For just about every product designer on the market, manufacturing has always been a significant challenge in terms of both cost and quality. You want the production cost to be as low as possible, but at the same time, the products must be at least of good build quality to attract potential customers.
Sourcing for manufacturers overseas is one of the most effective ways to minimize manufacturing budgets thanks to a significant reduction in labor cost. Workers in western countries have higher average salaries than those in almost any other country in the world.
Sourcing is not always an easy process, and many times, you have to deal with intermediaries to get things going. These middlemen include trading companies, wholesalers, and sourcing agents. The nature of intermediaries is that they provide services to help your business and take a reasonable chunk of your profit margin.
However, many times, go-betweens are necessary (and even inevitable) until you gain more experience in the industry and become capable of handling everything on your own. The following list of resources is filled with free & paid manufacturer directories as well as sourcing agents in Asia, Europe, and North America.
The brainchild of Core77 and Bloomberg Businessweek, the design directory contains more than 1,000 firms based in many different countries all around the world. Most of the firms listed here are located in the United States and United Kingdom, but you can also find many more from Canada, Germany, China, and India. Sorting options include specialties/fields and typical budget range.
Founded in 1965, the IDSA is a non-profit industrial design association with a website containing news, events, and other relevant resources for professionals and students alike. Its “Find A Firm” page is where you can find manufacturing facilities or companies to help make your new design. Most firms listed are based in the United States.
3. Maker’s Row
There are only four types of industries on Maker’s Row: Apparel & Accessories, Furniture & Home Décor, Packaging, and Other. However, the directory has more than 11,000 firms and manufacturers to help you kick-off your project. Maker’s Row is not free; the subscription-based search function comes at $35/month for the Basic Plan.
A sourcing agency that focuses on providing services for start-ups, GSS is working with a vast network of more than 1,000 factories all over the world and has introduced about 600 products to market. Not only does the agency offer assistance with manufacturing, but also with packaging, quality assurance, and shipping.
It is one of the largest online marketplaces to find suppliers of ready-made products in just about every category. If you already have the design ready for manufacturing, go directly to Alibaba Fabrication Services to see a long list of manufacturers of which you can contact directly. You can sort based on location, supplier type (Trade Assurance or Verified), sample order, minimum order, price, and past export countries.
Another excellent resource to find a manufacturing company for your new product design is MFG. The search function is based on location (either a specific city or your current location), and then you can select a certain radius—from 50 to 10,000 miles—of search. The database contains manufacturers from all around the world.
One of the best free supplier directories to use is ThomasNet. The homepage provides a more general search function to find manufacturers by name, category, or brand. ThomasNet also has a separate “supplier discovery” page for more specific queries such as location, certification, type of company, ownership, etc. Type of company includes both manufacturer and custom manufacturer suitable for new product design.
When it comes to new product design, you want as many supplier choices as possible to improve your chances of finding the perfect business partner. Kompass is powered by a network of more than 35 million companies in over 75 countries. Search options include name, activity (expertise or types of services provided), and location.
More of an international B2B hub than a firm directory, the HKTD Sourcing allows you to create custom sourcing inquiries directly on the website. There is a chance that your inquiries are answered by suppliers of ready-made products instead of custom manufacturers, but it shouldn’t be a problem as long as the products meet your exact specifications and budget.
It is the largest online B2B marketplace in India. The directory allows you to search for the products/services you need. A more natural way is to use the “Business Categories” section and choose the option relevant to your design. You can directly contact suppliers/manufacturers to compare prices, services, quality, etc. Remember that all companies in this directory are based in India.
11. Canton Fair
Unlike most resources listed here, the Canton Fair is not an online database but a Guangzhou trade expo where you have every chance of meeting the right manufacturer for your new product design. Although a lot of suppliers are at the exhibition to sell finished goods, it is never too hard to ask if they also do custom manufacturing services. If you have the time and budget, visit the fair.
This web app is a one-stop-shop for product and factory sourcing purposes. Once you find the right candidates, you can request a sample to get a better look at what your final product will be. Communication is done directly on the web app to streamline the process. Sourcify claims to have a network of more than 1,000 pre-vetted factories all around the world, at least 300 product categories, and an average of 32% cost-saving on the buyers’ part.
For more than 48 years, Global Sources has been connecting buyers and suppliers through its online platform and exhibitions. It has both wholesale and factory directories mostly in the consumer goods category. There is also a category called “Machinery & Parts” for industrial/commercial applications. You can search by locations including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, and Zhejiang.
This is a sourcing agent specializing in China-based manufacturers. FindAFactory.net focuses on helping crowd-sourced ideas, but anybody can use the service to search for the right manufacturing facilities capable of mass-production. After using the service for 24 months, you have the option to work directly with the manufacturer of your choice for a fee.
The company is itself a manufacturer and designer, yet it also provides sourcing services to connect you with China-based factories. In case your product requires compliance testing for safety standards—for example, electronics, toys, or other products intended for children and home appliances—the company offers the services for that purpose as well. Their manufacturing, designing, and sourcing services cover both physical and digital products.
A US-based company, ITI Manufacturing is a sourcing agent to help you find turnkey product development and manufacturing services from China-based factories. Typical product categories include plastic, wood, metals, electronics, fabrics, and electronics, although you can also send specification for custom designs. ITI Manufacturing will request samples of your product (prototype or engineering drawing) before it can begin sourcing.
It is another sourcing agent based in Hong Kong to help you connect with China-based OEM and ODM manufacturers. Similar to other sourcing agents, there isn’t a list of factories on its website simply because they are supposed to do all the sourcing works. The best thing to do before using such a service is to ask a lot of questions and iron out all the details.
What is unique about Intrepidsourcing is how it’s willing to work with any small business with a budget of as low as $300. Despite that low financial capital, the sourcing agent promises to bring custom products to life. The complete service includes product concept development and sample productions for your approval.
The sourcing agent is based in Melville, New York. Inventor Smart Sourcing provides turnkey product development services from idea development and manufacturing to licensing and marketing. It works with a network of prototype makers and custom manufacturers both domestic and overseas. Most products it handles are made of plastic, wood, metal, or cut & sew materials.
20. Job Shop
Despite its seemingly over-simplified website interface, Job Shop is an excellent factory directory anybody can use for free. It claims to have the most extensive collection of quality contract manufacturers based in North America only. Factories listed in the directory offer various product development services including prototyping, assembly, electronic components fabrication, low volume or short-run production, and custom parts.
Part of Job Shop company, Design2Part is a more straightforward search engine of factories based in North America. You can search by name, types of service provided, location (or region), and keywords. Manufacturers are listed in alphabetical order, and each comes with contact information. Make sure to check the website of each company listed here in case there is a change in address, services, and other details not yet updated in the directory.
Similar to Job Shop, manufacturers listed in MacRae’s Blue Book directory are all based in North America. People source for custom manufacturers overseas mainly to save on production cost, even with shipping. However, the directory is filled with more than 1.2 million North American industrial companies so you should be able to compare prices and get the best possible quality.
Based in Ontario, Canada, Scott’s Directories has compiled an extensive database of Canadian manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers for anybody to use. The directory has more than 190,000 B2B companies with accurate contact information. The database is also verified every year. You have to subscribe to access the database, but there is a seven-day trial available.
The Fabricator is a publication of FMA (Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International). In June 2019, it released a list of the 40 most successful metal fabricators in the United States. In case the new product design of yours involves a lot of metal fabrication, the list is an excellent resource to connect with reputable manufacturers. Even if it may not be a financially viable choice for mass production, at least you can get a prototype of exceptional quality to be used as a sample.
25. MNI (Manufacturers’ News, Inc.)
The flagship publication of MNI, the Illinois Manufacturers Directory, started compiling manufacturers’ profiles more than 100 years ago. Today, the MNI is considered a classic reference directory containing a massive database of manufacturers all across the nation. It is a paid directory, and you can choose to purchase one from specific states or the entire country.
Part of MNI, the IndustryNet is mostly filled with suppliers of finished goods, although you can use the search function to search by category/product type to look for “Prototypes” and “Contract Manufacturing” or other relevant queries for factories. IndustryNet claims that the database is all compiled by real people instead of aggregated from the entire web. If true, the information should all be accurate.
It is quite challenging to pinpoint custom manufacturers on Bizbilla because there is no specific category for that. There is a “Services” tab available, but it’s not even specific to custom manufacturing. An effective way to find factories is using the “Products” tab and contacting the manufacturers directly. Look for products in a similar category as yours.
While Quirky is not necessarily a sourcing agent or factory directory, you are encouraged to submit a product design for initial review. If approved, Quirky will find the right manufacturers to mass-produce the design in accordance with your specifications. If you are interested in using the service, make time to read the Terms of Service, especially regarding royalty and product ownership status.
29. Global Market
A major difference between Global Market and other sourcing agents is how the former uses its own benchmarking requirements for all listed manufacturers. The benchmarks include quality control, company size, social responsibility, research and development capabilities, reputation, export processes, and OEM/ODM experience. You can search by products, manufacturers, or industry categories.
Previously known as Euredit, the directory is one of the largest in Europe. There are more than 2.6 million companies from all over the world listed in EUROPAGES, and more than 3,000 company profiles are added every month. Search options are excellent, with listings categorized by country, company type, and business sector.
Most companies in the Made-in-China directory are suppliers of finished goods, and it offers no options to find custom manufacturers. However, the website provides a section where you can submit sourcing requests. You may want to try contacting the product suppliers via email or chat and ask whether they are willing to take custom manufacturing jobs.
The World of Manufacturers is a straightforward yet reasonably detailed factory directory where you have the power to search based on category and two subcategories. For example, if you choose “Metals” for the main category, it is easy to narrow the search further down by selecting the specific materials and product types for the sub-categories. Get more specific by choosing countries and regions as well.
The directory contains only two significant sections, including industry category and country. For some people, the interface is perhaps oversimplified, especially when they realize that the contact information is nothing more than the manufacturers’ short descriptions and official website addresses. But it is free and filled with plenty of manufacturers to choose from.
34. IQS Directory
In case you have no intention to look for manufacturers outside of North America, the IQS directory should cover what you need. Manufacturers and suppliers listed in the directory are all based in the United States and Canada; the directory also says that they serve major segments of OEM industrial manufacturing. The listing includes detailed contact information, RFQs, customer reviews, and visual previews too.
For overseas manufacturing, especially China and Taiwan, B2BManufacturers.com is worth visiting. It has a lot of categories and sub-categories of products, for example, agricultural, textile, plumbing, toys, sporting goods, die & mold, and more. Each category brings up more specific product types. Suppliers and manufacturers are also listed in different sections of the same page of relevant products.
As the name suggests, the directory is filled with manufacturers based in the United States. Unfortunately, the categorization (or the lack thereof) is a bit irritating, as you can only browse by location. Manufacturers have short descriptions attached with their official website addresses to contact them directly. Even if you want to source local manufacturers, there are better directories.
37. IES (Illuminating Engineering Society) Manufacturers Directory
A directory of manufacturers serving only in the lighting products such as fixtures, controls, power sources, mounting devices, etc. The listing is categorized based on product type to simplify the search. You can also find a “miscellaneous” category for laser, fiber optics, maintenance equipment, and software products. Use the search bar and insert relevant keywords; for example, “custom manufacturing” and “prototype” to find what you’re looking for because a lot of companies listed are suppliers.
38. Innovative Manufacturers’ Center – Pennsylvania
If you happen to live in the State of Pennsylvania, the IMC manufacturer directory is the best place to source for local factories. Search by industries/product types and location (counties). Working with manufacturers nearby means better communication with no language barrier and minimum coordination problems. IMC is an affiliate of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
A tiny directory for its own name, the listing is filled with just 16 manufacturers (at the time of the writing) based in Korea. The good thing is that it has quite comprehensive industry categories, including consumer goods, automobiles, metal, electronic, beauty care, chemical/plastic, semiconductor, construction, and machinery. The miscellaneous category is currently occupied by a company in the water treatment industry.
If IMC is a directory for manufacturers in Pennsylvania, the MNC is the North Carolina version. MNC has more than a thousand manufacturers—all based in the state—and a user-friendly interface. The profile page of each company has detailed contact information, including location, certification, and product types.
The online directory is filled with more than 60,000 manufacturers all based in Turkey. Search by business sectors provided in the home page, which will take you to the product types. This is followed by another list of product categorizations and relevant manufacturers. The Turkish Manufacturers directory has plenty of categories, but unfortunately, some have no list of manufacturers at all. There is also an alphabetical list of companies.
Although the interface looks a lot like ManufacturerUSA.com, the content on ClickManufacturer is more user-friendly and comprehensive. The directory is divided into multiple sections of business sectors as well as categories and subcategories. You can also search for manufacturers by country. It claims that all links are manually checked for accuracy.
If your product design is food-related, Go Food Directory is an excellent place to look for the right manufacturer. Some companies make foods & beverages, while others work in the packaging industry. Choose “Manufacturers” in the Food Suppliers tab on the left-hand side of the web page, and then refine the search by choosing either processing/production or packing/packaging.
For product design ideas related to the apparel industry, FOURSOURCE provides a sourcing service through its own platform. Members have access to verified garment manufacturers all around the world. Manufacturers’ information is also available in case you want to contact them one by one directly. Basic membership without technical support is free.
It has only one industry category, but the subcategories are quite numerous such as wood, stone, aluminum, sculpture, brassware, leather products, Christmas decorative, and more. Handicraft products are divided into many sections based on materials or types, and each comes with a list of manufacturers. You can send a query via the website or contact the manufacturers directly.
Just like FOURSOURCE, the manufacturers listed on A Better Lemonade Stand directory are all in the apparel industry. Instead of providing you with an online manufacturer directory, however, the website gives links to a downloadable database. A premium listing comes at $19, while the Free version requires submission of an email address. All manufacturers are based in the United States and Canada.
47. GMI Directory
Previously known as the North State Manufacturers Directory, the GMI (Growth Manufacturing Initiative) has expanded its database to include not only manufacturers and suppliers but also financial institutions, private organizations, business services, as well as training and education. Manufactures listed work in various industries such as metal fabrication, apparel, tobacco and beverage, electronic products, wooden products, and plastic products.
It’s the only online manufacturer directory filled with nothing but custom electronics makers. Integrator Central CE directory has more than 20 categories such as video, control, automation, lighting, and more. Manufacturers work in both residential and commercial sectors, so read the description carefully before making an irrelevant inquiry.
Specifically created to compile manufacturers’ profiles in the architecture industry, the directory is an excellent online resource if your design is related to furniture pieces, interior, exterior, fixtures, landscape, and so on. Search by company type, specialties, and services. In the “Services” section, choose “Fabrication” and “Prototyping” to find companies willing to build a custom design.
A straightforward manufacturer directory to source overseas, especially in Asia. Categories include mostly consumer goods such as food, beauty & care, home appliances, toys, leather, gifts, etc. After picking a category relevant to your design, you’ll see a lot of subcategories indicating types of products. Choose the “Manufacturers” tab instead of “selling leads” and “products” to see a list of factories.
Regardless of the manufacturers (or intermediaries) and where they are, take the time and effort to iron out all the details related to the business beforehand. Ask a lot of questions so you can decide whether they are the right potential partners, not only by how comprehensive the answers are, but also their willingness to engage in good communication practices.
Make sure that your partners are all legit by asking for a copy of their business license. Remember that permits must include permits to do business in local area and in the sectors or industries that your products are.
Finding a reliable manufacturing service is not going to be an easy task, and it gets more difficult if the manufacturer is located overseas. But this is not an impossible job, especially if you get help from a reputable sourcing agent. Once you’ve found it, the product development process—which may include prototyping—and manufacturing can start right away.