How to do a Quality Control Inspection (and Why You Need One)
Poor quality products from China: it’s the stereotype that all too often renders itself true when importing from China.
This is why if you’re importing anything from
China, you should be familiar with quality control inspections. This might sound intimidating and expensive. But they’re both reasonably cheap and simple to do.
This article discusses how to do a Quality Control Inspection but more importantly, it also discusses the need for you to setup your own Quality Control Documents and Checklists. I assure you, for around $300 each shipment, you can drastically improve the quality of your products and in turn, sell more products.
How It Works
A quality control inspection is almost always undertaken by a third party company. Companies that I have used or have experience with are AsiaInspection.com (affiliate link), ProQC.com, and QualityInspection.org. There are countless other companies though. These companies will dispatch an individual to your Supplier’s factory or warehouse and perform an inspection either to your specifications or their specifications.
You can do very complicated inspections like testing lead content, doing tensile strength tests, etc.. However, for private labelers, a simple inspection may be to confirm your products are packaged and labeled according to your specifications, quantity validation, and/or Supplier verification.
How Much It Costs
It’s shocking how cheap a third party inspection is: around $300-400 per man day (and normally one man day is more than enough time). This includes all transportation and other expenses. China is a country of bountiful cheap labour and with a lot of factories (meaning there needs to be a lot of inspectors). Competition is fierce, hence the relatively low price. I went years without ever doing any type of third party inspection simply because I had no idea how little it would cost.
Why Should You Do One?
There’s a few reasons to do a third party inspection in my opinion:
- To avoid deliberate/careless mistakes from your Supplier and,
- To avoid non-deliberate mistakes
- Verify your shipment before final payment
In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons to do a third party inspection is to keep your Supplier on their toes. If they know a third party inspection is coming, or they know that you have a habit of conducting third party inspections, they’ll be less likely to cut corners and take more care with your products. There’s a lot of companies who never do third party inspections. If your Supplier knows that you are a company who does do them, who’s order do you think they’re going to more careful with?
The other reason is to simply avoid non-deliberate mistakes from your Supplier. In a recent Facebook post I mentioned how a Supplier had inadvertently applied the wrong bar codes to our items. A simple careless mistake, which we know Chinese Suppliers are often guilty of. A third party inspection can help to identify these problems before they are shipped.
Finally, if you’re on 30/70 payment terms (70% due upon shipment completion) having a third party inspector seeing your shipment, live in the flesh, before paying your final payment gives a lot of reassurance that you’re going to get your goods. A Container Loading Check (it can be used for less than containers as well) is a popular type of exam that makes sure that every item you purchased is actually shipped.
Why You Have Crappy Quality Products – You (and your Supplier) Have No Criteria
An inspection company can test products according to their specifications. However, you’ll get the most value out of your inspection if you have your own internal checklist of things you want checked. A checklist like this isn’t just useful for an inspection company, it’s also useful to both you, “Oh yeah- we should mention our bags need suffocation labels!”, and for your Supplier so they know things to monitor, “We had no idea Dave didn’t want every single product placed in one single box”. Chinese Suppliers are notorious for lack of judgment (or just plain negligence) unless instructions and orders are explicitly stated. A checklist helps prevent this.
Here are somethings I commonly have on my checklists:
- Each item contains an inner box
- Each innerbox contains our bar code
- Each innerbox contains our label or sticker
- Each innerbox contains our instructions/documentation (if applicable)
- Each Master Carton contains xxx inner cartons
- Each bag contains a suffocation label (if applicable)
- Each Master Carton has our shipping marks
- Each item is the specified color
- Each item is the specified weight/length/width/etc.
- Each item contains a “Made in China” label
In addition to this, I include several other product-unique requirements. Things like “Does item include a fabric repair patch kit?”.
I consider my Supplier Quality Control checklists as part of our company’s competitive advantage. Most importers don’t have Quality Control Checklists. Our checklists help avoid and rectify problems before they get to the consumer resulting in better quality products an overall better customer experience.
What Happens if Problems Are Found in the Inspection?
I’ve never had any serious problems found during an inspection for things that I explicitly asked the inspector to look for. The most common problems tend to be labeling problems, such as putting the wrong SKU on a master carton or an incorrect bar code. In these cases, the Supplier always simply fixes the problems. I suspect you’ll encounter similar results with your inspections.
However, this isn’t to say I never have any serious issues with shipments that are inspected. Lots of problems arise, but they’re the ones I never even thought to have the inspector look for. That’s where your “Quality Control Checklist” should always be evolving. Every time you find a problem with a product, it should be added to your Quality Control Checklist. For example, we sell a particular rope product. Over the course of a year, I noticed the thickness of the rope was slowly getting smaller and smaller. A classic example of quality fade. This is now one of the things the inspector explicitly looks for now. To be honest, I sometimes feel guilty “complaining” about small imperfections in our products (it must be the Canadian in me!). However, if an item is on the checklist and the Supplier knows full well it’s criteria I am looking for, I will feel no remorse or guilt in demanding our Supplier fix the problem.
By this point, you’re probably beginning to see that a Quality Control Inspection is really the last part of the quality equation. The very first part is ensuring you have a Quality Control Checklist. Once you have one, the chances are that your Supplier will adhere to the requirements. The Quality Control Inspection is the last piece of the puzzle that keeps your Supplier on their toes and helps to catch any problems that fall through the cracks. By spending the time to compile Quality Control Checklists and spending the $300 or so for Quality Control Inspections, you can import products of much higher quality than most other importers.
What has your experience been with quality control? Do you use checklists and/or third party inspections? Or do you have some other technique you use to ensure your products are of good quality?
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