Suppose your son or daughter is deciding on which college to attend.

They’ve seen the brochures, talked to friends, read the online rating.

Should they choose the school where they will be spending the next 4 years, without a visit?

Similarly, it can very instructive for buyers and product managers to spend time visiting prospective and current manufacturing facilities.

My hope is that once you read this, you will know what to look for when you do.

How To Visit a Glove Factory

I love to give prospective buyers a tour of our manufacturing facility in China, and introduce the key personnel who will be working on your product line.

Remember that all glove factories are not created equal, and the surface details can be misleading.  There is no substitute for visiting the factories where you do business, and seeing the people and processes that contribute to a well-manufactured product.

Here’s what to look for on your visit:

First Impressions: Factory “Look” and Feel

First and foremost, know that you are dealing with the actual factory, and not a trading partner, or middleman.

As well, make a note of visual clues regarding the quality of the underlying operation.

Things to notice:

  • How is overall organization and cleanliness? Are things stored off the floor? Are the bathrooms clean and worker facilities decent?
  • What high profile brands are going thru the line? Are they making simple or complicated gloves?
  • Regarding HR compliance and procedures, what is your first impression? Do you see any obvious working condition violations?

Of course, ask to see certificates from previous audits –if they show you certificates from other brands, it is a good sign. While a bit of a generalization, you can generally assume other large brands have done their due diligence.

Factory Processes and Organization

The factory should be well organized with a workflow that makes sense. Processes should be efficient, and with a high attention to detail.

  • How carefully is product being sewn? What are the inspection procedures? How does the finished product look?

Don’t be afraid to pick up representative product, and assess overall quality.

  • How is the sample room organized? Are they making patterns for each sample so it can be replicated?
Visit the packing, warehousing and receiving areas …
o  Do they have a sound inventory and inspection process?
o  Do they strike you as a well organized, and nimble operation?
o  Does it look like they have a lot of extra capacity, or are they running full out?

Don’t Overlook People and Relationships

There’s no substitute for talking to the owner or factory manager, who’s been in the business for over 20 years.

  • Get to know how they handle key issues, and gain insight into their ability to design, manufacture, ship and deliver according to your needs — as well as their financial stability/ability to buy raw materials on your behalf.
  • Also get to know people you will be working with. Sure, get a sense of what’s happening in the business … but have a meal together, try to get to know them as people.

Personal relationships take time to build, but the next time you have a problem to solve, these relationships will be worth their weight in gold.

If you think otherwise, remind yourself how much more readily YOU bend over backwards for people you know and like. That’s just human nature.

Many factors contribute to a successful glove manufacturing partnership.

While you can always inspect a counter sample in your office, or discuss manufacturing from this side of the world … if you have any opportunity to visit a glove factory, do it!

Seeing the various stages of glove manufacturing in person, and meeting the people face to face, will give you an entirely different perspective.