Business advice for China: 10 essential tips for product development

Key business tips for working in China from Morrama's industrial design experts, elevate your trip's success with our proven insights.
April 18, 2024

China is a manufacturing powerhouse and for decades have led the way for producing physical products for use around the world. As a new business bringing a physical product to market there is a chance that your first production will take place in the far east. Manufacturing in China is quick, cost effective and suppliers are typically pretty receptive to any and all ideas. 

At some point during the production/development process a trip to the factory is recommended. Whether that be to save time on sampling, oversee the quality control or make a personal connection with the factory management before signing off the first batch of product. 

This can play out in a few ways. The founder/Head of product may be overseeing the product development and head to CN to formalise the approval of production. Businesses may also want to send their internal or external design team over to the factory to sign off on the ‘golden sample’, since undoubtedly they know the product better than anyone. Ideally, both the founder and design team would go. 

We have 10 tips for those  heading to China for the first time:

1: Have an itinerary before you visit.

You want to maximise your time and efficiency since a CN visit is costly and time consuming. Appointments need to be made and plans must be organised ahead of time. Take into account how you might be feeling upon landing and be considerate to future you. Have some time after you arrive to adjust to your new surroundings, and refrain from scheduling meetings upon arrival. Prioritise key meetings or milestones on your first full day, this will limit the impact of jet lag and give you the maximum amount of time to see product alterations during your visit if needed.

2: You call the shots.

When you are in the factories as a representative of a project, you will be treated as the decision maker and your host will treat you as such. Decisions are made quickly and ideas are suggested in a moment's notice, so ensure you have the autonomy necessary to capitalise on this. Comms that usually take weeks unfold in minutes. It's worth agreeing next steps and cementing plans whilst you are there, be confident, concise and realistic, you have your manufacturing partner’s full attention so make use of it. If you're there to sign off on a product, be sure to cement product approval by signing directly onto approved samples, alongside the signatures of the manufacturer. This will be the ‘golden sample’, and the benchmark product during production, so only make this approval if you are 100% certain.

3: Good friends make good business.

You have likely been talking to your hosts more than your best friend, and vice versa. Invest time in getting to know about your CN counterparts and their lives. Go for food, let loose in karaoke and enjoy the small talk over a pot of tea. We have been fortunate to have met so many great people during our projects. These relationships will be the foundation for a long and fruitful partnership for years to come. Note, it is common practice to exchange gifts when meeting your manufacturing partners, bring something local to you, from the UK that could be a fine Scottish Whiskey or some Fortnum & Mason delicacies.

4: Jet lag is a b***h.

You will be tired most of your trip, and sometimes a melatonin pill is just not going to cut it. Making notes, keeping to pre-made plans (let your hosts manage your time) and taking photos will help you get through. Photograph and even better video (ask permission) everything, once you have the energy to go back over details these will give you clarity on moments where it was potentially lacking. Try and find time for a quick workout to help get your body back to normal and keep the brain alert for the tasks ahead.

5: China is big.

Be prepared for 4 hrs+ driving a day . Use these moments to catch up on your notes, take in the landscape (and endless amounts of residential tower blocks) or just get some Zzz’s. It's recommended to try and stay near to your main point of business or factory, since every hour counts when you are in China, this will also make it easier to spend more downtime with your manufacturing team at dinners or drinks, something you don’t want to miss.

6: The world wide web.

Some messaging and social media apps we use in the West don’t work in China. If you want to keep in contact with your team back home or catch up with loved ones, look at getting a VPN (or two) or invite them to use WeChat. Also, if you work out of the cloud be sure to download all of the files you’ll likely be working with to avoid dodgy wifi issues, there's nothing worse than not having access to key files in team meetings with the factory. IMessage and Outlook seem to be operating without issue, but be sure to check this before you travel.

7: Gain insights and share them.

Factory visits provide an immersive crash course in comprehending the inner workings of production. Witness everything from machinery to assembly lines, ask questions, and absorb the entire process. This trip will undoubtedly provide context to conversations around the design that happened in the months prior. Bring back these learnings to your team and enrich future projects with a holistic understanding of production processes. 

8: Be considerate.

Everything is about the people. Allow yourself to be in awe of the hard work that goes into bringing a product to life. Take a moment to understand the sacrifice and efforts that go into what could be deemed ‘small design decisions’. Forming these bonds brings perspective, every stakeholder throughout the project shares the common desire to finish work and have some downtime with friends and families. Remember this experience when you are sending WeChat messages at 10pm UK time and expecting an immediate response.

9: Lazy Susan and chopsticks.

Lunch and dinner are sacred. You will experience some of the best foods in the world, so be open to try new things and allow your hosts to blow your taste buds away (quite literally with the hotpots). If you can't use chopsticks, perhaps put in some hours beforehand to learn. 

10: Zàijiàn (See you again).

Like all good things, the trip will come to an end. Before you say your goodbyes make sure that any milestones, timelines or just plans in general are confirmed, you want to be heading home with confidence in what happens next.  It may be the case that you did not achieve exactly what you set out to do, but you can be certain that this trip has impacted the project for the better. You may have identified issues that may have been missed or agreed quality standards that cannot be communicated in photos. Whatever the level of success, feel positive that these moments will be looked back on as defining memories in years to come.

This list is not extensive but hopefully will provide you with some comfort or even a framework for planning your trip east. Most importantly enjoy the process, things won’t always go to plan but working collaboratively and respectfully with the manufacturing team puts you in a strong position to overcome any obstacles that arise.

At Morrama we support clients in product development from concept to production, and we have established a vast supply chain network that spans a range of sectors from cosmetics to consumer electronics. If you want to learn more about bringing a product to market, please get in touch by emailing


Ben Melvin + Lucy Williams