When sourcing products from suppliers in China or other Asian countries like Vietnam or India, here’s a common way that importers trip up and end up in trouble if they don’t create a QC checklist before manufacturing products! (Don’t worry, we’ll show you how to avoid this).
Imagine the following scenario:
A supplier shows you a sample of your product which you love and are eager to get produced, therefore, without delay you wire the requested deposit to them in order to kick off the project assuming that the final products you receive will all be amazing.
Your supplier produces the order, but upon inspection you notice some unacceptable issues with the batch and you tell the supplier that there’s a real problem.
But the supplier comes back to you and argues that they believe the issues are acceptable and gives you the following excuses:
- “The issue you identified are quite minor, it’s not actually easy to notice”
- “All our other customers accept this level of quality”
- “This is the best we can achieve”
- “You did not say you needed that level of quality”
- “If you require that, it will increase the cost”
Now you’re in a trap – you either accept the extra payment or pull out and lose the deposit, neither option is good!
How to avoid this happening to YOU?
You must clarify your requirements in advance in a QC checklist and have them approved in writing by both yourself and the supplier. This removes any ambiguity and means your supplier knows precisely what is expected from the start of the project.
In this solution, we work on the basis of your product information and your special requirements (if any), and we turn that into a product QC checklist that will raise the chances your project runs smoothly.
The QC Checklist sets the foundation of your product quality control. It includes your specific requirements about the product you expect to receive from your supplier and provides instructions that you need them to follow.
For example, it provides details of the quality attributes with quantifiable tolerances to be validated when inspecting products. In some cases, it provides guidelines on the way the product should be built (for example, for furniture that needs to be shipped disassembled but needs to be tested for proper assembly). And it also covers packing and labeling attributes.
- The QC checklist includes your expectations in a format that makes it easy to understand and to inspect.
- It provides an agreed-on standard before production, and a checklist for QC inspections during/after production.
The QC checklist we create for you includes the following elements:
- What is expected, and how the product needs to be checked
- What tolerances apply to measurements
- How the product should be labelled and packed
- What the potential defects are and how to classify them
We are happy to make suggestions on certain criteria but will need your input in order to make this work. We usually start from photos and specifications, and physical samples help too. We need to know what you consider most important (in other words, what the factory absolutely needs to get right). Best practice is to highlight what product characteristics are “critical to quality” (CTQ).
For example, if you buy mechanical subassemblies, some dimensions will be CTQ (and you will need to provide tolerances for those). If you buy promotional items, the position and the color of the logo are CTQ.
(Note: “critical to quality” doesn’t necessarily mean it triggers “critical defects”. It means it has to be controlled more thoroughly.)
We will send you an intermediary draft so that you can comment on it and provide some points that come to your mind to us.
For an extra fee, we can usually translate the QC checklist into Chinese. We can also go to the factory and explain it to the factory engineering & production staff and relay their feedback to you.
What does it cost?
If we prepare a QC checklist for 1 relatively simple product, it is 99 USD. We are happy to confirm that price if you send us your product information.
In some cases, a company buys 1 type of product in many variations (e.g. slightly different shapes, different colors…). It may make sense to prepare just 1 master checklist that covers the requirements that are common but doesn’t cover what is specific to each variation, and in that case, we count it as 1 product.
We can make up to 2 rounds of changes at no cost. After that, we bill you at the rate of 38 USD per hour for adjustments in further rounds.
Important notes on this solution
You will need to set limits on the proportion of defective goods beyond which you reject a production batch. If you are planning to inspect random samples (rather than 100% of the pieces), it is usually in your best interest to work with industry statistics.
AQL stands for ‘Acceptance Quality Limit’ and is defined as the “quality level that is the worst tolerable” in standard ISO 2859-1. Importers usually set different AQLs for critical, major, and minor defects. Most Asian exporters are familiar with this logic:
- Critical defects are totally unacceptable, might harm a user, or do not respect the importing country’s regulations.
- Major defects are usually not accepted by the end customer, so they would not buy the product.
- Minor defects are the slight issues that usually don’t prevent the sale of the product.
The acceptance limits for most consumer goods are generally defined as:
- 0% for critical defects
- 2.5%, which is rather loose (not favorable to the buyer), for major defects. Sometimes 1.5%, 1.0%, or 0.65% limits are used.
- 4.0% for minor defects. Sometimes the 2.5% limit is used.
The acceptance limits for defects are derived from the AQL tables. You can also use our AQL calculator to work out your limits.
For more details about what the AQL is, please refer to this resource.
You will probably also use an approved sample as part of your standard. A physical sample is a great complement to a written checklist in several respects:
- They indicate the touch & feel that is expected better than any written description.
- They show what color is expected more precisely than a Pantone code. Note that a best practice is to have boundary samples (“try to be very close to sample A; it can be a bit darker but no darker than sample B, and a bit lighter but no lighter than sample C”).
- They can be used to run some tests — for example, a fitting test if the part to be produced has to be assembled with another part later on.
The Sofeast QA department works to create and use your QC checklist to perform product inspections in a logical way, and our IT platform helps support this.