Immediately after arriving at the factory, you begin taking in information about how well it is or is not run. Of course, this is only a first impression but this is where the whole picture begins developing.
The Front Gate
Some larger factories have uniformed guards at the gates. Often the uniforms are nearly perfect replicas of the police. I mention it here because this can lead to confusion or a misunderstanding that the factory is involved with a police incident.
If you do not see any guards or only a single lonely guy guarding the entrance, you can bet that the factory is not paying much attention to security or wants to save money.
Finding waste material near the entrance area it is an indication that factory management is not concerned about cleanliness and tidiness. It can also indicate that they may not have many customers visiting. Otherwise, the area would be cleaned up on a regular basis.
The Factory Grounds
You should be also concerned if you see finished goods stacked outside the factory building, especially if the goods are not even covered by a roof. The Southern China coastal area is prone to frequent showers and you do not want your goods loaded into a shipping container with a wet outer carton.
After 4 weeks in the container, most of the products will be nothing but garbage. I am not exaggerating. Unfortunately, I have seen many such scenarios, which is why I mention the subject. To be clear, I am not talking of goods in the process of being loaded into a container, but about goods that are being stored outside.
It is not just rain that damages unprotected goods. Sunshine bleaches the corrugated cardboard material and high humidity will soften it.
If you find both a lack of security and weather battered goods, you may already have as much information about the factory as you need.
Entering the Factory
Your next impression might be a surprise if you find that the factory is much smaller than expected. You could also find that the factory buildings are in a very bad condition. An indication that the factory lacks funds to modernize.
You can expect the guard to alert management of your arrival and somebody should be sent to pick you up. If that does not happen and they let you stroll around the factory area without anyone’s attention, it is another sign of poor management.
Some factories are very large and you will definitely need assistance to find the management office. The better organized and large factories have a separate reception desk to welcome visitors. You will sign a guest register and be given a visitor’s identification badge.
It should not be normal procedure for visitors to wander around the factory unaccompanied. If somebody visits your home, you would not appreciate finding him or her coming and going from your rooms without your knowledge.
The front desk staff can communicate in English. Normally, the larger the factory, the better the command of English. Once you are registered, the receptionist will contact the management office to send somebody for you.
Remember some factories cover an area exceeding 100,000 square meters. Without assistance, you will be lost in no time.
If the factory is really well organized and experienced at receiving visitors frequently, everything will work like a breeze. They may even have a welcome sign on a reader board with your name and your company’s name on it. Something like a small marquee. Take a moment to admire and praise it, which will please your hosts. Taking a photo of it would be even better.
The Showroom or Conference Room
Your next stop will probably be the showroom or conference room, take your time to observe how the office is organized. If there are many empty cubicles, it is an indication that either the factory does not have enough employees or it is lacking in purchase orders.
You can also see whether the employees are playing computer games or chatting online. Hopefully they are really busy with purchase order related work. Of course, you are not visiting the factory as their supervisor but it is always good to study as much as you can for your own good.
After a few factory visits this will all become routine for you.