Lisa Q. Fetterman of Nomiku fame and graduate of the HAXLR8R 2012 program has written up an excellent article over at MAKE Blog about how to spot a good factory in China. The Nomiku team has gone from making kits to going pro in a less than a year, and I'd like to think that a little program called HAXLR8R was instrumental in that.
Lower quality factories tend to utilize cheap labor in activities that are easily suited for automation. This is inefficient if you’re making electronics or complex products. There can be significant savings using automation because a robot can do things much faster and better than even the most skilled line worker. You know you’ve hit the holy grail of factories when they have an AOI (automated optical inspection) machine for their PCBs. We’ve visited factories where they have a robot arm that just presses one button! You may not be able to afford a factory that has all of these innovations, but there should be signs of robot life.