between the middle of April and the beginning of May. Location, Guangzhou.
- The Yiwu Commodities Fair: All types of consumer products. It takes place in October. Location, Yiwu, Zhejiang.
- Beijing International Auto Show: Automobiles and accessories. It happens every two years. The next one is from September 26th to October 5th. Location, Beijing.
- Bauma China: Construction Machinery and equipment. It takes place in November. Location, Shanghai.
- East China Import and Export Commodity Fair: Clothes, textiles, consumer goods, gifts, art. It takes place in March. Location, Shanghai.
Other Websites to Find Manufacturers in China.
- Etradeasia.com (Allsorts of products)
- Lightinthebox.com (Lifestyle products)
- Aliexpress.com (Smaller MOQ than Alibaba, fewer options)
- Hktdc.com (The Hong Kong Trade Development Council)
- Mfg.com ( A Global database of manufacturing companies)