Why having reliable engineering supply chain managers on the ground in China is essential to product development success

China is the world’s factory

So many products, gadgets, components and more are manufactured in the region, but it is not a streamlined,straightforward system. Despite the immense output, getting a product from the design stage to a finished prototype can be a long-winded process. You would imagine that you could approach a factory, show them what you want, wait a few weeks and then just like that it arrives as expected. This remains a pipe dream.

So, what are the issues holding up the process? Cultural differences between China and the West certainly play their part. Contrasting views on education and politics require a level of understanding that can only come with living in the area for a considerable amount of time. A simple request such as “can I have it in black?” may lead to a thirty-minute debate with no positive outcome. In the early days of manufacturing in the East, the role of the “middleman” would be crucial to try and keep the working process as smooth as possible. But this was less about manufacturing and engineering skills and more about utilising connections to unlock the region’s potential.

But change is taking place. Although differences remain, the world is becoming more connected and China is a part of this global shift.Under Deng Xiao Ping an open trade policy has reinvented the manufacturing landscape. Shenzhen is a bustling port that ships products to the West. And who needs a “middleman” when sites like LinkedIn and Alibaba can put you in touch with the right people with just a few simple swipes or clicks?

But for all the evolution in technology and policy, many of the same challenges remain. The differences in culture are found in the work environment, with contrasting views on working practise, quality and more. And although it may be easier than ever to use the internet to source factories and suppliers, how do you trust them to get the job done? Without eyes and ears on the ground, how can you guarantee that deadlines will be met, or that changes in design will be implemented? How can you be sure you are getting value for money, or the quality of the work is up to scratch?

Enter Itch, the engineering supply chain middleman. We will not only find you a contract manufacturer, but we can even be that contract manufacturer.

We understand better than anyone both the challenges that can exist in Chinese manufacturing, and the enormous potential that the region has to offer. We have already banged on every door, spoken to every supplier,asked “can we have it in black?” 1000 times over, so that you don’t have to. We have built up an unbeatable list of local contacts, backed up with our years of engineering experience to give you both local and technical expertise.

The majority of ODM brands have people on the ground wherever they are manufacturing in Asia. Why?

 Well, here is one example. A brand wanted to make a charging cable for their product, so naturally they picked the best factory they could find, complete with all the latest equipment. This seems obvious. You go to the factory with the best tools for the job, you place the order and hey presto!But sadly, this was not the case. Some manufacturers are forever churning outthe same product, because that is what they have been built to do. So, despite having the financial backing and the right tools for the job, the innovation to make something different simply isn’t there. It’s a classic case of all the gear, no idea.

We know all too well the struggles and potential pitfalls that can occur with a new product development. Even the best factories in China and the surrounding area may struggle to think outside of the box when it comes to new products. Contract manufacturers will often employ engineers with basic training who are not used to thinking on their feet and engineering innovative solutions. In the case of the charging cable, this led to six months of frustration. A simple product could not be manufactured by a factory that produces cables for the likes of Sony. But luckily, Itch stepped in to save the day.  

So how did we do it? Well we took matters into our own hands.We went straight to the factory to show the engineers there what the brand wanted from their design. We even operated the machinery in collaboration with the factory to get the job done. And in the end, we helped a factory to produce a cable that was stronger than any other on the market. After six months of delays and a brand that nearly threw in the towel altogether, it pays to innovate with Itch.  


Without engineers on the ground battling to push contract manufacturers and challenge their perceptions, you will risk delays. You could even end up with an inferior product that you cannot sell. Having eyes on the ground in China is one thing. But having the Itch team - a team of bright,innovative engineers who know the manufacturing landscape better than anyone -could save you time, money and a whole lot of stress.

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