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Frequently asked China Manufacturing questions answered

April 27th, 2012

Frequently asked China Manufacturing questions answered

There are some questions that we get asked by most customers, so we thought it would be helpful to share these on our blog:

1. How long are Chinese lead times?

Lead times will vary by the size and type of the order, but 90% of production orders manufactured by China Works normally take around 30-35 working days. Tooling takes a similar amount of time for most orders.

Most projects have a learning curve, so we would normally add another week or two to initial orders – to account for unexpected issues or problems.

2. How long will our order take to ship over?

This depends on the shipping type, but a rough rule of thumb is as follows (the following figures are provided for China to UK)

Shipping normally takes 35 days door to door

Airfreight normally takes 7-10 days door to door

Courier normally takes 3-5 days door to door

3. What additional costs should be added to the factory’s price?

The factory’s price is normally ex-works or FOB (Free on Board). Ex-works means the price of the goods at the factory gates, so shipping, UK and China handling, duty and VAT need to be added. FOB means the price of the goods delivered to your ship or plane so shipping, UK handling, duty and VAT need to be added.

All of the additional charges can be provided by a Freight Forwarder (if needed we can recommend a couple of Freight Forwarders that we’ve worked with for years)

Some factories (normally those that makes off-the-shelf standard items) offer terms on a DDP (delivered duty paid) basis, which means the price delivered to your door. This is however less common than ex-works or FOB.

4. How can I calculate duty for my product?

Duty is dependant on the type of good being shipped over. To find out the duty for your product you need to work out the relevant Commodity Code (Customs and Excise can advise, or look online). In our experience (of bringing over plastic or metal components) duty is normally in the range of 3-6%. Duty needs to be added to the ex-works price and unlike VAT is non-refundable.

5. How can I estimate shipping costs?

If a factory quotes ex-works or FOB, then you’ll need to work out door to door shipping costs. These can be a little chicken and egg in that you won’t know how heavy or big your order is until it’s ready. However it should be possible for your factory to estimate the order weight/volume, meaning any Freight Forwarder should be able to provide door to door quotes.

Note that shipping costs can vary a lot (up or down) over time and you will realise economies of scale as you start shipping greater volumes (a 20′ container is around £1500 – £2000; a 40′ around £2500 to £3000).

6. What are the normal payment terms?

The majority of factories will require 50% upfront to kick-off an order. The remaining 50% is typically then due once the order is complete, or before the goods lands in the UK. Some factories will allow you to pay the remaining 50% when you’ve inspected the goods, but this is very rare for first time orders. Payment terms can be improved with factories as you develop a longer term working relationship.

7. How do you make your money?

We charge £30 per hour for initial investigations, factory selection and providing a quotation. A typical job takes 5-15 hours, so a customer can expect to pay in the region of £150 – £450. Once the customer has progressed to order we (or our partners) add a commission of 10-20% to the factory prices based on the order volume and service level required.

8. Is it better to go to factories direct or via a China sourcing agent

This depends on on your level of experience in dealing with Chinese suppliers, the type of goods you’re buying and how much time you have to dedicate to the project. If you’re buying standard items and have many years of buying experience you may be better off buying from factories directly. On the other hand if you’re buying complex OEM goods, and/or are new to China sourcing you may be better served by an agent. Agents will also have existing factory relationships, which you can leverage (rather than finding them yourself on China sourcing directories).

9. What minimum order quantity is required?

Most factories will require an order of at least $5,000 to proceed. Some will produce smaller orders, but this may not give you priority over other customers resulting in project delays. A normal order size for China Works is in the $10,000 – $20,000 region, with some orders much small and some much bigger

10. What do China Works do?

We help customers manage their end to end China manufacturing projects from initial factory sourcing, quotations, samples, tooling, production orders, quality control and logistics. We were founded in 2006 and have since built up a comprehensive network of factories in the greater Shanghai area, specialising in the production of plastic, metal, woods, glass and ceramic components.

11. Where are you based?

We have a team of 7 engineers based in Shanghai and a team of 3 client managers and product designers based in London. Our Shanghai team are fluent in English and our customers are welcome to discuss their projects with them or the UK team

12. Is China suitable for inventors?

Yes and no! Over the years we have worked with over hundred inventors and in the majority of cases it is probably better for these customers to start their production in the UK. This will give them more control over their project, while it’s still in it’s early stages and subject to change. Also most Chinese factories are looking for volume, which is something that most inventors are not typically in a position to provide.

Exceptions to this rule are for inventions where the designs are complete; production can only take place in China; and initial order quantities are expected to be reasonably high

We hope the above helps with your China manufacturing project, and feel free to contact the China Works team if you want to discuss in any more detail

How to obtain a Chinese visa

December 16th, 2011

The following article is a guest post from one of our UK partners – the China Visa Bureau. Below you’ll find a step by step guide for obtaining your Visa to China:


It’s a fact that if you’re going to China, you need a visa. The process can be a daunting process, so the following sets out some easy guidelines for obtaining your Visa:

Step 1- Which visa do you need?

There are 5 common visas’ to choose from:

1. Business visa-for a meeting, lectures, trade shows, short-term studies, internships, or general business, technological, or cultural exchanges.

Letter of invitation required or a letter of duly authorized unit (letter from government)

2. Tourism visa-for holidays, visiting family or friends.

Confirmed flights and hotel bookings needed.

3. Work visa-if you are starting a new job in China.

Employment license and letter of duly authorized unit needed (originals)

4. Study visa-if you are going to study in China.

JW202 and Admission letter (originals)

5. Crew visa-for crew members of planes, boats etc.

Letter of Duly authorized unit and Landing permit

Step 2 – Application form

Everyone needs to fill in an application form and a customer declaration form (5 pages in total)

If you are applying for work or study you need to fill in form B also.

If you are a non UK passport holder you also have to fill in form B.

Step 3 – Applying

You now have numerous choices in methods of applying:

You can apply in person at CVASC London or Manchester with a pre-arranged appointment.

You can apply by post at CVASC London or Manchester using the regular service only. Manchester is the only place that it is possible to do sameday service; at CVASC you cannot post an application to do sameday service. You have to turn up with a pre-arrange appointment.

The difference between services…..Regular service takes 4 working days from the day the application arrives. Sameday service will be ready at about 4pm on the day it is submitted (before 10am)

Frequently asked questions

Q1 , Do I need a Chinese Visa?

A1, ALL travellers to China MUST have a visa. E.g. Tourism, Business, Study, Work, A Cruise, you DO NEED a visa. If you fail to get one you will be refused entry into China.

Q2, When should I apply for my Chinese visa?

A2, We suggest that you apply 1-2 months in advance of travelling. If you apply too early your visa will expire prior to travelling.

Q3, How long is my visa valid for?

A3, Each visa has a different validity…..a single entry visa has a validity of 3 months (from date of issue, you must fly within 3 months), a double entry visa has a validity of 6 months (from date of issue, you must fly within 6 months)

Q4, How long can I stay in China for?

A4, When a visa is applied for, unless specified, 30 days duration is given as standard. If you require more you must state it on your application.


The China Visa Bureau can be contacted as follows:

CVASC Manchester 0161 236 1070

CVASC London 0207 842 0960

China Visa Bureau 0161 870 9048 (applications from all UK)

How do we charge for our China sourcing service?

November 26th, 2011

One of the most common questions we’re asked is how we charge for our services.

The answer is straightforward! We normally charge a hourly fee for the time we spend preparing a quote and dealing with questions between the factory and customer. We charge this fee as even the most straightforward quotes can take between 5-10 hours for the team to prepare, and every project has unique aspects that require further investigation. It also helps us prioritise the many RFQs (Request for Quotes) that arrive with China Works every day.

We also add a % commission to the factory’s price of between 5 and 8%, which varies according to the level of service required by the customer and order quantities

Finally we pass on any travel expenses if the customer requires us to quality inspect the goods on site with the factory. That is it!

If you have any further questions about how we work, or whether the China Works team can help you, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Over 190 Chinese contract manufacturers now on China Quotes sourcing directory

November 26th, 2011

If you’re looking to find contract manufacturers directly we now have over 190 different suppliers profiled on our China sourcing directory China Quotes (

China Quotes is the first China sourcing directory to exclusively on Chinese contract manufacturers, with over 50 production categories represented – from injection moulding to die casting.

If we can help you contact any of the factories on the China Quotes directory then please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Should you use a China sourcing agent?

November 26th, 2011

Most people looking to source from China face a basic choice between contacting factories directly via sourcing directories (such as China Quotes or Ali Baba), or using a China sourcing agent such as China Works. What are the pros and cons of each approach, and what is the best model for you?

1.Buying from factories directly

a) Pros

Potentially cheaper – China agents usually add a % commission to the factory’s quote so you can potentially save money by buying direct. You do however need to consider the hidden costs of dealing directly with a factory – such as the time and money you will need to spend managing the factory relationship (both in China and at home).

b) Cons

Time consuming – managing factory relationships can be time consuming. You may need to regularly travel to China and get-up at unsociable times to deal with your factory contact from your home country. The time spent managing your supply chain could also be better spent on the sales and marketing for your product.

Language barriers – your chosen factory may or may not have a good grasp of your local language, meaning key commercial and technical points may be misunderstood by either party

Uncertainty over product quality – A Chinese factory will normally inspect the goods themselves before they are shipped. This may mean you won’t know for sure whether the goods meet your requirements until they arrive at your warehouse (and after you’ve paid for them!)

2. Using a China Sourcing agent

a) Pros

Quality assurance – a China sourcing agent will independently quality inspect goods before they’re sent over,  providing reassurance that the goods are up to scratch before they land in your warehouse

Local point of contact – companies such as China Works will provide an account manager in your country to help with your enquiries, making it easier to deal with suppliers within normal business hours (regardless of which country they’re in)

Access to contacts and expertise – most established China agents will have many years experience of sourcing from China (with projects going well and badly!),  so should be able to pass on that expertise at all stages of the process.  These agents will also have a good network of factories,  enabling you to quickly make contact with the best factories

b) Cons

Not recommended for wholesalers looking to buy “off the shelf” goods – if you’re buying standard items (rather than goods made to your requirements), where cost is critical you may be better off dealing with factories directly. Once you’ve invested the time in developing the initial factory relationship, there should be less that can go wrong.


Unless you are an experienced Chinese buyer, or a wholesaler buying large quantities of standard goods we would always recommend buying via a sourcing agent.  Companies such as China Works can provide advice and contacts to ensure the process is a success,  help with any issues or challenges that arise,  and manage the end to end process on your behalf – giving you more time to run your business locally

Trade between China and the UK is growing…

July 10th, 2011

Interesting article in this month’s FT on the increase in trade between the UK and China –

I wonder how long it will be before the UK becomes a net exporter to China, like Germany?

The FT reports:

“David Cameron has announced the signing of £1.4bn of trade deals between British companies and China, following a London summit with Wen Jiabao, China’s premier.

The deals include an agreement between BG, the UK energy group, and the Bank of China for up to $1.5bn of new funding options to expand projects in China

Mr Cameron said Mr Wen had also agreed to promote opportunities for British companies to invest in China, including through increased opportunities in the country’s booming regional cities outside Beijing and Shanghai.”

Should inventors source from China?

May 29th, 2011

Around 50% of inquiries received by China Works are from inventors looking to reduce the cost of getting their product to market. While customers are attracted by tooling costs up to 2/3 cheaper than the UK, these projects are normally difficult to get off the ground due to low initial order volumes.  So what should you do if you’re an inventor considering Chinese production?

1. Get quotes from the UK and from China – it may be beneficial to start the project in the UK, even if tooling or unit prices are more expensive to begin with. You’ll have more control over the project, less worries about IP and you can move the project to China when production ramps up

2. Evaluate whether China is right for your product – China works best for manually intensive products or tooling (e.g. plastics, fabricated parts) , where cost savings can be achieved due to the competitive labour rates. If you’re making CNC machined pieces with no tooling, it’s unlikely China will provide you major cost savings

3. Be realistic with the volumes you provide to the factory – if you intend to sell “thousands”, but your first order will be for “ten”, let the factory know this from the start. Factories lose interest pretty rapidly when they’re not given what they’ve been promised

4. Finish your designs and prototypes in the UK, and then consider China – never complete your product design process in China. Getting the factory to make endless design changes is a guaranteed way to lose their interest as bigger projects come along. Completing your designs at home will give you more control over the development process and your IP, and enable you to approach a factory when you’re ready to start mass production.

China Works have dealt with over two hundred inventors since we started in 2006, so if you’d like to find out whether your product is suitable for Chinese production please contact us today. China Works have a dedicated design team in the UK, who can help with local design and prototyping requirements, before your project is handed to our production team in China.

New China manufacturing directory launched by China Works

February 23rd, 2011

China Works has launched a free directory for customers looking to find Chinese manufacturers of bespoke parts and components .  China Quotes ( is the first China sourcing directory to exclusively focus on contract manufacturers in China - enabling users to make contact with Chinese manufacturers of customised products and components

The directory is intended to allow consumers and companies to find businesses within convenient category listings.  Customers can search lists of businesses or organisations by production process or location and find the contact details, websites, email addresses and further information that will help with Chinese production projects.

China Quotes has been built with both consumers and businesses in mind.  It will make it easier for Chinese factories to promote themselves and for potential customers to find the quality services they require.

For potential customers, the China Quotes Directory enables easier  online search and location of suitable factories.  China Quotes has 10 dedicated production categories for listings: Moulding and casting, forming, joining and fabrication, machining, coating, electronic components, industrial components, rapid prototyping, packaging, and support services

China Quotes can be found at

Tips for negotiating with Chinese factories

February 16th, 2011

The Foreign Entrepreneurs in China blog have listed 36 quick tips for successful communication with factories in China -

I’d recommend these tips to anyone starting out with a new China sourcing project, but some points are particularly important to follow:

“Tip 6. Approach them (the factory) first with an introductory email presenting yourself, your company and detailing as much as possible the product you are after

Tip 7. If they do not answer fast (1-3 days) move on, they will give you trouble in the future

Tip 10. If you can’t visit the factory, get an Inspection Company to do it for you. It is not that expensive

Tip 11. If you are not a fluent Chinese speaker, bring a native Chinese speaker to the negotiation- he/she will be a valuable support

Tip 13. Be very clear on who is going to be making decisions

Tip 15. “I can’t” is not in their vocabulary, so be wary if you get silence for an answer…

Tip 17. Give realistic purchase estimates. If you promise 10 more times than you are planning to buy, they will cut corners to meet their profit so it will hit you back with poor quality (they work on small margins)

Tip 19. Pricing: Do not get obsessed with the cheapest deal. Quality has a price and you should also consider that.

Tip 20. Track commodity prices used in your productsTip #26. Visit the factory during production & for quality control

Tip 27. If you can’t visit factory send an inspection company or somebody you trust (and is qualified for the job)

Tip 28. Don’t pay till you are sure all the product is in good condition (make sure the contract is draft that way)

Tip 31. Expect Delays in your Supply Schedule (power shortages are common, national holidays…)

Tip 32. “Problems don’t finish after production. Supervise Logistic Paperwork! There are often mistakes that will get your shipment stuck”

Foreign Manufacturers Raise R&D Investment

December 6th, 2010

Toyota’s announcement that it will invest almost USD700 million on its first China-based research and development centre in Changshu highlights just how seriously major manufacturers are now taking the diversifying domestic Chinese consumer market.

The Japanese automaker will spend USD689 million to purchase land and build research facilities and a test track for the new R&D base, which will be used to analyse the Chinese auto market – now the world’s largest – study quality control and develop low-emission vehicles and engines for sale in China.

Toyota’s R&D hub announcement is the latest in a series of high-profile R&D investments, following GE’s recent disclosure of plans to spend a further USD500 million for research and development, including regional R&D hubs to serve Chinese consumers. In March, IBM promised to spend USD40 million on an energy and utilities solutions R&D lab.

The Chinese government has targeted R&D as a key economic growth sector, especially “in key technologies.” R&D expenditures in China as a percentage of GDP rose from 0.7% in 1991 to 1.5% by 2007, according to Oxford Analytica. China plans to raise this ratio to 2.5% by 2020.