First off, please note that I used the term 'lighting supplier' instead of 'lighting manufacturer' in the title. You might think I'm making a fuss over a trifle. No, I'm serious. If you're an earnest buyer who insists in finding an authentic manufacturer. I'll tell you honestly sourcing LED lighting products in China is more about networking with people than just merely buying products or locating manufacturers. This industry is basically an assembly business. LED lighting manufacturers are basically assembling components purchased from subcontractors. Many so-called manufacturers outsource products that they do not "assembly" or simply do this for more profit margin because their peers have better cost control for these products. In some regions lighting manufacturers even share inventory through transshipment after demand realization. Nearly all the LED luminaire manufacturing facilities look the same - SMT assembly lines, SMD chip mounters, luminaire aging lines, and the like. Almost all manufacturers purchase critical luminaire components from same sources, for example, LEDs from CREE, drivers from Mean Well. Every manufacturer will say they can supply what you're looking for. They're not lying. The ball is kicked back to you to make a decisive pass.
If you're looking for a manufacturer of a specific lighting product in large quantities, check manufacturer's vertical integration capacities. Vertical integration is a strategy for a manufacturer to improve cost competitiveness by expanding its business operations onto upstream fields on the same production path. Small manufacturers typically source nearly very components from subcontractors and their procurement costs are high due to the small order quantities. Professional manufacturers that specialize in a specific product often invest in production of major components for vertical level cost savings. Vertical integration can also help manufacturers do better quality control and improve efficiencies by decreasing transportation expenses and reducing turnaround time. If the manufacturer's key competence is edge-lit LED panel lights, by way of example, they may have their own aluminum frame extrusion facilities, light guide plate (LGP) molding lines, anodizing workshops, among others. The established niche expertise in combination with cost competitiveness and complete process quality control makes the manufacturer your perfect supplier.
If you're an engineering company, a designing firm, or a distributor with consistent, diversified needs, locate a manufacturer with a basic product portfolio that fit your business scope and more importantly, they should have a strong engineering team and sales force that is qualified to offer you a high level of satisfaction in outsourcing efficiency, cost control, and quality management. One thing is for sure, you need to establish a good Guanxi (relationship) with the company owner in order to ensure your instructions are fully and seriously executed by her/his team. I strongly suggest you to find a few solid manufacturers as your core business partners. Outsourcing is not merely an action of purchase, it's more about accurate supplier locating, professional communication, productive negotiation, in-process audit, outgoing quality control, and on-time delivery. By utilizing your core partner's expertise and even their infrastructure, you're on a way to worry-free outsourcing in China.
If you do not mind working with an intermediary (trading company, sourcing agent or factory representative), do a prudential investigation to make sure they have the expertise and experience in your business field, on the prerequisite that they honestly inform you that they act as a middleman in the preliminary communications. Some intermediaries are invaluable. They have specialist industry knowledge to help you locate the genuinely reliable manufacturers from a huge and diverse pool of suppliers. When you have no dedicated force to communicate with manufacturers or are unfamiliar with the lighting industry in China, your intermediaries are located near the manufacturers and add value in the form of market knowledge, technical background, personal relationships, plus their unique networks of influence, and intimate knowledge of the prevailing culture and laws. In fact, many major exporters of lighting products in China are trading companies, which further strengthens my point in the beginning of article - sourcing LED lighting products in China is more about networking with people than just merely buying products or locating manufacturers.
I believe you've conducted due diligence on your Chinese partners. Here're a few tips that might be helpful to supplement your outsourcing efforts.
• Send your partner candidate a few emails to see how responsive they are, and the level of their expertise. Say for example, if you're buying lighting fixtures for your warehouses outline clearly your requirement. A qualified supplier would respond immediately with Dialux simulation, product recommendation, company profile, and other documents that could help you build confidence with them. A unprofessional manufacturer or an intermediary would have somewhat delayed response, simple product document, and unconstructive communication.
• The completeness of sales material and technical document reflects the supplier's professionality. IES files, test reports, cut sheets, and even case presentations are your indispensable reference to judge a supplier's qualification. Some manufacturers do not have trained teams to provide these documents. But they should have technical drawings, BOM (bill of material) sheets, in-process product photos, and accurate packing information in Chinese language to testify their capabilities,
• Pay attention to the authoritativeness of manufacturer's product certificates. A professional manufacturer typically have credible certifications issued by reputed labs and organizations such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), TÜV Rheinland, SGS, Intertek, etc. Manufacturers that specializing a specific category of lighting products generally have diversified certifications, listings and approvals for different markets, e.g., CE certification for European Union, UL listings for the US market, RCM approvals for the Australian market.
• In addition to verifying a supplier's business profile, mind their years of establishment. Some unethical suppliers constantly change their company names in order to shirk their responsibilities of selling defective or even extremely poor quality products. A promise from a reliable supplier to product warranty and aftersales service stands the test of time. But for business crooks, the product warranty is merely a sales hype.
• Some regions in China are notorious for supplying dirty-cheap and unreliable lighting products. I have no geographic discrimination but still want to remind you to do a thorough assessment of a supplier from areas like Zhongshan where reliable suppliers and crook companies are intermingled and you have more chances of stumbling upon unethical quick money makers. Nonetheless, there are many good suppliers in Zhongshan. Just take care.
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