A factory evaluation form is an often overlooked document.
However, it is a document of extreme importance for anyone involved in offshore sourcing and manufacturing. It is one document that will have a large impact on your decision to move forward.
I will look at it from an apparel point of view.
First , the detail it should contain, and then the not so obvious reasons for its importance.
Some of the items a factory evaluation should include are as follows;
1. Name and address of factory.
2. Name of trading company if applicable.
Some factories do not have the right to export, so they need to use a trading company. This is important, as this is an extra cost.
3. Area of expertise.
Knits or woven garments. I tend to stay away from suppliers that state they do both.
4. Number of workers.
Obviously, this is important. You cannot put your relatively small order in a 1 000 plus worker factory (or a 1000 plus machine factory). The factory will often claim this is no issue (when business is slow), but it WILL become an issue (should business pick up). The number of QC workers is also important, and should be asked as a separate question. Many factories “claim” they have dedicated lines for smaller orders. I have yet to see this mythical beast. They will generally point at a line, and say “That’s the dedicated one.”
5. Number and type of sewing machines.
Also important, for the above mentioned reason, and some items need specialized machinery. For example, if you are doing children’s pants, an elasticating machine will be needed. Many a supposed children’s woven factory will use a normal double needle machine, which will result in tension issues, as well as a messy stitch.
6. Does the factory have on site printing, embroidery, dying, washing etc . Usually only with bigger factories, but some smaller ones might. This can cut lead times dramatically.
7. Customer referrals.
For obvious reasons. However, often factories do not want to give you the name of their buyers, but a sniff around the factory will give you an idea of who their buyers are. Often during a visit, they will be very happy to tell you. Don’t take any samples in their showroom as gospel. Often these are simply customer reference samples or bought from a shop. See what they are making, not what they have in their showrooms or offices. A strategically placed Burberry garment (probably a fake, anyway), will have many a buyer thinking they have hit the mother lode.
Very important. Often you may deal with a trading company, that claims they are a manufacturer. They will send you photos of one factory, but show you another. This is where photos come in handy. I have bust many a trader by visiting their factory with the evaluation form and photos in hand, and seeing it is a different factory. You also do not really want your garments in a factory that looks like Patton’s fifth army just drove through it.
9. Business licenses.
There are often many other criteria that you may wish to include. These are the basics.
What is also useful in this exercise, is to see if a factory can follow a simple instruction. If they cannot fill out a simple evaluation form correctly and timely, you are sure to have issues.
I have got many, many garbled, incorrectly filled in evaluations before, with photos or information missing, or in the incorrect place. A definite warning sign.