Your pricing and terms negotiated, an important question you need to consider is : “How am I going to ensure that my products are produced according to the lead times offered by the factory and how will I ensure that what they deliver is going to be as per my order?”
The answer to the question will depend to a large degree on the nature of the product and the type of factory you selected. However, you want to make sure that spec is adhered to and that lead times are met. From a distance, it is highly difficult to manage. This is where a local agent can add significant value in helping to monitor production, providing you with regular updates, in-line inspections, final inspections and production samples selected at random from the final production lot for you to review before shipping.
Most critical during this stage is to thoroughly understand the production process of your supplier (this does not need to be at a highly technical level, but you should understand the critical stages in production and the time for each). Define key milestones that you want to monitor. If raw materials and the quality being used is important, then you should possibly schedule an inspection of raw materials for your initial orders to make sure that the quality is as you require. In short, you need to develop a production management strategy that can be agreed in principle with the manufacturer prior to entering into a contract.
There are many companies that have experience in quality control and production management. But what you often find is that these companies will only do what you ask of them. The QC protocols they set up are based strictly on what you ask them to review. Therefore, if you happened to not mention that you would like all of your master cartons closed before the goods are loaded onto the container, they simply will not check for this (nor tell you – we have seen this first hand). More importantly, when problems arise, the usual response is to highlight the exception but offer no resolution. Therefore, you are left trying to manage a crisis directly with the factory from thousands of miles away. Understanding the root cause of the problem, implementing containing actions, defining with the factory and overseeing the corrective actions as well as working through preventative actions to keep the problem from reoccurring are what high value added agents will offer you.