There are big differences in the way large, established factories operate, as opposed to smaller boutique-style factories. To choose the best manufacturer for your products, you must weigh the pros and cons.
From our experiences with manufacturing in China, we almost always choose to use small factories rather than big ones.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Lower minimums
- Usually cheaper
- More flexible
- Unaccustomed to working with Chinese-speaking foreigners (find it interesting)
- More readily adjusted to our way of doing things
When choosing a factory, you must consider his attitude to project changes. A big factory requires its customers to be very precise and orderly. These factories do not like to take on a project unless all details are clearly confirmed up front. This sort of factory is uncomfortable proceeding on verbal instructions, especially when the orders are large – they won’t just trust a foreign buyer’s word that this new method will work, or this new idea is going to sell big.
Of course, the smaller factories have their own set of headaches. Very few have English-speaking staff. Not all have adequate quality control systems in place. In manufacturing the types of products we sell, however, flexibility and responding to unknowns on the fly is important. Our bigger factories have a harder time with this. The flexibility we gain in working with smaller factories is worth the losses in other areas.
The most significant gain in doing business with smaller factories is guanxi. Guanxi, or relationship, is more easily built with smaller factories, as usually there is one factory owner you will deal with. All the accommodations made on both sides are carried forward with the same working relationship. When that one owner likes you, you have it made (although the converse is also true).
This is because the owner of a small factory is usually directly involved in production, overseeing all steps involved. Rather than an aloof observer waiting for information to be passed to his huge corner office, the small factory owner will hopefully be on the factory floor working with your order hands-on.
Communication is clearer and progress made faster, too, as you always talk with the decision-maker, not a salesperson who isn’t involved with production. Messages don’t have to be passed along the line, chewing up time and delaying progress.
If you experience headaches working with big companies, try a small one. They have worked out for us.
Do you prefer working with big factories or small factories?
What other pros/cons have you noticed?