Developing products anywhere is a complicated process,
and developing them in China comes with its unique challenges.
Here is what we do and why:

The most important aspect of doing business in China is communication – without good communication, developing any product will be a challenge and potentially a ticking time bomb.

Factors to be considered include:
•  Comprehension.
•  Cultural sensitivity.
•  2 way communication
 
It is easy to forget that working in a foreign language is not easy, and whilst many Chinese factories are used to working in English, it does not mean that they will understand everything that they are advised. This can create a massive problem, with a customer convinced that they have explained a specific point, and failing to understand that they have not explained it in a way that is understood.
 
Having developed products in China for 20 years, we have yet to find a single formula to apply to all situations, but high on the list priorities in doing business in China is forming the right relationship with the factory. It is often underestimated by foreign organisations about how much time and effort needs to be put into the relationship to get the product you want. Without ‘Guanxi’, it is unlikely you will ever receive the product or service you need – with ‘Guanxi’ you will at least get a factories best efforts.
 
In addition, there is also ‘Mianzi’ or ‘face’ that needs to be taken into account, and needs to be handled in the right way to ensure smooth development. British sarcasm can prove incredibly unhelpful and is best avoided.
 
In our experience, product development is not about providing drawings and leaving a factory to produce parts in isolation. There has to be constructive 2 way communication between engineers and technical staff. The factory has to have the confidence to ask questions, and the routes to do so – this comes from trust in the communication. In our view the most effective way to achieve this is to form a constructive working relationship where Chinese engineers can talk to our technical staff on your behalf in their own language and on their own time zone.
 
It is for this reason that we support our customers in all the direct communication with factories to make sure that the process has the greatest chance of success.
 
Developing products in China is generally the first time that a buyer has to commit to tooling and fixtures and with it comes the first upfront payments (normally 50%). Prior to making any commitment we strongly advise customers to:
 
•  Review & Simplify Drawings.
•  Condense supporting information.
•  Check Tolerances & Standards.
•  Allow Realistic Development Time.
 
Prior to starting any product development, we recommend that all drawings are reviewed to check that they are correct, and include only the information on them that is relevant to the factory. Having unnecessary information on the drawing will only confuse the objective. Equally, check the drawing for assumptions – factories often make components in isolation and will not have the same understanding of the bigger picture, such as assembled product, so what seems obvious to a buyer will not necessarily be to a factory.
 
In our view, sending lengthy technical supporting documents is unhelpful, and only increases risks in development – make sure that the Chinese are only sent the information that is relevant to their production. Sending vast supporting BS, ISO or ATEX documents tends to have an implication of a lack of understanding by the buyer and passing the buck to the factory. Make sure you understand them and help clarify to the factory exactly what it all means.
 
Many Chinese factories will quote based on their standard tolerances – make sure that these have been understood before you place the work, and ideally adjust the standards on your own drawings to suit. Chinese companies will often create their own drawings – check these are correct and that there is no conflicting information.
 
At the start of any project, make sure that the factory is aware of the development time you need, and specifically if any testing or trade shows have been pre-booked that need the product. Any form of rushed development is likely to backfire and we strongly advise that you allow sufficient time. It is worth remembering that any development around Spring Festival will be significantly delayed, with some smaller factories closing for up to 3 weeks.
 
Whilst development is in progress it is important to have several milestone dates agreed, and look for evidence of progress. We support all development with a Component Development Plan which includes photographic evidence of the progress being made.
 
We have the advantage of being able to send managers or engineers to suppliers at short notice to ensure development is proceeding as expected, and witness everything for our customer.
 
Upon sample completion, we will always ensure that samples are supported with a full ISIR and material certificate, but we think details on gauging and mating parts rank as highly – and ensuring that production has suitable checking procedure in place is vital.