Visiting one or more factories is relatively easy because they will arrange transportation for you and do not even mind taking you to their competitor.
Since the transportation takes a lot of time, you are well advised to make enquiries first with your factories for their exact locations. If you set your schedule according to their suggestions, you can save substantial time, which is better spent in discussions.
If the sales manager or the company owner meets you at the airport or hotel, use the opportunity to gain a first impression with whom you are dealing before the more serious negotiations start.
Use the time to make small talk with the manager. It is an informal opportunity to get an impression about what the supplier thinks of your claim. You may learn useful information that alters your strategy when official negotiations begin with the decision makers.
After arriving at the factory, you will be shown around the premises. Be sure to take your time studying the production lines, their QC arrangements, and the amount of technical equipment the factory is using, even if you have visited before. It is important that negotiations take place in a good atmosphere and giving the factory more face by taking the company tour is certainly a positive aspect.
When the factory manager walks you through the building(s), you should check out what is in production currently and who the customer is. Ask to see packing materials or shipping samples. These give you a clue about who else is buying from that factory. Sometimes factory management may be reluctant to disclose that information but they cannot stop their production to prevent you from seeing it. This maybe important if you cannot reach a satisfactory settlement early. Contacting another customer of the factory could give you some extra information for your case.
Also, check whether the factory has a decent or fully equipped lab. Of course, this depends of the factory size and the kind of products they are producing. Check whether their engineers are familiar with your home country requirements. This is a must because it would be very difficult to teach them if they do not already have the necessary know how.
If they do not have many orders, there should be an understandable reason. Good or bad, it is important for your decision-making. If the factory will not tell you, there is a chance that their competitors know which proves one more time how important it is to visit the factories in person. A middleman may have his own interest in mind and would not inform you.
If your claim originates at one or more of your supplier’s subcontractor factories (if you had allowed them to use them for your production) you must also insist on visiting them. They maybe the source of all the problems and your factory may be trying to hide it. Factories are usually very reluctant to let you visit their subcontractors and for good reason. They work for other factories as well and the managers do not want to introduce you to competitors you are not currently considering.