Suggestion: Watch the 10 minutes video tutorial before reading this article
In this article we cover machinery imports from China. While “machinery” may refer to 3D printers, wheel loaders or tattoo removal lasers, there are certain risks that all of these have in common.
In this article, we cover regulations, spare parts, warranties and maintenance issues, when importing machinery and spare parts from China.
Machinery Manufacturers in China
Machinery encompasses power tools, agricultural machinery, packaging and printing machinery, forklifts, wheel loaders and many other products.
These products are part of entirely different industries, but there are still some major industrial clusters in China that may be of particular interest to machinery buyers. Below follows a list of the most important cities and provinces:
- Kunshan, Jiangsu
- Changzhou, Jiangsu
- Xuzhou, Jiangsu
- Shanghai, Shanghai
- Jinhua, Zhejiang
- Rui’an, Zhejiang
- Wenzhou, Zhejiang
- Ningbo, Zhejiang
- Tai’an, Shandong
- Jinan, Shandong
- Qingdao, Shandong
- Shenyang, Liaoning
- Dongguan, Guangdong
In most industries, the eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Shandong makes up more than half of China’s machinery exports.
If you want to visit suppliers, the easiest way to get there is by first flying to Shanghai, and then travel by high speed train to, and between, the provincial cities.
Types of Machinery Manufactured in China
Below follows an overview of relevant products that are produced in Mainland China, for the export market:
- Wheel Loaders
- CNC Machines
- Laser Cutting Machines
- Agriculture / Food Production Machines
- Roll Forming Machines
- Welding Machines
- 3D Printers
- Brewery Equipment
- Packaging & Printing Machinery
- Injection Molding Machines
Most buyers of machinery, parts and vehicles are not looking to order customized products, but factory designed products. However, referring to technical product specifications is as important when buying factory designed products. Keep in mind that there’s no universal standard of “good quality” – especially not in China.
Below follows a few suggestions that you may want to include in your product specification:
- Definition of usage
- Power (W)
- Efficiency (%)
- Protection Class (e.g. IP65)
- Control system
- Certification (e.g. CE Machine Directive or ASTM)
- Export packaging
When buying factory designed products, the supplier shall provide all product specifications, including detailed datasheets. A supplier refusing to offer such documentation is most likely not a manufacturer, but a small trader.
Machinery Safety Standards, Labeling Requirements & Technical Documentation
Vehicles, agricultural, production and various other types of machinery are regulated by one or more directives, or ‘consensus standards’. In most markets, including Europe, America, Australia and India, the importer is responsible to ensure that their imported machinery is compliant with applicable standards.
Compliance with local machinery regulations is not optional. Importing non-compliant machinery may result in having the units seized by the customs authorities – or face a forced recall, combined with heavy fines.
The main issue, when buying from China, is that most machinery is made for the domestic market – rather than foreign markets.
‘Made for China’ machinery is not generally not compliant with mechanical and electrical safety standards in other countries and markets, such as the EU and the US. Thus, verifying that a supplier can show previous compliance is critical.
In some industries, the compliance rate is as low as 5%. That said, before you can verify if a supplier is compliant, you need to know which standards and directives are relevant in your market. Keep reading and find out.
The Machinery Directive (MD) is applicable to machinery either manufactured in the European Union, or imported from outside.
Even if the items are manufactured overseas, the importer is responsible to ensure that the machine is CE compliant, which includes the following:
- CE mark on product unit, packaging and user manual
- Compliant with electrical and mechanical regulations (as specified in the CE Machinery Directive)
- Issue a Declaration of conformity and technical documentation (i.e., design drawings, bill of materials and risk assessment)
However, some types of tractors, motor vehicles, trailers and electrical appliances are regulated by more specific directives. Some EU member states also apply their own, local, regulations.
There are also a wide range of ISO standards developed for specific types of machinery (e.g. ISO 5247-3:1993, Weaving machines). Click here to read more about ISO standards.
As with all electrical components, RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive) compliance is also required. We’ve already covered the RoHS directive in a separate article, which you find here.
As already mentioned, keep in mind that most machinery made in China is produced for the domestic market.
Thus, verifying CE Machinery Directive compliance is critical, before an order is placed. Otherwise, you run a great risk of importing non-compliant machinery, which is illegal to place on the market.
ASTM International has developed and published a range of standards. However, unlike the CE Machinery Directive, which is applicable to most machines, there is no single ASTM standards that regulate all types of machinery.
Instead, different ASTM standards apply to different types of products. Click here to read more about ASTM standards.
There are also other consensus standards (industry developed) administered by other organisations, including:
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
- Robotics Industry of America (RIA)
- Instrument Society of America (ISA)
- National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA)
- Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL)
Australia and New Zealand
Machinery is not regulated by a uniform directive or set of standards in Australia. Instead, various standards are applicable to different types of machinery. Certain types of machinery, including mobility scooters, trolley jacks and mini bikes, are required to be AS/NZS compliant.
Electrical machinery on the other hand, are regulated by the ERAC Equipment Certification System. Click here to read more about Australia product safety standards.
Certain countries accept machinery that are compliant with American and European standards. However, there are plenty of countries that have implemented their own machinery regulations, including India and Nigeria:
Regulates pumping, irrigation, drainage and sewage equipment, automotive components, electronics and optical equipment, testing instruments and most other types of machinery are regulated by the ISI mark directive, or BIS Product Certification Scheme.
Most types of machinery are regulated by the SONCAP directive. Compliance with the SONCAP directive requires a pre-shipment approval, proving that the item is compliant with the applicable NIS (Nigerian Industrial Standards). Click here to read more about SONCAP, and other product regulations.
When sourcing machines in China, you have two options:
a. Pay for a machine to undergo lab testing (by an accredited third party)
b. Limit your product selection to machines that are already lab tested
Option A is rarely viable for small businesses, as lab testing for machines can cost more than US$10,000.
Hence, you will likely need to limit your product selection to SKUs with existing test reports.
A test report should include the following information:
a. SKU (Product ID)
b. Issuing company (i.e., SGS or Intertek)
d. Issuing date
e. Applicable regulations (i.e., Low Voltage Directive)
The test report is only of value if it’s valid for the same SKU that you’re planning to buy, and if it comes from the same manufacturer.
Some suppliers provide fake tes reports, or documetns that are actually owned by another company.
Just keep in mind that the test report is not enough. You also need to create a DoC, technical file and ensure that the machine is correctly labelled.
Replacement Parts & Warranties
Many Chinese machinery manufacturers claim to offer warranties, sometimes spanning for several years. However, before you place an order, you are wise to confirm the specific warranty terms set by the supplier.
At most, Chinese suppliers offer free spare parts, but only if the importer pays the freight cost. In some cases, it’s cheaper to buy spare parts locally, rather than paying for the air freight, not to mention import duties and other taxes.
Replacement part deliveries also take plenty of time, and a standstill in production can cost millions.
Thus, it’s critical that you maintain a spare parts storage, that keep you running until the supplier has delivered replacement. At a minimum, you should expect to wait 30 days for new spare parts to arrive.
Chinese manufacturers also have a bad habit of doing whatever they can to avoid honoring the warranty terms. Thus, you need to clarify how warranty claims shall be settled.
Sending damaged parts back to China, for examination, is both time consuming and expensive. The only viable way to settle warranty claims is by sending images and video, documenting the damages.
Installation, Service and Maintenance
Chinese machinery suppliers sometimes offer installation services. However, they rarely have employees, or partnerships with maintenance firms, overseas.
Thus, their offering is limited to sending a technician overseas, but only if they can obtain a visa for the country of destination.
The complexity of securing a visa for a Chinese temporary worker is not be underestimated, as I learned myself a few years ago. A European client of ours ordered PVC banner printers from a manufacturer in Shenyang, Liaoning province. Their decision to not invest in a Quality Inspection proved to be a disastrous move, when the cargo arrived.
The printers were defective, and needed repairs and new parts. As they lacked the technical experience to repair and install the machine by themselves, not to mention the needed parts, their only option was to request direct assistance from their supplier.
We were tasked with resolving the situation and provided the supplier with clear instructions on how to obtain an EU Schengen visa, for one of their technicians. Without going into details, I can say that the machine was, literary, collecting dust for more than 6 months, before the visa was secured and the technician could get it up and running.
That’s the time it can take to get things done.
Machines require maintenance, repairs and spare parts – all of which are offered by American, European and Japanese machinery suppliers.
However, their Chinese counterparts are not nearly as sophisticated.
Of course, there may be exceptions that I am personally not aware of, but in general, businesses importing Chinese made machinery better rely on local technicians, or their own skills, and spare part suppliers – rather than expecting the supplier to solve anything.
This is also one major, or perhaps the most important, reason why Chinese machinery manufacturers are yet to gain momentum in developed countries.
Functional testing and quality control
Remember what I said about the client that received a damaged banner printing machine? For unknown reasons, they decided that a Quality inspection was not necessary. That mistake cost them tens of thousands of euros, in terms of lost business.
It’s critical to verify that a machine is fully functional, and compliant with your quality requirements, before the shipment.
Returning defective items to China is rarely an option, for the following two reasons:
1. Even if you do return the items, the Chinese customs authorities may not allow the shipment back into the country.
2. Assuming they do, you are not guaranteed a refund from the supplier anyway. At best, they’ll patch it up and send back the machinery your way – but only after you’ve paid the return freight.
Thus, you must verify that your machines are functional, and compliant, before the cargo leaves the factory. The only way to do this is by performing an on-site Quality inspection, either by yourself, or by hiring an inspector based in China.
Testing shall not be limited to a basic component checklist and visual control, but also involve “real life” functional testing.
Functional errors and minor defects can be resolved quickly by the factory workers, if discovered in time. Even if technical issues can be resolved, after delivery, it will cost you dearly.
Technicians in the west are several times more expensive than their Chinese counterparts.
Machinery Trade Fairs in China
Canton Fair (Phase 1)
The Canton Fair is not only China’s biggest trade fair, but also Asia’s biggest trade fair for machinery and parts. Here, you’ll find suppliers of electric engines, pumps, packaging machinery, sewing machines and much more – all under the same roof. Click here to read more about the Canton Fair.
- When: October
- Location: Guangzhou, China
- Visa required: Yes
- Airport: Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport or Hong Kong International Airport
- Venue: China Import and Export Fair Complex
- Address: No. 380, Yuejiang Zhong Road, Guangzhou (Map)
Hong Kong Trade and Development Council (HKTDC) Fairs
HKTDC hosts several annual trade fairs in spring and autumn. The following trade fairs are relevant to buyers of medical devices, printing machinery and electrical machinery:
- Hong Kong Electronics Fair, October
- Hong Kong International Printing and Packaging Fair, April
- Hong Kong International Medical Devices and Supplies Fair, May
- Location: Hong Kong S.A.R
- Visa required: No
- Airport: Hong Kong International Airport
- Venue: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC)
- Address: 1 Expo Drive, Wan Chai (Map)
Do you plan to import Machinery from China?
We know how hard it can be to go from an idea, to a mass produced and profitable product. The Starter Package is the only all-in-one solution that includes everything you need to get through every step of the process:
a. Private Label & OEM Product Manufacturer Lists
b. Product Specification Templates
c. Product Label Samples
d. Compliance Document Samples
e. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process
In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.