When thinking about sourcing from China, quality control is key. China’s poor reputation shadows the many reputable factories which can be trusted to produce high quality goods: many low-end factories price gauge for low-end merchandise. However, there are several things you can do (and services you can hire) that will mitigate the risk in these steps of the process.
Factory Inspections in China
It is highly recommended to carry out a factory inspection prior to conducting any large scale business with a manufacturer in China. This goes hand in hand with the China quality inspection of samples. You may benefit more from visiting yourself if you are able to, as long as you know what to look for. Alternatively, there are a range of companies who will happily conduct China quality inspections on your behalf and their experience and keener eye may benefit you more.
The following list can be used to make up an effective checklist during China quality inspection when you go to inspect a factory, and are good indicators of whether you can trust the other party.
- Cleanliness: If the factory appears to be unclean or poorly maintained this may suggest an attitude of carelessness. This would most likely translate over into the performance of the work, so you should be wary of the appearance of a factory.
- Location: If the factory is not located in an efficient place relative to the suppliers then delays may occur. You don’t want to wait extra time because supplies haven’t arrived yet, or lose time between leaving the factory and boarding a freight carrier.
- Organization: Look to see if the work area is efficiently planned out, does everything flow in a logical manner? If you do not understand something feel free to ask the factory manager, but poor organization could be a warning sign.
- Quality Control: Determine whether there is an effective system in place aimed to preventing or detecting products that do not meet up to the requirements.
- Reproduce their documents: This could be their business license to ensure they are registered, or alternatively ISO certifications. These can be verified later and will reassure you the business is legitimate.
Other factors you may wish to consider during China quality inspection are things such as workers’ conditions (even though they may be lower quality than in your native country); happy workers still equal effective workers. You could consider reviewing their machinery and test laboratory, and make direct comparisons to other factories even if you are not an expert.
Where and how exactly are your goods produced?
China Quality Inspection: Other Services
There are also other services that companies offer as part of monitoring and China quality inspection. These services still aim to ensure quality and to ensure everything is above board and can be used in addition to factory inspections to further mitigate any risks.
Loading and transportation monitoring aims to ensure that your cargo is loaded correctly; with the right goods being there and that the goods are being handled with care. It allows a 3rd party to closely supervise the loading and will allow for everything to run smoothly. Not all goods may require such a service, but it is especially useful to those transporting high valued products or sensitive goods.
Another service is to allow for a 3rd party to perform product tests. Even if you have already received a sample you were happy with, there is still a chance when you make a bulk order that the factory has been deceitful and provided lower quality than expected.
Product testing will ensure your goods are the quality you expect before they leave China to be shipped to you and that certification criteria are met consistently. A product test is recommended to be conducted from samples taken from both the production line and the warehouse prior to loading. This will allow you to see if there’s been any discrepancies during the process.
The complexity of the production process also determines the necessary effort of monitoring and inspection.
Quality Control VS Quality Assurance
There is a vital difference between quality control and quality assurance that must be understood. Control is mostly focused on the detection of any defects as they roll off the production line. In contrast, quality assurance is focused on preventing from those defects from occurring. For a company to meet the standards set out in the ISO 9000 guidelines they must adopt a quality assurance system.
Ideally, a factory would use a combination of both techniques to reduce the amount of defects overall; however, if one has to be chosen, quality assurance is more important. This is because by focusing on preventing defects you are creating a proactive process and it shows there is a good quality management system in place. Whereas with quality control, you should be concerned that the defects are occurring in the first place, and some would slip through the controls regardless. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.