A factory visit is an opportunity for you as an Amazon seller to verify and evaluate your supplier’s capabilities to manufacture the goods you asked them to produce. Factory visits also strengthen your relationship with your supplier and lead to better communication and improved product quality.
However, there are a few things that you must be sure to check on your factory visit, these include; the factory’s capacity, working conditions, organization, inventory, production samples, and the production equipment at the factory.
THE FACTORY’S PRODUCTION CAPACITY
To convince you to place an order with the factory, most managers will tell you that their production capacity exceeds your order. Under most circumstances, a supplier with less capacity than they have communicated will often subcontract to another supplier, leading to predictable issues with the products.
The major way to ensure the production capacity is true and no subcontractors are involved is through a physical factory visit.
To validate your supplier’s production capacity, you must pay attention to their visual boards on the production floor during your visit. The visual boards will help you assess their capacity as they will list their targets, weekly or monthly plans, and current progress. This helps you assess their ability to manage and track orders as well as their true production capacity.
THE FACTORY’S WORKING CONDITIONS
To thoroughly assess your supplier’s working conditions, a Social Compliance Audit is often necessary. However, even without the audit, it is easy for you to identify and differentiate between a safe working environment from an unsafe working environment during your factory visit. You must pay attention to the ventilation of the workshop, protective gear for the workers, and the presence of any safety hazards within the workshop.
The presence of detailed work instructions is also another sign that the factory takes product quality and working conditions seriously. These instructions should be relatively simple with visual examples to illustrate the procedure. The instructions should also be visible and clear, placed at each production station.
THE FACTORY’S ORGANISATION
A poor organization in a factory can cause various problems ranging from poor quality and safety conditions to delayed orders and poor production processes.
And good and organized factory follows the 5S organizational method – sort, set in order, sustain, standardize and shine.
This 5S organization method requires that the factory must sort all the items in the factory area and remove unnecessary tools, organize all the remaining items and arrange them for easy use, clean the factory regularly, and train employees to make this method a habit and monitor its implementation.
While seeing a poster of the 5S in the factory may be an indicator of the factory using the organization method, you could also directly ask questions relating to the organization of the factory. For instance, issues of the distance employees take from one production to another, the labeling of materials and components, and how semi-finished parts are stacked.
WAREHOUSE AND MATERIAL INVENTORY
It is always important to know the material inventory of your supplier for both raw materials and finished goods. An inventory of degraded raw materials will cause quality issues when used to produce finished products.
You must check your supplier’s warehouse for a record of the materials; including when they were brought in, storage conditions, and the volume of the warehouse as this also helps you anticipate the capacity of the factory capacity.
Before you plan a factory visit, ensure that your supplier has made a sample of the product you are requesting. This helps you assess and know the outcome of the product and also correct any aspects you may not want to see reflected in your final products. In other words, reviewing product samples on-site helps you to give direct feedback and immediately point out errors and conformity issues.
You must also ask your supplier to ship a sample of the corrected product before mass production can commence ensuring the errors you pointed out during your visit have been working on.
Having an understanding of the equipment that your factory has on-site helps you to set an achievable quality standard based on your supplier’s available resources. An insight into the production equipment will also generally looks at the maintenance of production equipment at the factory. This is an important part of your factory visit as machinery that is not periodically maintained or recalibrated can lead to product defects and inconsistent production runs.
During your visit, enquire on how often the equipment is inspected and maintained and also whether the equipment you have seen on-site is the only available equipment.
Factory visits are an important aspect of trade. However, knowing what to look for as you take your factory visit is an even more important aspect to look into. With the information provided above, you will have informative and successful factory visits keeping alert for possible areas you may overlook. Good luck!