The associated costs with overseas travel can often mean that it is not cost effective to complete factory visits etc. with a new supplier before the first consignment is shipped.
As a company, we not only have access to local representatives who can carry out overseas inspections etc. at a fraction of the cost of the international agents, but also have UK staff in both India and China on a regular basis. By charging items such as international air fares on a pro-rata basis and by undertaking work for several non-competing clients during the same trip the overall cost to each client is significantly reduced.
Once a specification has been agreed and initial samples have been approved we always recommend that the actual manufacturing factory should be visited, with random samples being taken from the manufacturing site for analysis to confirm compliance with the specification.
Whilst this can sometimes not be straightforward, for example, the factory may be located in rural china some distance from an airport with no English speaking staff, it is essential in our opinion to establish the true capabilities of the factory rather than simply rely on a website and samples submitted by the supplier.
It is also, in our opinion, important to build a relationship not just with the sales contact but with the manufacturing staff.