Even if you use an inspection agency, you’ll need to advise them when to go into the factory and what the quality points are that you’ll expect them to check.
Watch this video which summarizes your product inspection choices
Now get some suggestions for which product quality inspections are most suitable for you based on the situations outlined in the video.
If you are unable to visit your supplier’s factory
Many factories in China and around Asia do not give access to third party staff, such as QC inspectors or customers like you due to covid restrictions. Furthermore, access to China is extremely limited in 2021 and so even visiting may be impossible anyway. However, it is still possible to check product quality:
- Product samples can be sent to you or your inspection company for review.
- QC inspectors can perform an ‘off-site inspection‘ where they have a live video call with your supplier’s factory staff and walk them through a few inspection steps while taking notes, finally reporting back and giving you assurances that your main requirements have been met.
If the supplier hasn’t made this product before
This is a risky scenario. You will usually benefit by performing a product quality inspection at an early stage in production. The goal here is to be proactive and put the factory in a position to reach your quality expectations from the start instead of reacting to finding bad quality pieces in a batch and then deciding whether to reject it or not.
For soft goods like apparel
A common approach is to have a “pre-production meeting” a day or so before sewing is set to start, in order to provide immediate feedback on the supplier’s readiness and cement in their minds what’s required from you. You can then follow it after a few days with an Inspection During Production (DPI) (which takes place when some of the finished pieces are off the line, let’s say around 10 to 30% of the run).
For hard goods, such as consumer electronics
Hard lines don’t have as much of a standard approach, but we suggest performing a First Article Inspection which, naturally, occurs on one of the first pieces off the line, and then follow it with an Inspection During Production (DPI) around 4 to 7 days later which will demonstrate that production is still going to plan.
The goals of the pre-production meeting and FAI are the same:
- Confirming that your supplier is clear on what they’re doing and your expectations
- Clarifying the forthcoming schedule
- Detecting issues very early
- Starting an investigation that will lead to fixes if any issues were found.
Lastly, conduct a FRI
Do you need to perform a final random inspection?
While it is advisable to perform these as standard if your budget allows, if very few issues have been found and the risks of packaging mistakes are low you could potentially skip it and save on costs. This will depend on how much you trust the supplier.
If the supplier has previously been making the same product
If your supplier has already been making the product at a quality standard that has reached your expectations, you probably don’t need to perform a rigorous product quality inspection program.
The exceptions to this rule will be if your order is worth a huge amount of money or the products you are having made pose risks to users if quality issues occur which you could be liable for, for example, children’s toys. In these cases, inspections at an earlier stage and throughout production will be safest.
If your product is pretty simple, such as a fairly common off-the-shelf consumer product, and your first order is a fairly small amount, then a final random inspection could be adequate.
If you can’t really tolerate defects in your products
If you can’t tolerate 2% or 3% of defective goods being shipped (which is a fairly standard defect rate), you need to plan for it early on when you’re sourcing a new supplier. Top-quality manufacturers will have a high MOQ and be fairly expensive. If you can sustain orders with them, then you can possibly demand such a low defect rate.
However, if your order quantities aren’t huge, realistic expectations are required as you may need to accept working with a smaller, less well-recognized supplier. Their MOQs may be lower, but they may also reject such a severe defect rate.
To give a couple of examples:
It is incredibly difficult to find a good T-shirt or promotional item manufacturer that will be interested in fulfilling an order of 500 pieces and will keep the proportion of defectives under 1%. Just accept it’s not realistic.
If you can’t work with a ‘top’ manufacturer but you still can’t accept a higher defect rate, what’s the solution?
In this case, you need to consider performing a 100% inspection outside of the supplier’s factory. Any defective pieces can be sorted out and only pieces that pass inspection will be shipped. Depending on your agreement with the supplier, defective pieces can be returned for a rebate, or reworked and then sent on to you.
Got any questions about which inspection you need? Let us know, we’ll be happy to help advise!
More resources to help you decide which product QC inspections are right for you
Read these articles on our blog and QualityInspection.org:
- How Much Does a Quality Inspection in China cost?
- Quality Control Plan: Defining Expectations Before Production
- How To Prepare Your QC Inspection Report
- How to set up a Receiving Inspection: Checklist, Procedure, Reporting form
- Off-Site QC VS In-Factory QC
- How To Conduct Stricter QC Inspections Without Lowering The AQL? (5 Tips)
- What is the AQL (Acceptance Quality Limit)? An exhaustive guide
- What is a product quality inspection?
- The different types of sampling plans
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