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Wei Linchao

Wei Linchao

Dropship and Logistics Specialist, the founder of Bestfulfill that help you with order fulfillment from product sourcing, shipping, branding, and customized package.​

Top 11 Questions to Ask Private Label Manufacturers

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Have you ever wondered whether there is a better private label manufacturer out there that can deliver precisely what your brand needs? Chances are that there are only a few, but how can you find them in a world where every manufacturer claims to be the best?

Your choice of a private label manufacturer can make or break your brand. As such, you should take some time to vet multiple companies to find a trustworthy, reliable, and reputable manufacturing partner. Here are the top 11 questions you should ask private label manufacturers during the vetting process.

1: What is Your Average Lead Time?

The lead time—the time the manufacturer takes to produce your products—will have a direct impact on your revenue. Reduced production time will improve productivity, streamline operations thus boosting your output and revenue.

This is why you need to partner with a manufacturer that delivers within a reasonable amount of time. Have your preferred manufacturer send you a detailed production timeline. Be sure to ask them how long the development, manufacturing, packaging, shipping will take.

Ensure that the manufacturer’s timeline is ideal for your business to prevent shortages. You also need to understand that the lead time depends on different factors, such as availability, quantity as well as the required development and testing procedures.

2: How Long Have You Been in Business?

The reputation of a private label manufacturer can only be assessed over time. Seek to understand the number of years the company has been manufacturing private label products. While much of this information can be found on the manufacturer’s website, be sure to ask when you get the chance.

As a rule of the thumb, you should go with companies that have been manufacturing private label products for at least 4 years. Such manufacturers are likely to be more knowledgeable and experienced in the industry and manufacturing processes.

Again, you could check the experiences of other customers with the manufacturer over the period they have been manufacturing. This will come in handy when assessing the reliability and reputation of a private label manufacturers.

3: What Certifications Have You Acquired Thus Far?

Outsourcing the production of OEM products puts your brand’s reputation on the line. This is why you need outside validation of your preferred manufacturer from a recognized standardization body. Certifications are proof that a manufacturer has been evaluated and found to comply with the respective standard.

 Think of it as a way for the manufacturers to prove their legitimacy. Private label manufacturer certifications may be categorized into two:

a: Facility Certifications

These are awarded to companies whose manufacturing plants and processes conform to certain industry standards. One of the basic facility certifications for private label manufacturers is a Current Good Manufacturing Process(cGMP) certificate.

Other Certifications that are globally recognized as marks of quality are those by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO). ISO has over 22,000 standards that apply to different manufacturers and businesses.

Some of the common ISO certifications a private label manufacturer should have include:

>: ISO 9001

This standard focuses on the manufacturer’s quality management systems (QMS). It features the QMS compliance requirements, including vendor management, for manufacturers in different industries. An ISO 9001 certified private label manufacturer has been proven to be customer-focused and delivers high-quality products consistently.

>: ISO 45001

Manufacturers that have this certification are compliant with the relevant occupational health and safety guidelines. The certification demonstrates a manufacturer’s commitment to implementing the best health and safety management systems and practices at the workplace.

>: ISO 14001

This certification is awarded to companies that effectively quantify, monitor, and control the negative environmental impact of their production process.

b: Product Certifications

In addition to facility certifications, enquire whether the manufacturer can provide the relevant certifications for your product(s). An increasing number of consumers want to know their products are developed and manufactured. To entice such consumers, partner with manufacturer that has well-recognized product certifications, such as:

  • Non-GMO Project Verified
  • Vegan Certified
  • USDA Organic

NOTE: Ensure that the certifications have been awarded by globally-recognizable bodies like the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and Natural products Association (NPA).

4: What Audits Do You Perform? (Both Internal and External)

On the very least, it is advisable to only work with a private label manufacturer that maintains an internal audit schedule. Enquire whether your preferred manufacturer carries out any scheduled and/ unscheduled audits.

Such audits are usually meant to check for compliance with relevant regulations and whether products conform to the manufacturer’s internal standards and policies. The audits must also asses label control, packaging, quality assurance, and control, and production among other departments.

You could also asked whether the manufacturer tests the raw materials for purity, identity, and strength.

Certificate of Analysis (CoA)

Ask the manufacturer whether they can send you a Certificate of Analysis (CoA). If so, the document should detail their compliance with product specifications, methods, expectations, and lab test results. The document should also demonstrate the identity, strength, and composition of the various raw materials. Most of the leading private label manufacturers will send you the CoA at not additional cost. In addition to these internal audits, the leading private label manufacturers also support external audits by reputable third-party agencies.

5: What Types of Lab Tests Do You Conduct?

This—to a large extent—has to do with the quality control measures your preferred manufacturer has in place. Most manufacturers will tell you that they guarantee high-quality private label products consistently, but back this claim? Regardless of the industry, it is safer to work with a manufacturer that has proven in-house quality control measures and equipment.

To establish this, ask whether the company has in-house labs or they outsource testing to third-party laboratories. You also need to enquire about the type of tests they carry out on their raw materials and products.

The right manufacturer should be able to conducting all the necessary tests to verify compliance with the relevant regulations and standards. Their test methods should comply with the recognized standards for that particular product in region, including:

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention (USP)
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • AOAC
  • American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC)
  • ASTM

This is a good way to tell whether their products are up to the expectations of your customers.

6: Do You Use Pure and High-Quality Raw Materials/ Ingredients?

Even with the right certifications and testing procedures in place, a private label manufacturer cannot produce high-quality products without the right raw materials/ingredients. As such, it makes sense to ask them about the type, purity, and safety ratings of the various ingredients/ raw materials they use.

Ask your preferred company to send you documents that verify the sourcing and validation of the various raw materials/ ingredients they use. Some products, including dietary supplements and cosmetic products are required to meet certain safety regulations.

Check to see whether the ingredients used by your manufacturer meet such regulations. In addition to validating raw materials, the ideal manufacturer should have procedures and techniques in place to deal with impurities or contaminations—if any is detected.

7: What Measures Do You Take to Manage Rapid Changes in Demand?

Ask the private label manufacturer whether it has contingency plans in place to address unexpected changes in demand and market conditions. For instance, you may need a batch of products to be produced within a short notice to address a recent surge in demand.

In such a case, the company could carry out the ingredient procurement and product stability production phases simultaneously. By undertaking the two phases concurrently, the manufacturer can speed up the production timeline.

However, they should also be upfront about the risks you may have to face when such contingencies are implemented.

8: What is your Minimum Order Quantity?  

Most private label manufacturers today have a minimum order quantity (MOQ). This refers to the least amount of units you can order for the manufacturer to deliver in a single batch. This number is often higher for labelling services, as compared to product development and manufacturing MOQs.

When ordering in larger quantities, you could also negotiate with the manufacturer for better “per unit” price.

9: How Can You Help with Compliance Requirements for my Brand?  

In addition to its own regulatory compliance, the ideal private label manufacturer will also ensure that the products are compliant with regulations in your region. To verify whether a manufacturer takes care of compliance on your end, just ask them.

They should also offer labelling guidance and manage your regulatory filings. Some will even help you remain compliant with Health Canada and U.S. FDA regulations for your type of product. With this private label manufacturer question, seek whether the manufacturer will help you with technical reviews and edits.

A reliable manufacturer should also be quick to note changes in compliance requirements, including monograph and GMP compliance, and advice you accordingly.

10: Do Communication Channels in Your Company Address Priority Issues?

Not only should a manufacturer be responsive, but should also have resourceful customer support. Get to know how their communication system works and whether it prioritizes the important issues. To qualify, your manufacturer’s customer support should bring the technical, sales, quality control, research & development, and operations teams together. 

It should allow for a seamless flow of information and sharing of data across all the teams. This will, in turn, address any concerns you may be having and keep your manufacturing project(s) on track.

11: What Other Services Do You Offer?

Apart from manufacturing and maybe formula development, seek to know what other services the company offers—if any. For instance, do they evaluate and optimize formulas? Do they offer packaging and labeling services or you need to outsource? If so, how do you need to pay additional money for these services. Again, the manufacturer should help you meet FDA and similar requirements for labeling. Where applicable, private label products should feature compliance marks, such as:

  • WEEE symbol (EU)
  • CE mark (EU)
  • Textiles Care Label
  • Country of origin (USA)
  • Food contact material symbol
  • FCC Mark (USA)
  • CPSIA Tracking Label (USA)

These regulations vary from one region to another. Check whether your manufacturer is conversant with them before moving forward with the project.

Conclusion

Having  narrowed your search for the best private label manufacturer to just a few companies, vetting them will help you find the right fit. One of the most efficient ways to do this is to contact the shortlisted manufactures and ask them the above-discussed questions.

The questions you need to ask a private label manufacturer may vary from one project to another. However, the main idea is to ascertain the manufacturer’s suitability for your private label manufacturing project.

Better still, you can save money and time and still get the right private label manufacturer by hiring a reputable dropshipping sourcing and fulfillment agent.  

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