Top 3 Challenges in Sourcing Best Furniture from Overseas Production Hubs
Importing furniture is a common practice if you are a store owner, furniture retailer, or designer in the US. Some of the major manufacturing hubs for importing hardwood furniture are based in India and China. When you are looking for quality furniture manufacturers in these two major manufacturing hubs, you need to consider several factors before finalizing your supplier.
This is when you look for a sourcing agent or company to help you zero down your search for the ideal supplier based on your requirements, budget, and urgency. You might also want to look for sampling to finalize a supplier for a long-term commitment.
Before we move towards the challenges faced by importers in the US, you might be wondering why do you need to outsource manufacturing to China or India. There are three main reasons:
- The labor force to manufacture furniture is much more readily available in Asia.
- The fair cost of labor in India and China is many times lower than in the US.
- Environmental impact regulations are much more relaxed in Asia.
What are the challenges in sourcing from the best furniture manufacturing hubs?
The most usual place to find sourcing partners in the furniture industry is on the internet. In India, getting in touch with companies and individuals is much easier, thanks to an open internet and easy access to platforms like LinkedIn.
Let’s assume that you are an independent designer and are contacting a sourcing agent via LinkedIn in India. Here are the most common challenges you’ll face:
When contacting a sourcing agent whether this person will work for you or the supplier instead. When you are walking for the first time in the Indian market, you’ll soon realize that the majority of sourcing agents work on a double-commission basis.
A double commission basis means that instead of working for you independently, they might have a commission from the supplier also. So they’ll naturally favor a factory that gives them more commission, and this will ultimately harm your end product.
You require the agent to be transparent when negotiating a fair price for your furniture order and finding the right supplier for your needs.
Lack of expertise
Finding a sourcing agent is never a problem, and it’s very easy for them to portray them as an expert to you because you can’t immediately travel to the factory location. The truth is that a majority of the people who advertise them as sourcing agents are merely great salesmen, and they usually work as a team with other professionals like quality assurance executives, factory owners, or legal counselors to make ends meet.
It’s an on-the-go setup and is clearly a recipe for failure because they don’t really pay heed to the quality of materials and manufacturing processes to ensure a great final product.
Not having crucial technical knowledge of sourcing the correct raw materials and evaluating the correct manufacturing process from suppliers can result in low-quality and non-compliant furniture.
A majority of sourcing agents also lack manufacturing project management, which leads to additional friction in production.
When you are sitting thousands of miles away from your products, you need to have clear and verifiable data about key manufacturing processes, like the acquisition of raw materials, sampling to specifications, pre-production, mid-production, and post-production checks. However, the majority of sourcing agents cannot send reliable and accurate information promptly.
You might also experience a language barrier in explaining what key data points you are looking for from the production batch. A good example is making sure a batch of TV cabinets is tip-over-proof.
Furniture tip-over is a big hazard when kids climb on the furniture all the time and you need critical data like the weight distribution of the cabinets and if they have been tested correctly during sampling. For this, you might need to have clear pictures of additional weight bolstering to verify if that was done properly, meeting the standards.
How to counter top furniture sourcing challenges?
The first thing is to look towards a professional sourcing company that acts as a single point of contact for all your furniture needs. This sourcing company must address these top challenges.
You have a higher chance of transparency with a sourcing company because it will work solely for you. It will help you find a variety of suppliers based on your requirements. You can also order third-party supplier audits using a sourcing company, get better price negotiations, and protect your unique designs against wrongful competition.
An ideal sourcing company will have product developers, designers, quality assurance executives, quality testers/checkers, and factory auditors. In addition, a sound sourcing company must also bring clear data with pictures from the production process with detailed reports around specific manufacturing milestones.
Let’s understand this with the problem of bugs, like termites, eating into hardwood furniture. Bugs can cause you significant losses when crossing the US customs. Even if they cross customs checks, they can seriously deplete customer satisfaction and the final quality of your order.
Bugs are currently the biggest problems in hardwood furniture, and mere fumigation of your batch will not successfully remove every single bug from the furniture. Even when only a few bugs remain, they will most certainly breed to large numbers during the long ship journey of 30 to 45 days.
To address this issue, you need to take expert help that starts with the raw materials and ensure that the raw wood is free from the bugs. Only a professional sourcing company, having experience with advanced bug prevention methods can ensure 100% bug-free orders. When we compare this to a sourcing agent, they simply don’t have the means and will to address these little details and are not equipped to tackle such a complex problem.