The world is global now, you can contact anyone, anywhere within a few seconds. Use it to your advantage, don’t be afraid to buy a playground from a supplier in a different country. You’ve never imported anything? That’s OK, they have. A supplier experienced in international trade will walk you through the importing process.
Buy from the real manufacturer
But here’s the tip – make sure this company is a manufacturer, not a trading company. Look at their website. Do they have production pictures? Do they explain what materials and methods they use? Do they take part in professional exhibitions? If the information on the website is too broad, run!
Most of the suppliers you can find on the Alibaba website are trading companies. They don’t really understand the quality, specifications, safety standards and installation of the playgrounds. What they do understand is how to buy things cheap and sell them to you expensive.
Check the manufacturer’s professionalism
Manufacturers you can find aren’t equally professional. A lot of them produce low quality product and provide virtually no customer service (again, you can find all those low quality manufacturers on Alibaba). There are ways to check your supplier’s professionalism:
Ask your city council: what do I need to get a permit to open an indoor playground? What are the safety standards? What are the requirements for fire safety? Then simply quiz the manufacturer. Do they fully understand the safety standards in your country (or state)? Have they ever done it in similarly strict areas?
*FYI: the most strict indoor playground quality standards are in Holland and Norway in Europe and Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the USA
Exchange a couple of emails, talk on the phone. Do you feel comfortable communicating with those people? Are you well understood? Production of the playground is a long process, at least a couple of weeks. Make sure the team you’re working with has a professional team, that they answer all your questions and provide good customer support.
Ask for specifications
Ask the supplier to give you specifications of the materials they use in their playgrounds. The high quality manufacturers will give you all specifications even before you ask, by contrast, the low quality manufacturer will be very reluctant to give you this information or even genuinely would have no idea what “specification” you want.
Here is the basic information you want to find out:
- Steel pipes sizes
- Plywood thickness
- Type of clamps
- Specification of nettings
- PVC vinyl specifications
- Plastic specifications
- If the material is fire retardant and free of toxic chemicals
* Ask the supplier to give you “specification” of their materials, but don’t tell them what exactly you are after, the low quality supplier will have no idea what to give to you.
* Make sure that the specification they give to you is a part of the signed sales contract, and if possible, visit their factory and inspect the materials in person to verity the authenticity
Do not judge the design based on 3D rendering
Seriously, being able to work in 3D MAX has nothing to do with being able to produce high quality playground equipment. Some smart high school students make awesome designs in 3D MAX. Plus they can use free 3D models downloaded from the internet.
The fact that a company gives you a fancy 3D design project doesn’t mean they can actually make a playground that looks like that. At the very least ask for the pictures of real playground installations, and it’s best to visit one. And again, talk to other customers.
Know what you will actually get with the price
It is common sense to choose the playground with the best quality/price ratio, but with such a complicated system most new customers have no idea how to calculate the quality/price ratio rate, here is advice on how to compare the prices quoted by different suppliers:
— Pay attention to the level height of the playground they designed for you: many low quality playground manufacturers would give the customers designs with each level height to be 1.4m (4’7″), such low height will seriously limit the age of children that can play in your playground; also imagine how the parents will feel when they want to play with their children in the playground, or have to go find their babies when they need.
Such a low level playground is destined to fail, but obviously the playground company that gives you such a design doesn’t care – on the 3D picture you can’t guess the scale, you just see a fancy multi-level structure that magically fits in 3m (10 feet) ceiling height and doesn’t cost much.
— find the most interesting products for the best price. Playground equipment looks similar, but the playability is different. It’s supposed to be interesting and challenging for the kids. An empty maze will be cheaper, but won’t win your little customers’ hearts. If you can’t visit a playground, ask for the videos. Make a kid watch it and make notes every time he or she says: “Wow! Cool!”
— Compare the specification you get from different suppliers. Remember, high quality and durable play equipment will save you money long term, because the maintenance of the playground is expensive.
At the end of the day what you want is the best quality for the best price. Don’t get distracted – it’s your money.
The last, but not the least important part of the process – installation
Make sure your supplier has an in-house professional installation team. Installation is at least 30% of quality. Even the best equipment, if installed incorrectly, might look ugly and/or eventually fall apart. To install play equipment you need the skilled workers with years of field training and experience, that’s why not all indoor playgrounds manufacturers maintain such a team.
It’s not IKEA furniture, you probably shouldn’t assemble it by yourself! If the supplier you talk to does not encourage you to have professional indoor playground installer to set up the playground, or even tell you “come on, it’s easy, you can install it yourself!”, it means they don’t have a professional installation team, and you need to think twice about working with this company.