For economic reasons and to collect more information, it is advisable to visit several factories in the same area during your trip.
Gaining Competitive Knowledge
As I mentioned before, factories keep track of details about their competitors due to the frequent change of engineers and managers. They usually stay in contact with previous colleagues and know exactly what is going on in their old factory long after they have left.
Over the years, you will receive frequent invitations from factory managers that have moved to new factories and want to regain you as a customer. It is often a good chance to obtain better prices as an incentive to buy from them.
Throughout this book you will learn ways to evaluate a new factory to avoid becoming a victim of inferior products and poor quality management. A lower price can be an incentive to change factories, but it will not make up for the customers’ returns in your home market if the goods are unacceptable.
You can only determine a factory’s quality and capacity by visiting the new factory and properly evaluating it. Keep in mind, a new factory manager can turn an inferior factory around, but you are better off waiting until that has happened before placing your purchase orders.
Start Planning Your Travel Time in China
It can be tempting to invite managers from several factories to meet with you in the comfort and convenience of your hotel. However, it makes much more sense to visit your suppliers at their factory. You need to meet the full factory team and survey the operations.
China is a vast country. You will want to visit several factories in the region you are visiting. It is common for people to underestimate the travel time between their hotel and the factories, as well as from one factory to another. Here are some general travel times for you to use as you begin planning a trip:
Greater Ningbo Area
After arriving at the Ningbo International Airport you can expect another 1 ½ hours by car to reach your first factory. Take this in to consideration so that you do not waste precious time in a car. Further on, I will give you some tips to maximize the use of your travel time. Car travel is generally the only way you can reach factories in this area.
This is another industrial area, which is located in the Southern China Guangdong province. You can reach it conveniently by ferry from Hong Kong. Upon arrival, you still need to ride 30-45 minutes by car to reach your first factory. Knowing that the ferry takes 2 ¼ hours lets you easily calculate that it is impossible to visit more than 2 factories per day if you want to evaluate them thoroughly.
Since travel occupies a lot of your time, it is advisable that you make inquiries with each factory ahead of time. Learn their exact locations and ask for scheduling suggestions. Following their suggestions will save substantial travel time that is better spent in meetings and evaluating the factories.
Another tip is for you to ask the factory to arrange for your ground travel including onward travel to the next factory. They are usually happy to accommodate you.