How to conduct a product quality inspection in a China factory
Category: FQA; Updated: 2018-07-17 21:46:08; Views: 312
If you let a Chinese supplier ship the goods out without inspecting them, and if you discover quality problems after delivery in your country, is there anything you can do? For most importers, the reply is no.
- Chances are, by that time you have already paid the supplier in full. And there is little hope of getting any of your cash back. You might be offered a discount on a future order, but do you still want to work with such a supplier?
- What can you do with the defective products? If you sell them in a distribution channel that does not make exceptions to its quality standard, you might as well have to take a trip to the local dump.
- Reproducing the same goods in another factory might take a long time. In the meantime, what do you tell your customers (especially if they are the ones who found out about these quality issues)?
In a nutshell, the quality inspector is the last defense of the customer!
If the size of your orders does not justify the cost of at least one inspection before shipment, you need to mitigate your risks in any way you can - for example, by always working with the same reliable manufacturer, and by keeping some stock in your warehouse at all time (in case a shipment needs to be scrapped).
2. At what stage should you check production quality?
It depends on the major risks you identify:
- If the main risk is that your supplier purchases substandard materials (or components), it is wise to check them as soon as they are delivered (and before production starts).
- If you know that a particular process step is the most likely cause of failure, you should check the way that step is conducted.
- If you are not sure about what type of problem might appear in production, checking the first batch of finished products is a good way to catch problems before they become widespread - and to ensure corrective actions are taken.
- If you feel relatively confident about the factory's quality standard, but you still want an inspection of the quantity, product quality and functionality, and packing, a final random inspection (a few days before shipment) is the right choice. I do not advise to wait until the end of production if you are dealing with an untested or unstable supplier.
The two most common types of inspections are:
1. The final random inspection, because it is the only time when samples can be picked at random and when most of the bulk is packed.
2. The inspection of the first finished products, to catch issues as early as possible.
But when do the first finished products appear?
It really depends on the organization of production:
- In a traditional batch and queue production system, your products are kept in an unfinished process during most of the cycle, often for several weeks. They go all together through one operation, then they wait, then they go through another one, and so on. Depending on the type of processes your order needs to go through, the first finished pieces might appear after three weeks, and the whole order might be packed a few days later!
- In a system where products flow more easily from one process step to the next, some products are completed much earlier. An inspection of the first finished products is well suited for this situation, while the previous case calls for a final random inspection only.
3. Checking production status
3.1 If production is under way
You might want to ask these questions:
- How many lines are working on these products?
- How many workers per line, and total number of workers on these products?
- When were the last materials / components delivered?
- Has bulk production started? When?
- When did/will bulk production start to run at full speed?
- How many pieces are processed every day?
- When does the factory estimate that 50 percent of the quantity will be completed?
- When does the factory estimate that 100 percent of the quantity will be fully packed?
- When does the factory estimate that the order will be shipped out?
- Will the full quantity be shipped out?
3.2 If production is in an advanced stage
If you come for a final inspection, you need to put pressure on the manufacturer to present all the products (or at least 80 percent of them) fully packed. Above a certain order quantity, this is the only way for you to count the pieces. And this is important because you want to pick samples from the entire production run - you do not want 30 percent of the goods to be hidden in a back room!
Important note: if some products are packed and others are waiting to be packed, make sure to pick both unpacked and packed samples - ideally in the same proportions as the total batch.
4. Checking product and packing specifications
4.1 Preparing the checklist
Now is the time to make use of the product specification sheet that, hopefully, you have prepared before production started.
Before inspection, you simply need to paste the checkpoints and requirements (from the specification sheet) into the columns on the left of the inspection template. And, during the inspection, you enter findings on the right (in the white column).
This information coming from the product specification sheet...