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.


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).

Only the most sensitive projects require all four types of inspection. He can also verify their colors.It can also ensure that the right kind of products is shipped out in the right quantity. If you don’t want to run any risk. when the importer places no trust in his supplier or when several suppliers bring their products for consolidation. It is the least frequently used among the four major types of quality inspections for most consumer products. Different approaches are often chosen for ensuring that industrial products are up to specs (much more attention is spent during development and early production). When to conduct a pre-production inspection? It really depends on what the buyer wants the inspector to see/check. 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. Here are 4 things a P-P inspection can cover: The materials/components: factories often use the cheapest materials they find. 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. production has to be followed very closely at this stage. If the factory wants to give priority to another order. etc. the inspector can draw a few samples at random and send them to a testing laboratory. . for industrial goods and for highly-customized products in general. depending on the risks identified by the buyer. only one or two of these tools are used. On the other hand. 1. Generally. 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. What is checked during a pre-production inspection? The buyer should specify clearly what the inspector must pay attention to. Here is the time to check whether the factory is capable of making products that respect specifications. sizes. weights. and they are not always aware of restrictions in the importing country. Why not send an inspector to check it and send you photos. These quality inspection services are used mostly for consumer goods involving little customization. the simple fact that you monitor their progress will make them think twice about it.

In some cases. and then subcontracts the rest in another workshop. 2. and there was no doubt that what I saw had not been made on the machines set by the customer’s technicians. The same issues can be avoided on the rest of production. In some cases. the conformity to specifications just by looking at in-process inventory. 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. and needs to check if they are implemented correctly. and the supplier refuses to do it for free. It might be impossible to verify. a deceitful factory starts a short production run to make its customer happy. 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. many importers conclude that inspection should take place earlier (during production). so that both of us have no last-minute surprise.The processes of mass production: the buyer may have certain requirements about the way to produce. I went to inspect the goods 3 weeks later. It is a way to document an issue to make sure it is repaired appropriately… and also avoided for repeat orders. so the inspector cannot see any finished product at all. a whole order is found unsellable just before shipment.” When to conduct an inspection during production? The ideal timing actually depends on the product type and the experience of the factory. after the final random inspection (see the list of the major types of quality inspection services). After a few such experiences. Inspection during production: a necessity? The inspection during production (or “DUPRO”) is the second most frequent type of QC inspection. But a few rules of thumb can be followed for 80% of consumer goods. buyers are advised to force the supplier to work on a corrective action plan. In such cases. Page1 Sometimes the whole cycle takes several weeks. 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. or even get an idea about. 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. The cycle time to get the first finished products out of the lines is no more than 10 days. if these conditions are true: The factory is used to making this kind of product involving this level of complexity. 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. If quality problems are found at this stage. the factory is unable to repair it. the below sketch is applicable: . An inspection during production might be more useful. especially when there are lots of manual operations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.There are other solutions beyond inspection As Deming wrote. the ideal is to “cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. and by reducing risks during product design.” You can do it by improving the reliability of the manufacturing process.

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