Common Problems Working with Chinese Factories

When you work with Chinese factories, there will be issues. There's no way around it.

Not only do severe geographical and language barrier separate you from the factory representatives, but there is also a severe cultural barrier.  If you've ever traveled to China, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  The cultural barrier transcends daily life, to interfere with what Western culture sees as basic business practices.   In eastern culture, family and face trump all.  Honesty and transparency are not highly valued traits.  

Business can get really tricky really fast. 

Let's dive into some common problems that everyone faces when working with a Chinese factory:


1. Common Sense

Something that seems elementary to you may have never crossed the factory representative's mind. In some industries, like electronics, this common sense is do or die.  It could be the difference between getting rich and getting sued.

A bad entrepreneur will tell the factory they want ABC manufactured, send the money, and wait for the goods to arrive. The goods may arrive assembled backwards, with components that are illegal to use in the sellers' country, with faulty wires, or even without any protective packaging to help insulate the product during overseas shipment. Did you discuss customs regulations and paperwork? No? Jokes on you: the goods may not even get through customs.

A good entrepreneur will set up their own test jigs for the factory to test every possible component and situation that could occur. They will double check the accuracy of each component, and ask for samples or tests at every step. An even better entrepreneur will be there on the factory floor, doing this all himself, or hire a company that can do this for him (by the way, we can do that).

Furthermore, don't expect them to understand why you're making what you're making, who would want it, or what it's for. They may have some elementary knowledge, but they are more than likely missing key fundamental knowledge about they why, who and what of your product.

Bottomline: Don't expect common sense from your factory. Remember Murphy's Law: if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.


2. Honesty

Do not expect your factory to be honest about the quality of components or ingredients. In fact, don't expect them to be honest about much of anything. Why should they be? It's not part of their company code or country's culture.

If you're a random company that they've never heard of, never seen and may or may not do business with them ever again, why should they care? 

Furthermore, if the price looks too good to be true, it is. They're cutting a corner somewhere. If it's outrageously high, they also might just be trying to gouge you because you're a foreigner. We have done an A/B test and received price quotes 70% lower over email just by using Chinese characters instead of English. Get plenty of price quotes, so you can compare them side by side.

Finally, stay ahead of the factory. Skype or call them whenever you can. Visit or hire a company to do factory visits for you. Do not look on freelance websites for an individual or translator to do this for you. If they are in China, they can and will screw you over. We've heard too many horror stories from our customers.

Bottomline: Ask for samples at every stage. Ask questions and get direct answers. Always stay in constant contact. Refuse to be placated.


3. Timeliness

Chinese factories are almost never timely with their shipments. When is the last time you received a shipment on time? That answer would be never. While US companies work very hard to set achievable deadlines, Chinese companies know that they faster they say they'll get your product done, the more likely they are to win the bid.

To be safe, always add 4 weeks to the timeline that the factory quotes you. In fact, you might as well double it. Make sure to email them daily asking for updates and pictures. Skype or call them when you can. Download Wechat and video call them. You can make it happen.

Bottomline: Be extremely careful about timelines. Always add extra time and touch base often.


Those are our 3 key takeaways. Always be careful when working with Chinese factories. Yes, everything is made in China, but some companies are paying a lot more than just the price quote for the mistakes made in the manufacturing process.

Feel free to contact us at anytime with questions about manufacturing in China or to receive a quote on your project.