So, how do YOU evaluate an apparel factory from 10 000 kilometers away?? PART 1.
Anyone producing offshore faces the same problem. How do you fully evaluate a potential factory in China, or anywhere else, from your office in LA, or anywhere else.
Well, you cannot fully evaluate a factory without a visit, but this raises another issue. I get mails from factories daily, looking for business.
It would be impossible to visit them all on your next sourcing trip, but there are very effective ways to pre vet potential suppliers, so your sourcing trip will be manageable and efficient.
Although, I do not recommend it, I have a dirty little secret. I have placed business with foreign suppliers without visiting. Sometime, a specific set of circumstances will require this.
Either way, this is how I pre vet factories, so when I go on a sourcing trip, 90% of the work is done. This may not work for everyone, and many may disagree with my methods. Feel free to do so, and comment.
My first and obvious tactic, is to look at the first communication from a potential supplier.
If a I get a mail, and it does not contain my name, I ignore it. This says three things to me. Firstly, the sender is simply cutting and pasting a standard mail, and using a shotgun approach. Maybe someone will respond.
Secondly, the sender does not have the respect to add my name to the cut and pasted mail. It takes three seconds.
Lastly, if this is their approach, they have definitely not spent any time doing basic research into me or my company.
Spelling mistakes. I am well aware of language issues, but the vast majority of programs have spell checking. I am not too concerned with grammar, however, this can be checked on many programs as well.
Their are a few other red flags I look out for in this "first contact" mail, such as claims that "We are the number 1 garment factory in______________", (I will often ask them for any figures proving this, or articles in trade publications. Do not make false claims.) or "We are an Alibaba Gold Supplier for ten years running." For those who do not know, Alibaba Gold Supplier Status is purchased. The factory can be in the trunk of a 57 Chevy and have Alibaba Gold Status. Just pay your US $ 599 annually.
There are others I have come across during my time, but you get the idea.
IF YOU ARE ACTIVELY SOURCING, DEFINE YOUR GEOGRAPHICAL AREA, WHETHER YOUR GARMENTS ARE KNIT