There is no sure fire way of finding the right manufacturer for you. In my years as a manufacturer myself, I have found that for the designers, their search sometimes leads them to dead end walls where they want to bang their heads!
However, here are some tips to keep in mind when you, as a designer or brand, are looking for a manufacturer or production facility for your products.
1. Your market niche – You first need to determine what kind of product you want to produce. Innerwear, Outerwear or Accessories. Woven garment or Knitted? Casual, formal or specialty item. Your pricing strategy. Be very sure of where your product fits in.
2. Where in the world – Once you have determined your market niche, it is best to search online for countries that are known for the production of the kind of products that you are looking for. For example, Asia is known for production of garments at a relatively lower cost than their western counterparts. However, do keep in mind the trade agreements of these countries with your own. You can save much on duty waivers, etc. Another major factor to consider is the required shipping time. This will give you a fair idea of when you need to begin with the manufacturing process for the next season. A little research on your part can go a long way for your business.
3. The right facility – You need to have a fair idea of the process you are to deal with. Do you only need manufacturing with raw materials provided by you? Or are you looking for someone to take care of all your back end needs.. including patterns and samples. Also what are your minimum order quantities? Many manufacturers only cater to a certain number of pieces per style.
Once you’ve sorted all of this, you now need to look at the channels you’d like to use for your search:
1. Trade fairs – You can search for them online and choose the best as per your requirements. There are normally several trade fairs and exhibitions being organized each year, both in the importing and exporting nations. Visiting these fairs will get you to meet the people behind the manufacturing facilities face to face.
2. Use local or international buying agencies which will take care of finding the right manufacturer for you. However, this may increase your overhead costs.
3. Online directories and yellow pages. Even google has its own – Google My Business.
Referrals – Ask around in your circle. Someone may know someone who can help out.
Reach out to your local chambers of commerce and trade associations. They have many contacts with international chambers who can assist you well.
Finding the right manufacturing partner can be a daunting task but it is imperative that you do. The reputation of your brand and company depends on the quality of products that you get produced. Therefore, choose a partner with whom you can communicate well and be comfortable. Don’t stop when you’ve found a perfect manufacturing facility for your goods. You always will and do need backup so make sure there are a few options up your sleeve that you can consider if ever you are stuck with your regular factory.
All the best!