Managing Quality Control In China

Most companies employing their own inspectors in China are unsatisfied about the behavior and/or their working methods of some of their QC staff. Why? There are three reasons why managing quality inspectors is hard:

  • Monitoring: They often do their work “in the field” and alone. It is hard to keep an eye on what they are doing.
  • Poor Human Resources: Experienced hands with bad habits reinforce bad procurement habits.
  • Personality Type: People who go into an inspector role like repetitiveness. They like knowing what to do and doing it repeatedly. Having them change their approach is difficult.

China poses some new challenges as well:

  • Suppliers often bribe and pressure inspectors
  • Chinese employees are good at “gaming the system”;; auditing them is insufficient to uncover wrong behaviors.

What is the biggest source of unreliability?

By far biggest source of unreliability is the fact that inspectors believe in their “intuition”. They improvise every time when it comes to checking a product’s appearance. Moreover, many sourcing agents allow firm to perform time-consuming tests themselves. Unfortunately, their intuition fails time and again.Professionals should trust their intuition when the environment is stable over time and when they get regular feedback. The typical inspector scenario is as follows:

  • Stable over time? Yes.
  • Frequent and clear feedback? No!

From time to time, inspectors get a complaint about quality issues on a shipment they checked, but often the buyer blames the supplier for “hoodwinking” them: This type of feedback is totally insufficient.

Manage QC inspectors

First, design a procedure to follow. If you think “we hire experienced inspectors so they know how to do their job”, you are doing this wrong. You are effectively giving your freedom without any guidelines.

Second, give them training in the procedure to follow. I mean give them pointers in the field, coach them, and give them immediate feedback. Third, give them working documents that support the procedure to follow: have them fill out a form Ideally they would fill out a form that follows the steps, one by one.

Unfortunately all this indicates you should hire more junior inspectors and train them the right way, However, each situation is unique.

About the author

David writes about economic activity throughout Southeast Asia and specializes on international trade relating to China. In addition, he holds a Masters Degree in Economics from Peking University.
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