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Avoid these 14 mistakes when sourcing overseas! Expert tips to maximize supplier relationships

Updated: Mar 19

Global sourcing and sustainable production can be thrilling and challenging in equal parts when sourcing overseas from a factory/supplier. In our latest Spot Light Series interview, Mehathab Joharullah, a sustainable production and sourcing expert with over 10+ years experience, shares a spectrum of factory insights; offering a roadmap for brands to navigate the complexities of international sourcing while maximizing their supplier relationships.

Mehathab has helped 50+ brands source sustainable products from Indian suppliers through two of the leading ethical sourcing agencies in Europe and the US. Over the course of her career, she has developed sustainable production partnerships from farm to factory across India on behalf of brands all over the world.

Woman work on knitting machine in factory

Let's dive into Mehathab's delve into expert advice..

Choose a factory with expertise that aligns with your brand

Selecting the right overseas factory is paramount to success. Choosing a factory that has expertise in your brand’s product categories minimizes risks, and positively impacts sustainability metrics. Mehathab shares key elements that brands should research before making this crucial decision.

Don’t push a factory into products outside their expertise

While it may seem convenient in the short term, pressuring a supplier to produce items outside their expertise can lead to long-term problems. Sourcing a factory with the right skills for your specific product reduces overall risk and ensures a smoother production process.

Conduct detailed due diligence on the factory before you start working together

Ensure your supplier aligns with your brand's values, whether they be Fair Trade, vegan, or focused on providing living wages. Mehathab’s suggestions will help you select a partner who shares your brand's core values.

Make sure internal teams are trained on sustainable procurement and sourcing

Educate your internal teams on sustainable procurement and sourcing to align actions with your supply chain values. Trained teams can identify production partners that share the same commitment to sustainability.

Don’t keep the factory in the dark - provide a forecast as far in advance as possible

Ease the burden on the factory by providing forecasts well in advance. Collaborative planning allows the factory to source materials and produce items in a fair and timely manner.

Provide crystal clear design specifications

Avoid confusion by providing clear tech packs and specifications. This simple step can save both time and money in the long run, reducing the likelihood of errors during production.

Have a call to discuss details with your supplier before production starts

Set the right tone for the project by discussing details with your supplier before production starts. This proactive approach allows for risk assessment and problem-solving in advance, minimizing potential hiccups.

Don’t waste time (and money) negotiating for too long

It’s important to know when the right time is to complete negotiations. Extended negotiations can impact timelines and increase costs. Consider the broader implications, such as expedited shipping costs or missed sales opportunities close to peak seasons.

Avoid making changes to tech packs last minute, especially before you raise a PO

Confirm tech packs before the sample and production stage begin to prevent disruptions to the project. Last-minute changes can have a domino effect, causing delays and additional costs.

Help your factory by problem-solving production and sourcing challenges

Your input matters. By understanding and addressing a factory's challenges collaboratively, you can transform a potentially chaotic project into a success story.

Watch out for production capacity not matching the size of the factory (potential for overseas subcontracting)

Understand your factory's capabilities and output to ensure they can fulfill your order. Mismatched production capacity may indicate potential subcontracting overseas.

Only select a transparent factory

Choose a factory willing to provide visibility into their setup and supply chain. Transparency is key, and if lacking, consider initiating a wider conversation or even visiting the factory.

Share long-term commitments with your factory

Committing to a long-term partnership offers benefits such as securing preferred materials, decreased costs, and more transport options. Share your commitment, and watch the relationship flourish.

Avoid a ‘carbon-tunnel’ vision approach

True sustainability considers both social and environmental credentials. Strive for a balanced approach to ensure a positive impact on both people and the planet 🌎

Check out our interview with Mehathab along with the full Spotlight Series here

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