PRODUCT INSPECTION The four types of quality inspection services Four types of quality inspection services are usually

distinguished. Each one corresponds to a particular step in the production process. They are all part of the toolbox of every importer, when it comes to buying in China and other lowcost Asian countries.

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I tried to summarize the options available to buyers, in a visual manner. The four types of quality inspection services:

All quality inspection services are not adapted to the same situation: 1. A pre-production inspection tells the buyer which kind of raw materials (or components) will be used. Factories are often suspected of lowering their costs by purchasing substandard materials, and this can be disastrous for the buyer (e.g. the wrong kind of chip in an electronic device). The pre-production inspection can also focus on the processes followed as production starts. Sometimes this can also be critical, as Chinese factories very often cut corners and do not respect the buyer’s blueprints (e.g. patterns for cutting fabric are received from the buyer, and they are modified to make the process easier and faster).

2. A during production inspection (often called “DUPRO” in the industry) allows the buyer to have an idea of average product quality, early in the production cycle. It is the most useful and the most under-rated tool at the disposal of importers, who often only rely on final inspections. It usually takes place once some finished products have come out of the lines. If quality issues are found, what is already produced might be re-workable, and corrective actions can be taken for the rest of the job. It gives buyers the time to plan ahead, and even to avoid delays (repairs and re-inspections take much more time when problems are noticed after all production is finished). 3. The final random inspection (also called “pre-shipment inspection”) is by far the most common type of QC check. It takes place once 100% of shipment quantity is finished and at least 80% is packed, so it can be a real random inspection (this is not exactly the case if quality is checked earlier earlier) and suppliers cannot play games. It puts pressure on suppliers and gives power to buyers. Its objective is really to confirm a shipment’s quality, rather than catching issues early. Therefore I usually advise my clients to complement final inspections with a DUPRO, to avoid finding disasters at the last minute. 4. The container loading inspection, like the pre-production inspection, it is seldom used. But it can be a worthwhile option in some specific cases. It can be useful if the buyer has a precise loading plan and needs it to be respected very precisely (e.g. some cartons are too fragile to be placed at the bottom), or if the packaging is not conventional (e.g. some garments hung on bars, with no carton protection).

Here are 4 things a P-P inspection can cover: The materials/components: factories often use the cheapest materials they find. the simple fact that you monitor their progress will make them think twice about it.It can also ensure that the right kind of products is shipped out in the right quantity. etc. production has to be followed very closely at this stage. If the factory wants to give priority to another order. weights. for industrial goods and for highly-customized products in general. only one or two of these tools are used. when the importer places no trust in his supplier or when several suppliers bring their products for consolidation. On the other hand. . What is checked during a pre-production inspection? The buyer should specify clearly what the inspector must pay attention to. Generally. When to conduct a pre-production inspection? It really depends on what the buyer wants the inspector to see/check. If you don’t want to run any risk. Only the most sensitive projects require all four types of inspection. I worked on a little sketch to represent the key dates to watch closely: Sending an inspector so early is also a way of ensuring that production starts without delay. A prototype: sending a sample of large furniture is quite expensive. Here is the time to check whether the factory is capable of making products that respect specifications. These quality inspection services are used mostly for consumer goods involving little customization. sizes. Pre-production inspection: what benefits for buyers? Page1 A pre-production inspection takes place either before production starts (usually to check inputs) or at the very beginning of final assembly. Why not send an inspector to check it and send you photos. 1. Different approaches are often chosen for ensuring that industrial products are up to specs (much more attention is spent during development and early production). and they are not always aware of restrictions in the importing country. It is the least frequently used among the four major types of quality inspections for most consumer products. He can also verify their colors. so that you can validate it as a reference for production without wasting time? The making of a first product(s): sometimes the buyer cannot see a “perfect sample” until the right materials are ordered and the bulk production processes are started. the inspector can draw a few samples at random and send them to a testing laboratory. depending on the risks identified by the buyer.

especially when there are lots of manual operations. and then subcontracts the rest in another workshop. the conformity to specifications just by looking at in-process inventory. It is a way to document an issue to make sure it is repaired appropriately… and also avoided for repeat orders. Why is it often necessary? Inspecting the goods after production is finished is often too late. re-ordering materials and re-producing would take 2 months. so the inspector cannot see any finished product at all. Inspection during production: a necessity? The inspection during production (or “DUPRO”) is the second most frequent type of QC inspection. The objective is to catch quality issues before it is too late: The few products that were already manufactured can (hopefully) be re-worked without inducing a delay.The processes of mass production: the buyer may have certain requirements about the way to produce. many importers conclude that inspection should take place earlier (during production). I went to inspect the goods 3 weeks later. If quality problems are found at this stage. After a few such experiences. the factory is unable to repair it. In such cases. In some cases. and the supplier refuses to do it for free. a deceitful factory starts a short production run to make its customer happy. It might be impossible to verify. Page1 Sometimes the whole cycle takes several weeks. 2. the below sketch is applicable: . and needs to check if they are implemented correctly. and there was no doubt that what I saw had not been made on the machines set by the customer’s technicians. after the final random inspection (see the list of the major types of quality inspection services). What are the limits of a pre-production inspection? The first pieces coming out of the production line are not necessarily a good reflection of average quality. I remember an importer who sent 2 technicians to China for the sole purpose of setting the machines properly and checking the first days of work. An inspection during production might be more useful. In some cases. if these conditions are true: The factory is used to making this kind of product involving this level of complexity. buyers are advised to force the supplier to work on a corrective action plan. A side about communication with suppliers… It is often better to frame it this way: An inspector will come to check a few samples to help you adjust your internal QC efforts. The same issues can be avoided on the rest of production. or even get an idea about.” When to conduct an inspection during production? The ideal timing actually depends on the product type and the experience of the factory. But a few rules of thumb can be followed for 80% of consumer goods. a whole order is found unsellable just before shipment. so that both of us have no last-minute surprise. The cycle time to get the first finished products out of the lines is no more than 10 days.

components. It depends on the type of products. And the factory needs to have time for their internal QC. assembly. 3. An inspection during production can be failed for three reasons: 1. but inspection firms usually don’t have the expertise to do that. There are two dangers to avoid: Checking too early The very first products that get off the lines are not representative of average quality (they are usually worse). Too many visual defects: Based on the sampling plan. If quality issues are found at that stage. aesthetics. size. Failed on-site test(s): Some simple tests can be done by the inspector in the factory (instead of sending samples to a laboratory). they would not ship this kind of defects. If some finished products appear 8 days after production started. you’d better be sure you can find quality issues this way. Checking too late Most factories in Asia produce in very large batches–this is why finished products often do not appear before one or two weeks into production (and sometimes more). Non-conformity to specs: All the relevant aspects of the product (quantity. or they will claim that “of course. the inspector verifies that production is taking place in the workshop. For example: a full function check.000 pieces that takes 30 days to manufacture. the inspector selects and checks some products. they might already be present on 80% of the order! What is checked during production? Naturally. to make sure that a DVD player really “works”. function. based on the buyer’s requirements. He can also ask for the updated production planning. . and then he compares the number of defects to the AQL limits. labeling…) are controlled. it is likely that another 30% are already being processed.Page1 Let’s take the example of an order of 20. If the buyer waits until 50% of the products are finished. the good time for a DUPRO is 12 days after production start. and if 600 products are available for inspection 4 days later (in the early morning). 2.” And if you think you can inspect products that have gone through a few processes but are not finished.

who reason that their supplier is responsible for a finished product and should find appropriate ways to deliver it. you have appointed an inspection company. But there is a way to dramatically increase the chances of effective repairing. Inapropriate measures taken for repairing. either mistakenly or consciously (to same money and time). The refused products actually cannot be repaired properly. and here is the list of the most frequent ones: Miscommunication between the salesperson you contact and the technicians in the factory. hide them away from the inspector. Third. you will waste time and might argue with your supplier for nothing. and they found some issues that need to be fixed before shipment. for sensitive projects. However. to confirm average quality. very often labeling and packing cannot be checked properly. Fourth. and then ship them out. it is not enough in itself. Second. Use corrective actions plans to ensure effective repairing You have placed orders with a Chinese supplier. Unfortunately. Chinese factories tend to receive packing accessories towards the end of production (because they delay payments of inputs as much as they can). the factory might need some guidance from the beginning of production. There can be several reasons for this. based on root cause analysis: . One inspector will not be able to get an idea of average quality in one day… He should stay for longer and monitor both production schedule and quality. This is why an inspection during production should be followed by a final random inspection. Page1 One of my clients was sending some experienced sewing technicians to China: they were checking the way the fabric was cut. or CAPA (for corrective action/preventive action). Sounds familiar? Should you simply tell your supplier to re-work the products. they stopped doing it because Chinese factories did not welcome their “assistance” and did not apply their “suggestions”… It can only work with small workshops that have few other customers. in some cases the re-inspection report shows the same issues (not effectively repaired) or entirely new issues (caused by poor rework). Here is a simple example. in certain cases production takes place on multiple lines or even in multiple factories. What is a corrective action plan? The buyer (or its appointed inspection company) can require the supplier to fill out a form called a “corrective action plan”. A factory might identify some problems. and then the way the operators did they job. and send an inspector again once it’s all done? This hands-off strategy is chosen by many importers. and have to be re-produced. If you are in one of these situations.What are the limits of an inspection during production? First. This is the work of a technician capable of setting up processes as required.

If they do their job correctly. I think all buyers should include this tool in their buying procedure. However. The most effective procedure is to send an engineer in the factory during the repairing work. they will be in the right frame of mind to find the most effective method of repairing. or propose other solutions). a quality engineer working for the buyer analyzes it (he can confirm it. the supplier might invoke some obscure technical reason–true or not–and confuse the buyer. most QC firms inspect all kinds of consumer goods. refuse it. a sharp buyer should feel it right away: in that case the descriptions tend to be sketchy and unclear… If the document is sent back at all! Another advantage is that it is a written document. The limits of this tool An importer with no knowledge about production will not be able to make full use of the corrective action plan. . and communicate with the factory technicians. though. 3. She will record the actions undertaken and will check their result. ask for more information. The supplier has no excuse for not taking the necessary steps to prevent the same issues on the following batches. simply because nobody will be able to confirm the supplier’s suggestions. chances are better to validate an effective plan. If the factory does not want to do any rework. Overall. When the importer is assisted by a quality control firm. In this case. buyers are advised to ask for photos (or even short videos) showing such tests and their results. Final random inspection: a guide for importers The final random inspection is by far the most popular QC service in China (see my last post. and their local engineers probably have no deep knowledge about the factory’s processes and the materials that go into your product. They might do several tests to validate a method. “Unacceptable quality? Please fill out the corrective action plan.Page1 After the supplier has filled it out. Benefits of using a corrective action plan The supplier is forced to think of the root cause for the problems found. Asking the supplier to fill out a document costs nothing. where I listed the other major types of quality inspection services). and we’ll book a re-inspection at your cost”.

and these specs become the inspector’s checklist. rather than in the forwarder’s warehouse (or nothing can be repaired). And what to do if the report is failed? Or if something unexpected is found that might be unacceptable by the buyer? If some quality issues are noticed.g. so that the cartons can be counted. components. the buyer has constituted a document listing all the specifications of the product to inspect. etc.It is suitable for nearly all types of consumer goods purchased in Asia. on Monday if the exfactory date is on Wednesday). In many cases. Page1 If these conditions are respected. So timing is of prime I drew a little sketch to represent the key dates to watch closely Importance when it comes to final checking. Conformity to specs: All the relevant aspects of the product are controlled: quantity. the factory cannot hide defective goods in a back room. size. When to conduct a final random inspection? It takes place at the end of production. The whole shipment quantity should be finished and available for sampling. A final random inspection usually takes place in the factory. importers just tell their suppliers “you ship if the QC report is passed” and cannot be reached in time for a decision. . What is checked during a final random inspection? Three types of issues can trigger the failure of the inspection. Packing should be nearly (at least 80%) done. So it is performed before the goods are sent out of the factory. aesthetics. packaging. labeling. function. This is not ideal for several reasons: The purchaser has no time to study the report and ask questions to the inspection firm or the supplier. assembly. to leave room for potential re-work and re-inspections. so misunderstandings can occur. This puts a lot of pressure on the factory and the inspector. the inspection might occur a few hours before the products are loaded in a truck and then shipped out by air freight. and potentially the refusal of the shipment by the purchaser: 1. the factory might not even have a few hours to do a quick repairing! This is why I always advise to set the final inspection at least 2 days before ex-factory date (e. Ideally. The final inspection report is typically used by the importer to authorize shipment and trigger payment. The inspector only has time to write a non-official report (handwritten and without photos). the inspector simply collects information for the buyer’s review. When no such information is provided. For urgent shipments. Some importers take more precautions: they ask for final inspections at least 2 weeks before shipment date.

What if a supplier confirms a date. 3.g. who risk a tough re-negotiation of prices (or even an order cancellation) if the products have serious quality problems. which are compared to the AQL limits. in addition to a final random inspection: problems are caught early. Most inspection companies and most importers agree to start inspection after 100% of the quantity is finished and 80% of the order quantity is fully packed. In that case. Final product inspections: should the whole order be ready? Most product inspections take place after production is finished. the inspector comes. even if the so-called “normal” or “tightened” levels are followed. it can be too late. and just before shipment. Sometimes it saves more than a day. For example: a product drop test on 3 samples. it does not mean that the shipments are delayed by two days. This is why I usually advise to conduct an inspection during production. Similarly. Too late If the purchaser only sends inspectors after production is finished. “please correct this and then you can ship”. He checks them one by one. A quality control inspection can usually take one day. the test is failed). It is a convenient way of checking whether all the product and packaging requirements are met. The importer wants to get the goods and start selling them fast. or because re-work takes too long. the final inspections do not delay shipment. not on the whole quantity. But the buyer has to receive the QC report and sometimes communicate with the supplier (e. and counts the number of defects. and some suppliers see it as assistance rather than policing. What is the advantage of starting before all packing is done? The inspection can occur earlier. timing is usually tight. This situation occurs more often that one would think–more than 30% of the time. What are the limits of a final random inspection? Page1 Suppliers resent it Importers often put a lot of pressure on suppliers. Number of visual defects: Based on the sampling plan. certain tests are included in the inspector’s job. from 80cm high on concrete floor (if at least 1 sample breaks or does not function any more. So we usually advise importers to dedicate two full days for each inspection. or “I will accept if you guarantee that you will compensate for any claim from my own buyers”). However. On-site tests: Depending on the type of products. And the supplier wants to ship out and get the payment as early as possible. Why? . No 100% guarantee It is conducted on samples drawn randomly. QC inspectors are seen as policemen. and not enough products are ready? This is a very important question. There is always a small chance that findings are not applicable to the whole shipment.2. However. and might be bribed if supervision is not sufficient. the inspector selects a predefined number of products at random. Either because the defective products have to be re-produced. because the last few products might be under repairing and re-checking (it can take a lot of time). a dishonest factory can short-ship of switch the products just before shipment (unless the loading of the goods is also monitored).

Some factories purposefully sort the defective pieces out and don’t present them for inspection. In theory.How is quality controlled before shipment? Page1 . PS: why is this issue such a gray area? Product inspections are. —-TRANSCRIPT: How does a random quality inspection work? FINAL RANDOM INSPECTIONS . I received some angry emails from a client. My conclusion is that there is no easy solution to this situation. Why? Because the US Army was generally receiving goods in bulk. or is 80% enough? If the expected quantity is not presented. The buyer only looked at the defects and the photos. Many buyers trust their suppliers and don’t expect dishonest behavior. We don’t abort inspections. Many buyers wouldn’t understand why an inspection is aborted: As mentioned above. it is very important for to let the buyers know about the risks. So she asked for immediate shipment. But some questions are not answered. without a re-inspection. for example a quality problem occurs because of a process late in the production cycle. So. for instance everything related to packaging. there is no easy decision. The factory can pack some acceptable products. who could not pick them at random. But it is not so easy. This standard (MIL-STD 105E) gives clear guidelines on a number of topics. The factory gave some samples to the inspector. The best is for the buyer to clearly specify her expectations: Should 100% of the order quantity be presented packed. Actually. with the understanding that non compliance is cause for failure. They are afraid their supplier won’t accept to pay for a second inspection. In parallel. and it showed very few stains. performed according to the standard developed by the US Army during World War II. The factory packed all the goods (including the ones with stains) without further rework and shipped out. Her own customer sent her claims because the products were full of stains. but the report will be failed because the presented quantity is not up to the buyer’s requirement. nothing was packed yet. in their vast majority. the factory was sorting the goods that could be accepted from the ones that should be re-worked. so they are often behind schedule. but the report is always failed and we warn the buyer about these dangers. should the inspector proceed or abort his job? Then these requirements have to be clearly communicated to the supplier. What really happened? When the inspector arrived. Something unexpected happens. But they didn’t tell the inspector about it.Many factories are poorly organized and tend to be too optimistic. what do we do in this case? The inspector advises his supervisor. the inspection should be aborted because some defective goods might not be part of the inspected lot. For example. It was written in the report. In such a situation. but is still re-working the rest. they are in a hurry to see their goods shipped out. the inspector goes on. If the buyer can be reached by phone.

for an order of 8. Tests vary according to the nature of the products. “Here is my report. A few examples: checking if there is current leakage on an electrical device. only 200 samples are selected for inspection.” How to select the cartons to inspect in a factory Let’s say you intend to conduct a final random QC inspection. 7. checking if the export carton is strong enough. REPORT PREPARATION The inspector issues a report that describes the situation and illustrates it with photos. CONFORMITY VERIFICATION The inspector also checks if the goods presented by the factory correspond to the purchaser’s requirements. the inspection is failed.000 pieces. and on-site tests. to check if the whole quantity is presented. the products might be too small. with the factory’s equipment. 8. in the wrong color. or insufficiently protected. You need to select a few cartons at random. 2. A defect is an imperfection on the product (or its packaging). 4. and about 2 days before the goods leave the factory. If possible. 1. TESTING IN THE FACTORY The inspector performs some tests that are specific to the product. The inspector follows industry-standard statistical rules to ensure his findings are valid. For example. after all the products are packed. checking if a piece of furniture falls over easily. Don’t come if nothing is packed. (I already explained why the whole order should be ready for final QC). . COSMETIC AND WORKMANSHIP CHECK These samples are checked thoroughly for visual defects. an approved sample can be sent for the inspector’s reference. one inspector is enough) 3. opens them. and checks their content. It documents his findings about presented quantity. 6. the more you take advantage of the inspection. QUANTITY VERIFICATION The cartons are counted. packaging… The more precise the information. COMMUNICATION OF REQUIREMENTS Page1 The purchaser describes his product: specifications. You have the info you need to take a decision (accept or refuse the shipment). Then the inspector randomly selects a few cartons. 5. How can an inspector draw valid conclusions after checking some pieces at random? Here is how it works. labeling. (In most cases. conformity to requirements. AN INSPECTOR GOES TO THE FACTORY When? After all production is finished and packed. If there are too many defects. incorrectly labeled. For example. What are the best practices to ensure that the samples you will check represent the whole batch? 1. RANDOM SELECTION OF SAMPLES Some samples are taken from each of these cartons. The statistical rules provide a maximum number for each type of defect. totally randomly. visual defects.Most consumer goods exported from low-cost Asia to Europe and the USA are inspected randomly. dimensions.

The container loading inspection is not used as frequently as the final inspection. For some urgent shipments. When to conduct a container loading inspection? . 3. 10. And chances are they will not let you interfere with their production processes. and so on. For most importers. Sometimes they will make an effort for you when they stack the cartons up. Is it clear? Container loading inspection: a guide for importers A lot of things can go wrong when a shipment is loaded in a container. Two pieces of advice: Avoid no arithmetical series in the list of numbers you select (2. The same logic applies: don’t take all the products in one carton. it is impossible to do a good job. it is performed in combination with a final random inspection (see the list of the main types of quality inspection services). 6. You cannot count how many pieces are on the lines. 4. you can use the packing list to select the carton numbers: 3. of course). 23. or in the same place inside the cartons. Following step: pick the products In many cases. You will never be sure that your findings are representative of the whole order. 17. However. there will be more products in the inspection cartons than the number of inspection samples you need to check. 32. QC inspectors follow this logic: Then the factory workers take the cartons that were selected. Warehouse workers spend a lot of time searching the right carton numbers because their pile is a mess! Most of the time. or during transport. 4. because of lack of space. Make sure you can count and pick cartons randomly Page1 If the warehouse is full and the factory prepared this kind of pile. 2.When the manufacturer is rushing the job and products are still under production (or rework). The number of picked cartons should be at least the square root of the total number of cartons. Good luck to pick cartons from all sides of the pile… You’ll need to insist heavily on this point before going for the inspection. It is impossible to separate each reference in a different pile. it is reserved for the most sensitive shipments. but I met some buyers who only perform this type of quality check. most of the time this is not practical. Pick cartons in a “stratified random” manner If 100% of the cartons are ready and they are nicely stacked. A good solution is to send a technician conduct a container loading inspection. and bring them to the inspection area (under the inspector’s supervision. 8). you are in trouble.

If the buyer does not trust his supplier at all. jackets placed inside a plastic film and then hung up on racks). If he sees potential leaks or other issues. or already crushed/bulged. Obviously. 5. etc. Here is a little sketch that shows the key dates to watch closely: What is checked at the time of the loading of container(s)? Page1 1. The container(s) When truck(s) arrive. 3. the inspector takes a few minutes and examines the container(s) condition. The seal The inspector verifies that a proper seal closes the container before the products are driven away from the factory. Factories are always tempted to save a few pennies on such accessories. and check if the products and the inner packing are conform to what the buyer is expecting. 4. Outer packing A quick look at the condition of export cartons is a must. Conformity of products The inspector can arrive a little in advance. The handling and the loading process The inspector supervises the loading. the whole shipment quantity should already be fully packed. If products from different suppliers are consolidated by the buyer (or his local agent) into full containers: it is important to check who brings what quantity of products. Sometimes they don’t take this pain. Total quantity and breakdown The inspector can count the whole quantity–it should be easy since it should all be packed in cartons. with potentially disastrous consequences. when the products are loaded in container(s). The number of cartons appears on the bill of lading issued by the forwarder. inflatable bags. or some simple directives (e. the right mix) of products. That’s why a random inspection on a higher number of samples (during production and/or after all is finished) is advised. If the outer packing will be used as retail packing (a flooded container might be disastrous).It usually takes place in the factory. . but this type of inspection also ensures that cartons contain the right quantity (and. in the exporting country. plastic wrap. It also protects the exporter (under FOB or EXW terms). And for some large or fragile products. he should report it immediately and (if possible) ask for another container. He also makes sure the factory workers try to make all cartons fit nicely in the container. or not properly closed–these are all red flags for the buyer. and they end up pushing (and crushing) cartons with a forklift… 6.g. and a few loadings/unloadings in trucks and distribution centers? Other packing materials might be requirement by the buyer: palets. Of course he can only check a few samples of each SKU. What will cartons look like after several weeks in a container. open a few cartons. and is afraid that the wrong type of products will be shipped out. When are container loading inspections the most useful? If the loading way absolutely has to be respected (for example. as it clarifies the responsibility of the forwarder. 2. The cartons might be very soft because of the wet weather. The objective is to ensure that the right kind of goods is shipped out. kraft paper…) might be necessary. “the heaviest cartons at the bottom”). some dunnage (eg. The buyer might have sent a loading plan. if applicable. so he might not notice if 30% of the quantity is broken.

product specs. all make a strong case for systematic inspections. And it can prevent long shipment delays if the factory corrects course immediately after quality issues are noticed. using them as policemen). try to send them when the goods are in process.What are the limits of a container loading inspection? As noted above. Early inspections (during production) have several positive side effects. When you develop new products.e. 2. negotiate a price. representative of what you expect to get out of bulk production). quality control is a necessity for most shipments. or even order cancellation… Instead of sending inspectors at the end (i. But they tend to put a lot pressure on the supplier: what happens if serious non-conformities are found at that time? It is too late. if your supplier accepts to do it–a list of specifications. unless shipment is suspended) and for putting pressure on the factory to load properly. 1. but not for most made-to-order products. think about it: on what basis will an inspector approve–or reject–a production? You should try to get perfect/golden samples (i. Small things can go a long way: You should write “Quality inspection required prior to shipment” on your P/Os. packaging…). See this useful infographic: How to prepare a quality inspection checklist. Issues can get caught and corrected early: this is not only an extra safety for the buyer. The risks for a factory that gets caught are pretty high: re-work of the goods. Chinese suppliers will not welcome this idea warmly. 3. Keep track of the final inspection date and the shipment date. This is how you should frame the discussion when you tell your suppliers about your QC intentions. Establish clear expectations Some buyers choose a sample. . Inspections are not an option You should be careful about the signals you send to your suppliers. Don’t get me wrong. On the other hand. And these specs will become the checkpoints for the inspector. If you pay by letter of credit. Samples can be picked up randomly for lab testing. It can only be used for confirming product quality (because nothing can be repaired at this stage. how to start? What are the first steps? After helping a few importers to start doing quality control. air freight. and the high risk of communication mistakes. and yet they have never done quality control in a professional manner. here are the first four steps I recommend.e. I have seen long-time suppliers of an importer (more than five years) getting used to inspections… But they would never admit that it is a necessity. the bad habit of subcontracting to lower-grade factories. ask extra samples for the inspector’s use. They are a way to ensure that production is taking place in the right factory. but this is usually not enough. reproduction. Don’t focus on final inspections Final random inspections are a good tool for approving all aspects of production (total quantity. you can require a passed inspection report from your nominated QC provider. This might work for off-the-shelf (standard) items with low quality/safety constraints. Four simple steps for starting to do quality control Page1 Some importers have been buying from China for many years. aesthetics. and then wait for delivery. The science behind inspection protocols seems complex–nearly intimidating. it is not a replacement for more in-depth inspections. and they don’t know how their suppliers will react. You also have to prepare–or confirm. not just the shipment date. penalties. Buyers don’t know where to start. Which leads me to the third step. but also a helping hand for the factory. So. Many of them see QC inspectors as a nuisance. The constant search for cheaper suppliers. And.

It works well for large buyers who are adequately organized and who have the power to charge penalties systematically. 4. The “easy” way: in-line inspections and/or tailored final inspections. anyone? The 4 ways of checking product quality before shipment I can see four solutions for checking product quality before the goods are shipped out (remember. If the purchaser only sends an inspector after production is over. final inspections can be a little less formal. or by the buyer’s in-house QC staff. Inspections by external inspector(s) in the factory This is the most common type of quality inspection service. Find the right balance between helping and arm-twisting Page1 A buyer can play it “tough”. the supplier might refuse to rework the goods. it is extremely hard to send a container of defective products back to China). The “tough” way: a focus on final inspections performed rigidly. you should make sure you work with professionals who will be respected by factories. takes some samples randomly (based on the AQL tables). As noted above. bribing the inspector. It is easy to set up and relatively inexpensive. and if the inspection is failed. Final inspections on a platform . It is typically performed by a third-party quality control agency. it is conducted after production is finished. or to do skip-lot inspections for the most reliable suppliers. You still have the freedom not to book an inspection for a given shipment. Cons: The supplier might interfere in several ways: only showing a part of production (usually because they are late). who re-invoices everything to the supplier. Why? Because it is less risky to loosen requirements about the proportion of presented products. The fees are charged by the inspection firm to the importer. or shipping other products if the inspector does not stay until the container is sealed. Suppliers are used to it. He might wait until the purchaser is obliged to deliver his own customers’ orders. On the other hand. An inspector goes in the factory. and thousands of importers follow these tips. inspections during production don’t create much adversarial tension. In 80-90% of cases. and draws a conclusion about the whole batch. or they are charged penalties and/or re-inspection fees. Pros: The final random inspection is the “standard” way of checking quality. or find the right balance in between. Depending on the report conclusion. But you are the one to take this decision. and there is less timing pressure.All this is quite standard. Charge-backs are triggered by late changes in planning or non-respect of quantity requirements. Once production quality has been secured. the importer accepts or rejects the shipment. But small-and-medium-sized importers can seldom play this game. not your suppliers. This “easy” way is only possible if you have at least *some* trust in your suppliers. Any other tips. for example. They should see inspectors as an extension of your organization. Suppliers have no choice: either they comply with the rules. be “easy” on his suppliers. even with many different suppliers in many different places. It is technically possible–but rather difficult–for them to cheat.

Once the goods are completed. piece by piece inspection in the factory might be a good idea. Pros: Page1 Inspectors are more productive (no need to travel). with inspectors that are not on the manufacturer’s payroll. the inspector can report on production status Cons: You need a high level of cooperation from the manufacturer (no interference at all) There might be many complications if you purchase through a trading company . Can be expensive. Cons: Suitable only for large and regular volumes in one geographical area. and less often if it runs fine). and you need better reporting on your production (both on quality and on timing). Once an in-house inspector (on the factory’s payroll) has been trained and is dedicated to you. Pros: Much lower cost than sending third-party inspectors In addition to controlling the products’ quality. depending on the number of inspectors to station in the factory Training & auditing internal inspector(s) in the factory Training an internal inspector is ideal for the following situation: you purchase more than 30% of a factory’s output. You basically set up the final quality control line in the factory. the only ongoing cost is to audit his work (once every couple of weeks at the beginning. Pros: The defect rate in the shipment is very close to zero after this 100% check. the key is to set up a reporting & auditing system.This solution is popular with some large buyers. If the inspection is failed. Piece-by-piece inspection in the factory If you want to check 100% of production (once it is over). A certain number of cubic meters of storage is rented. Platform inspections are conducted either on a randomly selected set of samples. as well as inspection room(s). you trust them very much. they are brought by the supplier to a platform — usually a forwarder warehouse. mostly from Japan. Then. Cons: Suppliers often resent this solution. you have been working with them for more than a year. sort & re-work the goods. The manufacturer sees what is rejected and needs to re-work it. or on 100% of the goods. No risk of supplier interference. they have to pay for the transport back to the factory. and submit them again. Not suitable for small and irregular volumes. and the goods can be shipped immediately after acceptance.

” You can do it by improving the reliability of the manufacturing process.There are other solutions beyond inspection As Deming wrote. and by reducing risks during product design. But this is outside the scope of this article… Page1 . Eliminate the need for massive inspection by building quality into the product in the first place. the ideal is to “cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.

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