by Fredrik Grönkvist
In this Product Guide, we explain what importers must know about buying Alarm Systems from Chinese manufacturers. Keep reading, and learn more about Alarm systems production clusters in Mainland China, and applicable regulations and standards in the European Union and the United States.
Shenzhen, being the world’s primary center for electronics manufacturing, is home to a large number, if not the majority, of China’s Home Alarm System Suppliers. The well established ecosystem of component (i.e. 3G and GSM transmitters) and subsystem (i.e., Camera Modules) has enabled the industry to quickly take root in Shenzhen city, and its surrounding. Follow the links below, to learn more about electronics manufacturing in China:
As in many related industries, many suppliers are not proper manufacturers, but traders. While such trading companies may indeed offer a low MOQ, buying from one is unwise. I explain why, below:
1. Electronics trading companies can rarely, if ever, provide the required compliance documentation required by law in developed markets, including the United States and the European Union. As you will soon learn, further down in this article, this cannot even be taken for granted when buying from industry leading Alarm Systems Manufacturers in China.
2. In our experience, most Trading companies possess little relevant expertise, apart from that of pricing structures in the relevant industries. However, Alarm systems manufacturing is complex and requires comprehensive quality assurance procedures. If you buy from a mere middleman, you have no insight into the supplier’s ability to minimize quality issues and defects.
3. Many trading companies deal with goods made for the domestic Chinese market. While “Made for China” may not exclusively be of poor quality, that is sometimes the case. Furthermore, products made for the domestic market are, for clear reasons, not manufactured in compliance with foreign regulations and safety standards. When importing Alarm systems from China, this includes the R&TTE directives (European Union) and FCC Part 15: Intentional Radiators (United States), among others.
To the untrained eye, it may seem virtually impossible to distinguish between an Alarm systems manufacturer, and a trader. However, the following signals can reveal the difference – without you actually being forced to visit their factory:
a. Product Certificates, Technical Files & Test Reports: Compliance documents are almost exclusively held by manufacturers. Very few trading companies in the industry can provide such documentation.
b. Product Scope: A manufacturer is always limited by its own technical expertise and assembly lines. Hence, an Alarm system manufacturer is specialized in certain product categories, for example GSM Home Alarm Systems or Fire Alarm Systems. Trading companies, on the other hand, have no such limitations.
c. Registered Capital: While there are ways to ‘artificially increase’ the registered capital, it’s still an important signal that can be used to determine the suppliers scale of operations. A supplier with a registered capital of RMB 10,000,000, is far more likely to be a manufacturer, while an entity with RMB 200,000 is most likely not.
There are two factors to consider when importing Alarm systems from China, as explained below:
a. An alarm system is a composition of various subsystems, for example, IP Cameras, Control Panels, RFID Keypads, Power Supplies and Wireless Transmitters. From a compliance perspective, each subsystem is subject to product regulations and technical standards. In fact, the very regulations and standards that do apply differ between the various subsystems. Below follows an example:
Why is this problematic? Because testing and obtaining the relevant documents for various subsystems can be extremely costly. As such, an efficient compliance strategy must be applied when sourcing Alarm systems in China.
b. Most alarm systems communicate wirelessly. Hence, most Alarm systems are subject to regulations in most developed markets, including the European Union and the United States. Below follows an overview of applicable regulations in the United States and the European Union.
*The LVD and EMC Directive are included within the scope of R&TTE. However, as R&TTE is not applicable to certain subsystems, including AC Adapters, LVD and EMC Directive compliance are still relevant for European based importers of Alarm systems.
Now, what makes compliance more complicated when buying Alarm systems? First, it’s compliance is never simple. However, before we go further into details, you must be aware of the following:
1. Only a minority of the Alarm systems manufactures in China are able to ensure compliance with EU and US product standards.
2. Even among those who has such technical expertise, they almost never have a complete set of compliance documentation. Many importers, and suppliers, assume that a certificate or test report is all that’s needed. However, the authorities require a far more comprehensive set of documents, including circuit diagrams, component list and manual copies.
Third party testing is often not mandatory, but few manufacturers have the expertise and equipment to properly test and certify their products. This, combined with specific testing and certification procedures for each subsystem, makes it the whole procedure very costly. The chance of finding an existing system, complete with full documentation for every subsystem, is slim. On the other hand, the cost to produce said documentation ‘from scratch’ for every subsystem can be staggering. Instead, we advise importers of Alarm systems to apply the following strategy:
1. Use components from established brand names (i.e., power supplies from TDK) whenever possible. Established manufacturers tend to manufacture products in compliance with the regulations in major markets, which is not the case for smaller, local, players.
2. Use subsystems (i.e., Control panels) for which the supplier can already provide the required documentation. This reduces the number of subsystems that must be submitted for compliance testing and certification by a third party, thereby cutting costs.
Fredrik Grönkvist is the co-founder of ScandinAsian Enterprise in Shanghai. Since 2010, he and his team have helped hundreds of companies worldwide, primarily in the EU and US, to develop and manufacture products in China. He is also the main contributor on www.chinaimportal.com, a leading knowledge base for small- to medium-sized enterprises importing from Asia. For further questions, you can contact him on www.chinaimportal.com/contact-us/.
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