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  • Thomas Pannell

How!? Where?! What do I do to find a good supplier?!

So, you’ve got a new product you want to bring to market. You need to find a supplier or manufacturer. How do you find the best one for you? Where would you go to find them? Hopefully this post will help!

The first thing to understand is that the process of finding a new supplier and being comfortable enough to trust them with your money is not quick and easy. Things will go wrong. You might end up changing suppliers and having to pay for things like tooling a couple of times before getting it right. It is probably the riskiest part of launching your product – with the potential to scupper your idea before it even has chance to succeed.

It’s because of these reasons that I would always recommend getting a referral from someone you know or using a service like ours. Our relationships have already been built up over many years, with a number of trusted, reliable and professional factories. We can guide you through the process, giving you a clear roadmap for the journey you are about to embark on right from the very beginning. Most importantly, we will save you a lot of time and money. As you’ll see below, you will have to dedicate a lot of resources to this process if you go it alone – outsourcing this process will free up time and funds for more important things, like sales!

Before you get to the point of searching for suppliers, you need to have a very clear idea of what it is you are looking for. There are two paths now, which depend on whether you are looking to buy an existing item or have your own unique product design to be produced.

Firstly, let’s talk about an existing item. Grab a sample of the product you want to find (you’ll probably need a few). If you buy it from a local supplier already, get as much information as you can about the product – a data sheet is a great place to start. What we need to know are: the materials used, dimensions, how it is made and how many different parts make up the item. You’ll also want to have an idea about the packaging and assembly if applicable.

So, as an example, we can look at a shower head. Typically, it would be made from plastic, injection moulded with a chrome finish. There would probably be 9 or 10 parts – the main body, rubber seals, a brass nozzle, and some additional plastic parts for the multipattern adjustment. We’d need to know what size of hose would it connect to (imperial or metric) and I’d want to look at things like the thickness of the body and pressure ratings. For packaging let’s assume it comes in a polybag with a barcode label and is then in a box of 50pcs. Knowing the size and weight of these boxes is essential as you’ll need to estimate shipping costs. Also get a target price you want to pay noted down.

All of the above information funnels into your item spec. When we approach new suppliers this is the information we will provide them with in order to get a quotation and work out how much it will cost to get them items to you.

For an item that you’ve designed you’ll likely already have most of the above information from your product design process. Grab some copies of your technical drawings and prototypes and you are ready to find your manufacturer!

Now you’re ready to find a supplier. Your first thought is going to be searching on Google – “factories making XYZ”, “suppliers for ABC”, etc. This is where I’m going to tell you to stop. Google is great and I’m sure you can find a supplier, but what is likely to happen is you just get hundreds of hits for Alibaba or AliExpress – or even your existing suppliers!

My advice would be to search for industry media and trade fairs. Using the shower head example again, we’d be Googling “bathroom industry magazines” or “bathroom trade shows”. Both of these should turn up a few websites that have supplier or exhibitor pages – I’d focus my energies here over Google searches.

If you are looking to buy existing items, you’d just start contacting the companies you find that make the items you need. For new product designs, this often won’t be possible though. So what do you do? Here’s where some knowledge of manufacturing comes in – and if you don’t, this is another reason why using a sourcing service would help! Above I mentioned part of your spec is the materials used and how parts are made. I know not everyone will know what manufacturing processes are available to them, but for me this is so important to finding the best supplier.

My search for a new product design focuses on processes, not the current range of items. I would target manufacturers that can work the materials we are using or are making items from the same manufacturing processes – even if they are in a completely unrelated industry.

Finding suppliers online and emailing or speaking to them on the phone is only half way to building the trust you need. You’ve probably not seen any of their products up close and you’ll want to know that their quality is up-to-scratch.

I’ve said it many times before that I am a big fan of trade shows. If you have used exhibitor pages to find suppliers, then it’s likely anyone you find will be exhibiting at the next show. My next step would be to pack some samples of my items into my suitcase and head over to the trade show. Set appointments beforehand so you can see several potential suppliers in the same trip.

Be prepared to give away the samples you take and have your drawings and spec saved as PDFs that you can email out to them straight away if you want to get their quote. Talk about your spec, ask a lot of questions, check their current items and try to build up some rapport with them – maybe even grab a few samples of their items to take away with you too.

Most importantly, when you meet suppliers trust your gut instinct. If they avoid answering your questions, their item quality isn’t good or if anything doesn’t sit well with you, just walk away and try to find another supplier.

We could go on and talk about the costs for different things – samples, tooling and moulds, etc. That’s probably too much to add here and I might come back to it another item. Hopefully the above helps you to understand how to conduct a search and introduce yourself to new suppliers. If it seems like a lot of work that you’d prefer to outsource to save costs, or you have tried and failed to find a supplier for your items, we’d be more than happy to help you.

You can get in touch with us for a confidential chat about how we can help you.

Email: or call our MD Thomas Pannell on 07917 606 208.

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