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6 Pieces Of Advice For Importers To Control Quality Remotely

As an importer, it can be difficult to manage a supplier relationship in China from thousands of miles away, but that doesn’t mean quality control has to take a backseat. It’s easy to control quality remotely. Here are six ways to utilize quality control in China so you can avoid defects, delays, partial shipments, and other headaches.

Find out how to effectively control quality of imports from China

1. Understand different “quality” points of view

Everyone has a different point of view when it comes to quality, and these differences are amplified even more when you begin working with suppliers in other countries, particularly China. Because of the great distance between importers and manufacturers, most communication is limited to English written documents submitted to the factory, which opens the door to a lot of misunderstandings. This is partially due to the lack of language skills: Chinese suppliers usually have sales teams with a basic English knowledge while factory workers don’t even speak English. Moreover, Chinese suppliers produce goods for buyers from all over the world, each one with varying standards and regulations for each specific country of origin. That’s why you should avoid asking your manufacturers to use common sense. The best way is for them to rely solely on the importer’s requirements that are provided at the beginning of each job, so it’s necessary to clearly explain your quality expectations to Chinese manufacturers.

2. Get ready for the right quote

Perhaps the most important step when purchasing in China is to prepare very clear product specifications. These include product dimensions, characteristics, functionalities, customizations, individual packaging, labeling, shipping packaging, etc. This should be done as early as when you request the price quote from the supplier to make sure the number you receive is accurate. Plus, the more detailed your request, the better the supplier can meet your manufacturing needs. He can ensure the proper equipment, human resources, and lead time to produce your order. Not only that, providing detailed product specifications helps increase the quality of your goods. If the actual job ends up costing the supplier more than the original quote, many would rather lower the quality of goods than increase the price.

3. Verify and keep record of approval samples

Approval samples are a vital component to control quality of your products, so make sure it’s part of your supplier agreement that you receive and approve at least three samples before production. That may seem like a lot, but you’ll soon understand why. When you get the samples, pay very close attention to every single detail. If you prefer a professional eye, some quality control companies will verify it as well. Either way, the goal is to test the product and verify that it meets each one of your product specifications and quality requirements. Make sure you keep one sample on your side and send back an approved sample to your supplier and one to your QC inspector to control quality. The supplier uses the golden sample as a reference, and compares it with production. If there are discrepancies, the production should be adjusted. The third party inspection company then uses it as reference to verify the conformity of the production to your product’s requirements.
Be aware! An approval sample alone is not enough to confirm that production will go smoothly, because the two product types come from different places. A single sample is created in a sample room, while the final products are created on the manufacturing line: it is made by different hands in different conditions.

4. Control quality during the production

Every supplier has its own manufacturing skills, but it also has limitations. Unfortunately, these are not always conveyed to the importer; in fact, many manufacturers have difficulty saying that they’re unable to fulfill a particular request, whether it’s due to cultural differences, a weak quality management system, peak season, or shady business practices. The only way to ensure that your instructions and quality requirements are clearly understood and respected is to verify the goods while in the manufacturing process.

To track your goods quality during the production, you can ask your supplier to send you production samples and pictures from the finished goods for review. But these measures are oftentimes not enough to confirm product quality and useless to verify the production speed. A less-than-reputable supplier could use smoke and mirrors to create the illusion that production is conforming to your requirements, when the reality might be very different. Collaborating with a third party inspection company gives you an on-site expert to confirm the goods’ quality and production status on your behalf. This service is called a During Production Inspection and helps limit consumer goods defects while still under manufacturing process.

5. Identify quality problems before it’s too late

When the goods are manufactured and ready to be shipped, you have one last chance to verify their conformity before their arrival at destination. Rather than relying on production samples and pictures of the goods packed, you have several options to control quality of your order in-person. You may prefer to travel to China to inspect the shipment yourself. You can also rely on a third party inspection company to save yourself time and money: this service is called pre-shipment inspection. While fully trained and certified, the inspector can follow your own quality control procedures so you know the shipment is exactly as you requested before it arrives. A third party quality control company guarantees a neutral point of view and provides an additional set of eyes to catch any errors or other red flags. Once a poor quality or incomplete shipment arrives, you have few — if any — options to return the goods or get your money back.

6. Take the opportunity to improve future quality

Remember that the results of previous quality controls on goods are an opportunity for improvements, not an automatic reason to go looking for a new supplier. In fact, every non-conformity or quality problem has a solution if you take the time to communicate and negotiate. The most important step is to analyze the root cause of the problem together with the supplier and identify the corrective actions to put in place. This is actually part of the continuous improvement process known as the ISO 9001 standard, which is used by certified third party inspection companies and most professional Chinese manufacturers. When you have an ongoing relationship with a supplier, quality control is the best way to work hand on hand, to regularly improve goods quality and conformity to requirements.

Implementing an effective quality control plan in China doesn’t have to be difficult, even if you live on the other side of the world. Luckily, you have plenty of solutions available to make sure your product is manufactured to your specifications and shipped on time. Start by preparing your order well in advance, with clear instructions for your supplier. Then pick the right quality control plan, from creating your own QC team to hiring a neutral third party inspection company. You will then minimize business risks and maximize your professional success.

Tell Us About Your Experience!
How do you control quality from overseas? We’d love to hear from you!

Photo rights: iqoncept / 123RF

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AQF Operations team

Our team consists of supervisors specialized in various types of products. We handle client requests, analyse their instructions & specifications to provide qualitative inspection protocols to the inspectors for high quality reports. With the Quality Control Blog we want to tell stories taken from our daily activity to help the importers in sourcing better and safer. Get to know us!

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