As a global sourcing professional I have flown millions of miles, currently I have Concierge Key Status on American Airlines and am a lifetime Platinum member with Marriott Hotels, having stayed more that 700 nights at a Marriott in the last 20 years. In addition there has been uncountable hours spent in a car or van driving all over China, Vietnam, Philippines, Germany, Brazil or what ever other country I am in this week.
That is what it has taken for me to to know the right factory when I see it. I could tell you many stories about going to what turned out to be the wrong factory, so I'll keep it to a minimum. You will see a pattern emerge.
Safety equipment factory in Hubei China, I was working with a sourcing agent out of the company office in Shanghai. My responsibilities at that time included safety equipment such as masks, hearing protection and gloves. We had received quotes and samples from a factory located in Hubei that were aggressive, the samples looked good and so we decided to meet the owner at his facility. He sent a car to pick us up, the drive was close to 4 hours (the savings were huge). Once we arrived at the factory I was amazed at the facility. It was at least 100K feet, 4 stories and beautiful, in fact it was too clean. It was the middle of the day no workers were visible. The owner met us outside and walked us up to the conference room. Again, I was amazed, everything was brand new, most chairs still had the plastic covers on them. My sourcing agent and I toured the showroom, which had every item we were looking for represented, then we asked to walk the factory. The owner seemed surprised but let us walk the building. In total I counted 10 factory workers, none of which were producing products. In the end the factory was not actually owned by the individual claiming to be the owner but rather his uncle. It had been built as a real estate deal not actually as a working factory. The person we met had actually intended to be a trading company but had claimed to be the factory. Lesson learned.
Home Decor factory in the Philippines, Cebu is a beautiful island in the Philippines, great beaches, nice mountains etc. It is also a major manufacturing center for metal and wicker accessories and furniture. I had attended the Cebu furniture show and met many promising vendors, I needed to go see their complete showroom and factory so i could finish the purchases I was making. One of the factories had some great candlesticks and other containers. I made arrangements to travel to the factory showroom which was located about an hour from the Shangri-la Mactan Island Hotel I was staying in. The drive to the factory was uneventful, after arriving I met with the owner, toured the showroom and was pleasantly surprised by the items available. After seeing the showroom I asked to tour the factory. This took close to an hour and I was very disappointed by what i saw. There were repeated instances of serious safety hazards and possible under-aged labor that with good conscience I could not work with.
Both of the instances above happened in the last 20 years, I have learned that meeting directly with a supplier at their facility before placing an order is one of the most important responsibilities of a global sourcing professionals job.
In both of the cases there would have been real issues, the trading company would not have been able to provide the required amount of product from one factory and would have resorted to using multiple facilities. This would have violated the supplier agreement and potentially the quality and integrity of the product, not to mention that the supplier was prepared to lie about their status. In the second case, there would have been serious liability and moral issues related to the safety and age violations. Remember, even if you unintentionally violate the safety and age requirements you are still wrong. Knowing who the supplier is and if they have integrity is what you learn when you meet them face to face. No one wants their company to be on the nightly news where they are guilty until proven innocent
If your company does not have a Global Sourcing team, contract with a company that has a proven track record for legally, ethically, morally sourcing the products at the right price from the right factory. Reach out to www.rmconsultingsolutions.com.