Placing an order for overseas production requires factory research, sample construction viewing, delivery commitments, and quantity and price negotiations. One of the key factors prior to contracting an overseas factory is locating the facility that has the proper industrial sewing equipment for your product. For instance; a denim manufacturer would not place production with a T-shirt factory which generally consists of industrial serger and overlock machines. By meeting with factory representatives and sourcing companies or international manufacturing agents, production overseas is minimised prior to making the trip to visit the factory facility.
Conduct an apparel manufacturing search through factory directories such as Apparel Search or Alibaba. It will give you contact information as well as the addresses and direct contact e-mail listings for potential factories. The sites will also give you brief descriptions of clothing specialisations as well as any advanced equipment the factory offers during the production run.
Contact an apparel sourcing company or search for trade shows where apparel manufacturers meet with overseas factories. Samples can be reviewed and information such as price, quantity and delivery are discussed. This step is optional.
Hire an agent to prevent you from making several trips to the overseas factory to check on your production order. The agent is generally paid a percentage fee on the overall production order. The agent acts as a liaison between your company and the factory during the production. Although steps 2 and 3 are optional and also include additional fees, it is often a beneficial for your first production run. Bear in mind that the overseas production is risky and can often lead to non-delivery of goods and lost funds.
Call the factory representatives directly to make appointments at your showroom and review the factory samples. Most factories from countries such as China, India, or the Philippines have representatives in the UK to meet with new customers and show factory samples for production quality.
Schedule meetings with a minimum of five factories per country you are interested in working with and review their samples. Turn the clothes inside out and check for finished stitches as well as trim application. Check bottom and sleeve hems. For instance, if you are manufacturing woven shirts, check for even buttonhole placement; make sure the front placket is properly stitched and easily opened as well as collar and sleeve cuff finishes.
Discuss terms such as quantity minimums, colour combinations, price, textile and trim. Certain factories will offer to locate the textile and trims for you for an added cost. However, if this service is not available, you will also have to source textiles and trims to be shipped to the factory for production. Bear in mind that late textile and trim shipments delays your production and you will most likely lose your factory placement. You are generally not the only company hiring the factory for production.
Discuss the time frame for your first prototype sample delivery to your showroom as well as the required production package. The first set of samples is rarely made in the finished goods and are made with available sample material for fit approvals, quality as well as finishing and trim details. The production package is your responsibility which must include details such as black and white technical garment sketches, referred to as flats. These sketches include pertinent details on the construction of the garments including grading specifications, colour combinations, fabric, trim and stitching.
Discuss labels and packaging terms. For instance; garments arriving at UK customs will be held without proper labels such as manufacturing origin. Packaging, such as plastic coverings or hangers requested by the retail customer, must also be complete. Garments shipped without packaging will not be accepted by the retailer.
Discuss your shipping terms such as Freight On Board (FOB) charges which generally include negotiations for FOB Origin or FOB Destination. This is generally when title and risk passes from the seller to the buyer. For example, if you choose to negotiate FOB Origin, title and risk passes to you once the goods are delivered to the carrier.
Visit the factory overseas prior to committing to any terms or agreements. Although this is an added expense to your company, it is very important that you make sure the factory is operational and that your production is not going to be subcontracted throughout the country.
- Always keep in mind that although you will be manufacturing items overseas at lower costs, there are financial risks involved for non-delivery of goods which will impact your relationships with your buyers.