Quality Control in China

posted by Mathieu Labasse
Quality Control is a crucial part in the process of importing from China. Pressure on production costs, distance, time and cultural differences make it unavoidable.
quality control
Implementing Quality Control allows the importer to :
Minimize the risks (and associated costs) linked to quality, loading, warehousing or non-compliance issues : “My products have been rejected by customs because the labelling done by my Chinese supplier does not comply with European standards.”

Make sure contractual obligations are met (specification, packing, printing, delivery) : “My client rejected my delivery because the colour code of his logo has been wrongly printed on the production lot.”

Spot the potential issues before the shipping, rather than upon delivery in Europe : “I have a container of glasses sitting in a warehouse in Europe, waiting for the products to be sorted and cleaned before I can sell them.”

Create and maintain a reliable supplier pool and reduce costs: “I have setup an annual audit and regular inspections with this Chinese factory, and I can now work directly with them and run my productions confidently…”

3 different solutions can be implemented and combined, depending on the importer’s needs :

1. Product Inspections

An Inspector is sent to the Factory to inspect a running production.
The buyer can decide when to perform the Inspection (at the beginning, middle or very end of the production process, or even during the loading of the container) – the most usual need being the Pre-Shipment Inspection, or PSI.
A standard inspection process :
A/ the Buyer send his specifications (factory details, product description, expected quantity, printing, packing, basic function tests to be performed).
B/ Ideally, the Buyer sends an approved sample to the Inspection Company.
C/ The Inspector goes to the factory on the selected date, and starts by counting the number of cartons ready to be inspected (closed). Among these, he selects randomly the cartons he will actually inspect.
D/ Inside these selected cartons, the Inspector picks the products that he will actually check – the number of pieces to select is given by the ISO2859 standard : for instance out of a 35,000pcs lot, a regular sampling level would result in 315 pcs actually checked.
E/ the Inspector records every defect or discrepency he finds, performs the requested tests, and from his findings he can create the Inspection Report, and give an Inspection result (Passed or Failed).
F/ based on this Report, the client can decide what to do with the shipment.

The Product Inspection is thus an efficient way of getting protected against potential manufacturing wrong-doings from the Factory.
It is advised to use Letter of Credits as payment mean with Chinese factories, and to include the Inspection Certificate in the documents to be remitted to the bank to trigger the final payment : thus, the Factory can not get payment unless the Buyer approves the Inspection Report.

The cost for an Inspection might be difficult to forecast, since most companies charge extra expenses for the Inspector travel, meal or hotel.

2. Audits

Once a potential supplier has been identified, it is always preferable to have him checked on site. Quality Control companies can perform 2 main types of Audits :
a/ Production Audit : according to ISO 9000 standards, an Auditor will evaluate the Factory on a number of criteria (organisation and workflow, production capacity, R&D facilites, internal Quality systems, etc), and should allow the buyer to answer the question « Is this factory able to manufacture my product properly ? ».

b/ Social Audit : according to SA 8000 standard, this Audit focuses only on social conditions in the factory ; the assessment will be on child labour, forced labour, hygiene and security conditions, discrimination and coercion, working hours and wages, etc. The purpose of this Audit is to allow the buyer to answer the question « Does this Factory implement acceptable working conditions for its workers ? ». Audits being a more complex service than Product Inspections, it is generally more expensive.

3. Laboratory Testing

For some product lines, a Testing report might be required by local legislation. For instance, it can be about testing the chemical components of a product or their non-toxicity (e.g. the RoHS standard for electrical devices). It can also mean life duration tests, or usability tests that can not be performed on site in the Factory.
One / several samples of the product are then sent to the Laboratory (by the buyer or the factory), which will implement the requested tests and issue a Test Report. A typical turnaround time is about 10 days.
Having these tests performed in China, rather than in Europe, usually allows the importer to gain on costs and delays.
These Lab Tests are thus a complement, when required, to regular Quality Inspection processes. As for their cost, it is given upon quotation since it varies greatly according to product type and composition.
By using these 3 tools, and integrating them to the Purchasing process, importers can significantly reduce the risks linked to importing from Asia, and start direct relationships with factories 10,000 miles away.

Posted by Mathieu Labasse from Asia Inspection, visit the website for contact or more information : www.asiainspection.com