If your company is in need of plastic injection molding or metal fabrication services, it’s hard to avoid the Chinese market. China is currently the largest producer and exporter of injection molds and plastics in the world. With more than 15,000 plastic factories, it accounts for nearly a third of the global plastics production. China also leads the world as a producer of steel and other metals. These resources power it’s massive iron and steel fabrication industries.
But with the US placing hefty tariffs on China’s steel and aluminum, and the growing uncertainty surrounding the on-going trade war between these two economic power-houses, many companies are sourcing their injection molding and metal fabrication services outside of China.
The truth is, while China may dominate the headlines, there are other regions in Asia that companies can turn to for their plastics and metal production. Developing economies such as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines have been investing heavily in cutting edge technologies and infrastructure to become serious alternatives to China in the world market.
But like China, it’s neither quick nor easy to set up a profitable partnership in these regions. You need to know what to look for in a manufacturer and have a plan in place to take care of issues such as quality control and compliance with local regulations. This added bit of due diligence can make all the difference between successfully developing and manufacturing your plastic or metal products versus wasting countless time, money, and other resources working with the wrong manufacturer.
That said, if you are looking for injection molding and metal fabrication services in Vietnam, Malaysia or other regions in Asia outside of China, then here are several steps you can take to have the best chance of finding the most suitable and reliable companies:
The first step in the sourcing process is to develop a list of manufacturers in the region that could potentially be a good fit for your product. This means you need to be clear about your needs, and answer questions like:
Step 1: Build a List of Manufacturers
• Will you need help with product development?
• How big will your production runs be on average?
• How quick does the turn around time need to be?
• How specialized are the parts or items that need to be produced?
• How important is it that people at the factory know how to speak English?
Once you know what you are looking for you can begin your search. To do this, use trustworthy B2B directories, look through trade catalogs or conduct a search online. You can also tap your network for referrals and attend trade shows.
As an aside, when searching online, pay close attention to the manufacturer’s website. Look at details, such as whether the site is professionally designed and easily to follow, the quality of the English, and finally, what qualifications or references are listed. All of these details can provide important clues about the kind of company you are looking at.
Step 2: Contact the Manufacturers on Your List
In this step, the goal is to narrow down the list of potential manufacturers by reaching out to them and making some basic inquiries. The first thing to note is if the company has English-speaking contacts, such as sales representatives and product managers.
If your company is in need of specialized, non-commodity product, then an initial discussion about product specs and technical needs can reveal whether or not the manufacturer can handle certain specifications and adjustments. You should also ask about their manufacturing process, equipment, and request product samples.
Step 3: Further Investigate Qualified Manufacturers
After narrowing down your list of serious candidates, it is absolutely essential that you take the process a step further. At this stage you will be doing your due diligence by conducting a full background check. This includes gathering and evaluating several critical sources of information such as:
• References from non-Asian clients
• Asking local contacts about the company’s reputation or sending someone to the factory to check out the work conditions and equipment
• Requesting copies of standard industry certifications like ISO or Good Manufacturing Practices
All of this added screening will help to ensure that you are only considering legitimate companies that are in the best position to fulfill your needs.
Step 4: Visit the Factory
At this point, you should have no more than two-to-four qualified and reputable candidates that have demonstrated the ability to produce your product to your specifications at the cost you are looking for. Now it is time for a face-to-face meeting. Treat this part of the process as an opportunity see for yourself the factory’s conditions and potentially begin to develop a business relationship. You should be looking for chemistry between your team and theirs as well as professionalism.
Travel restrictions limiting factory visits? Try asking for a conference call or online audit! You can also engage third party audit companies to perform system audits as well.
After completing the four steps above, you should have all of the information you need to make an informed decision about where to source your plastic injection molding or metal fabrication services. In the end, you may be pleasantly surprised by the options available to you outside of China.