How to Do China Quality Control Inspection to Reduce the Risks
If you’re buying from an overseas supplier you don’t know, and you can’t go there, you may want to contact an inspection agency to do the China quality control inspection of your products.
But you need to tell them when to go to the factory and what to check. I try to summarize in this flowchart:
How to Choose China Quality Control Inspection Services
Here are some suggestions that apply to many importers when do QC inspection in China, which you can see in the flowchart above:
What if you cannot/are not allowed to be on site at the supplier’s factory?
First, of course, if going to a factory is impossible, working on site is impossible. This has happened repeatedly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that doesn’t mean there is no way to check product quality:
- A small amount of samples can be sent for review;
- A live video call can guide factory staff through several steps, reassuring buyers that key requirements have been met.
Is this the first time the supplier has produced this product?
The second major question is, is this factory making this product for the first time?
If so, there are inherent risks. In most cases, third party inspection in China should be dispatched as early as possible to check the quality of the product in the buyer’s interest. The philosophy is to “help factories do it well” rather than “find defects and reject batches”.
For apparel and other soft products, it is common practice to hold a “pre-production meeting” on the day the product begins to be sewn to provide immediate feedback. Finished products are usually inspected a few days after production (approximately 10 – 30% of the total quantity completed).
When it comes to the hard line, there is usually no “standard” approach, but I often advocate for a first article inspection (FAI) and then 4-7 days later to confirm that everything is still going well.
The purpose of the P-P meeting and the FAI is the same: to confirm that everything is clear at the factory, clarify the upcoming timeline if needed, identify problems early, and start investigating and responding if they arise.
So, does that mean you can skip the final spot check? If there are very few issues found in the early checks, and if the risk of packaging errors is low, why not?
In all other cases, if the cost is not completely over budget, then a final check is made.
What if the factory had been producing the product before?
If the factory has a history of producing this product with acceptable quality standards, you don’t need to follow closely. Unless, of course, the amounts involved are quite large, or if certain products do not meet your requirements, you will have very high liabilities.
If you just purchased an off-the-shelf consumable product, you may only need to do a final check if your first order is low in quantity.
Can’t you tolerate many flaws?
The last major question is, can you tolerate a 2% or 3% defect in a shipment?
If you can’t, then you have to plan from the beginning. It is hard for us to find a good t-shirt manufacturer willing to cut and sew an order of 500 pieces and keep the defect ratio within 1%. The same goes for Christmas toys made in Yiwu. Just accept the reality.
What if you can’t work with a really good manufacturer and can’t accept their products?
In this case, you need an independent team to 100% inspect their product and find defects. It may be cheaper outside the factory. Like I wrote before, this might save you money.
What’s the Difference Between Factory Audits vs Product Inspection Services
Remember that supplier audits are focused on the big picture and are generally conducted before establishing a relationship with a new factory. Product inspection in China services are about the little picture and are generally used to help manage existing relationships.
Audits help you to make good long-term decisions. They also help you to decide which suppliers to work with so you can get the best results over time.
Having a good mix of audits and inspections in your China quality control inspection program is important. So, be sure to consider both to help ensure the success of your projects.
Now, let’s get into more details of the part of the factory audit.
What is Examined During China Factory & Supplier Audits?
Factory requirements vary across different industries. For clothing brands, it has become very much important that the working conditions inside a factory should be ethical. And if you buy medical equipment, you need to make sure your manufacturer works with strict rules and regulations. To serve these needs, different types of factory audits exist, focusing on a specific area.
The three most common factory audits in China are listed below:
- Initial Factory Evaluation
The Initial Factory Evaluation is the most basic factory audit among the three. It focuses on typical but vitally significant aspects of a manufacturer for the supplier selection process. The audit report generally includes, but is not limited to:
- Factory profile (address, major products, the main export countries).
- Staff count (number of workers for production, engineers, QC personnel).
- Production process (describing the production steps).
- Machinery & Equipment (condition of machines, their type, and number).
- Quality Management (work procedures, work instructions).
- Official Documents (licenses & certificates)
- Facility (images of the workshop, QC room & warehouse).
- Technical Quality Audit
A Technical Quality Audit provides a more clear evaluation of the factory’s equipment maintenance, management techniques, and quality of the system, making it easy for you to determine the manufacturer’s strengths & weaknesses.
It includes the same information, and also, the auditor evaluates:
- Quality Management (objectives & action plans).
- Supplier Selection (procedures in progress to vet sub-suppliers).
- Internal QC (quality procedures & revisions).
- Capacity (comparing the same products from different manufacturers).
- Use of Data (documentation & analysis of inspection yields, defect rates, resource needs, corrective actions).
- Equipment Maintenance (calibration records & certification of equipment).
- Employee training ( training records & work instructions).
- Social Compliance Audit
A Social Compliance Audit focuses on a factory’s consent with social, environmental, and legal standards. This is essential for the protection of your brand. A Social Compliance Audit includes:
- Labor Policies (child labor, forced labor).
- Safety Policies (evacuation plan & fire prevention).
- Environmental Policies (waste disposal, hazardous chemicals & energy use).
- Health & Safety (in workshops & buildings).
- Working hours (reviewing documents & employee interviews).
- Compensation (respecting minimum wages, reviewing payment records)
The factory audits and supplier audits provide you with a detailed analysis of the condition, strengths, and weaknesses of your supplier. This service can also help the factory to understand areas requiring improvement to better meet the buyer’s needs.
As you select new vendors, reduce the number of your vendors to more manageable levels, and improve overall performance, our factory and supplier audit services provide an effective way to enhance that process at a reduced cost to you.
When Do you Need Factory & Supplier Audits?
It’s essential that you perform a factory audit before working with the factory. Once your relationship begins, you should also do occasional follow-up audits to ensure compliance and track improvements.
Regular audits will help you improve efficiency and productivity with your supplier. And they’ll help you minimize risk in your supply chain.
You can also be sure that you’re in compliance with laws and regulations. And you can be more confident in your ability to guarantee quality.
Ok, next let’s talk about the production inspection service in China. First, I will talk about the On-site Quality Control China Inspections Services
On-site QC China inspection services require inspectors to visit the producer’s factory at any stage during manufacturing to monitor the process based on the requirement of the supplier or buyer. Inspectors focus on the client’s requirements. There are 4 common types of on-site quality control inspections:
4 Types of China Quality Control Inspection Services
The main task of Product China quality control inspection services is to identify problems and defects early to provide authentic products to consumers. China inspection services help you save money and time by eliminating process problems and defects (if present) and ensuring that the final product meets the customers’ requirements. The following are the types of China inspection services are most buyers choose.
- Pre-Production Inspection (PPI)
The Pre-Production Inspection (PPI) is conducted before the production process begins and helps to assess the quantity and quality of the raw materials and components and whether they conform to the relevant product specifications. A PPI is beneficial when you work with a new supplier, especially if your project is a large contract that has critical delivery dates. This inspection can help to reduce or eliminate communication between you and your supplier on issues regarding production timelines, shipping dates, and quality expectations.
- During Production Inspection (DUPRO)
During production inspection (DPI) also known as DUPRO, is a quality control inspection conducted while production is underway. This step is particularly useful for products that are in continuous production that have strict requirements and when quality issues have been found prior to manufacturing during an earlier PPI.
DPI inspections take place when only 10-15% of units are completed so that any deviations can be identified, have feedback given, and any defects can be re-checked to confirm they have been corrected. It enables you to confirm that quality, as well as compliance to specifications, is being maintained throughout the production process. It also provides early detection of any issues requiring correction, thereby reducing delays and rework.
- Pre-shipment inspection (PSI)
Pre-shipment inspections (PSI) are an important step in the quality control process and the method for checking the quality of goods before they are shipped. PSI ensures that production complies with the specifications of the buyer. This inspection process is conducted on finished products when at least 80% of the order has been packed for shipping. Random samples are selected and inspected for defects against the relevant standards and procedures.
- Container loading/loading supervision (LS)
Container loading and unloading inspections ensure your products are loaded and unloaded correctly. Inspectors will supervise throughout the whole process and ensure your products are handled professionally to guarantee their safe arrival to their destination.
This inspection will usually take place at your chosen factory while the cargo is being loaded into the shipping container and at the destination once the products have arrived and are being unloaded. This process includes evaluating the condition of the shipping container, verifying all the product information, quantities, and packaging compliance.
I highly recommend providing your inspection agents with a Product Specifications Sheet. It can be used as a quality checklist and ensure requirements are followed.
A quality control (QC) inspection in China checklist, also known as the inspection checklist, is a criteria sheet to clarify product requirements. Five key elements should be outlined extensively and clearly in your quality control checklist: including….
- Product requirements. To avoid confusion, product requirements should specify materials to be used, and specifications like weight and dimensions. You can include a sample with the color for comparison. For electronics, including labeling and markings like CE mark.
- Packaging requirements. An effective quality control checklist clarifies how the products should be packaged, including weight, dimensions, and labeling requirements like size, contents, and markings. Labeling is particularly important if the cartons convey your brand.
- On-site quality checks and tests. To avoid non-compliance and quality issues, you should list the tests and inspections, outline tolerances, and specify pass/fail criteria.
- Defect classification. It is used to determine whether the product passes or fails the inspections. Defects under the AQL standard are classified into three types – minor defects, major defects, and critical defects that should not be tolerated.
- Constructive collaboration between all parties in a quality control chain is vital for success. You must outline how all parties will collaborate during the inspection and start by consulting your supplier and QC staff as you develop your QC checklist.
How to Start a QC Inspection in China?
The typical cost for the China product inspection service mentioned above is around $200 – $300. Based on our many year’s experiences in communicating with the factories, the process works like this:
First, you will have an agreement with the supplier about the highest defective product rates, which means the percentage of the number of defective products cannot exceed these criteria.
Next, after the production is done, you hire the inspection staff, and they will go to the factory to do the product inspection there.
Once they are done with the inspection, they will provide you a detailed inspection report.
So, if you want to make sure your product quality is under control, what should you focus on? What is the minimum you need to do?
- If you are buying a standard (off the shelf) product made in China or another Asian country, I suggest you take the time to determine your finished product requirements first. This is the most basic file. Make sure you approve the pre-production samples. And hire a China QC inspection Company.
- If you’re developing a new product, there’s a lot more you need to do China quality control inspection. Be sure to read this article as it will give you a basic plan.
Again, Having a good mix of supplier audits and quality check in China is important. So, be sure to consider both to help ensure the success of your projects.