What kind of questions would you ask to a factory to select them as a supplier?

What kind of questionnaire would you want to send to a factory to select them as a supplier? What questions would you include in that, assuming that the supplier is making your type of garments? ... asked by Ricky 

Stitching operator
Image courtesy: Will Baxter

You know that I don't have apparel brands or apparel sourcing business. But to answer this question I would consider myself as if I have apparel sourcing business. I would ask questions on the following points for shortlisting my vendors. The following points will help you to prepare your vendor selection questionnaire.

Supplier Product profile: 

Yes, first I will ask what type of products factories make. This information would help me to understand their expertise in making my orders. Though this is always not required that a supplier must have record of making same product range. But this would help me for sorting my preferred suppliers at first glance as there is a lot of suppliers in the same region who are making my kind of products.

Code of Conduct:

Maybe I am not doing business for the international market. Still, I always look for ethical sourcing. First I would ask for what all code of conduct they follow in the business. The minimum compliance requirement to be met by the suppliers

  • Compliance with laws: Factory must be in compliance with local laws. I would ask for the copy of No Objection Certificates (NOC) provided by the labour department, Fire department and another necessary certificate from Govt. official.
  • Labour: No Child labour, No Forced Labor should be allowed in the factory.
  • Working conditions: Occupational health and safety, factory layout, fire safety and evacuation plan. 
I would ask suppliers for exiting customer list (buyers profile). This will help to know whether a factory is working with Big brands like GAP, H&M, M&S, Zara etc. The easy the way to know if the factory is fully compliant. 

List of machines types: 

It is understandable that if a supplier making similar types of products that I am looking for, they have all kinds of machines required to make those products. Still, I would like to know the technology level my prospective supplier have. Do they have washing machine in-house? Do they have Printing and Embroidery machines? If the supplier own machines for value addition processes, those affect in final product costing and lead time.

Factory production capacity:

How many sewing machines the supplier factory own? Having the knowledge of no. of sewing machines would help me to understand how many days a factory possibly needs for the production of my orders. If the factory gives me unrealistic delivery time to grab the order I can catch their fault in future.

Quality certification:

Quality of the product is my first priority. And suppliers must meet my quality standards. What quality level of the product a factory could maintain and would supply can’t be assessed by verbal questioning? So, I would ask for quality assurance certificate if the factory had awarded by any organization or by well known customers or if they have certified by quality certification organizations like ISO.

I will look for quality management system. Do they have check points in each processes? Do they measure quality performance? What are the percentage of Right First Time shipment pass in final inspection?

Costing method:

Though this is less important, I would ask suppliers whether they would provide me open costing for my sample or they would provide me FOB costing. In open costing I would get how they reach final cost of the garment.

Shipment Lead time:

How many days they would take to dispatch my orders? Minimum lead time for small size orders (500 pieces). According to their lead time I would to plan my orders.

Payment terms:

Up to how many days credit payment they would agree? Do they charge in advance at the time booking? If yes what percentage is it?

That's all I would ask to a vendor when I look for a potential supplier.

Also See: Vendor selection criteria for U.S. and European Market

What do you think? If you were a sourcing agent what questions would you ask to your vendors in selection procedure?

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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