If you are about to place an order to a manufacturer in China or in Asia, and have not signed yet your contract or purchase order, then you should consider preparing a quality control inspection checklist now ! Indeed, making a quality inspection checklist before wiring your deposit can help you avoid serious problems.
It is always better to establish and make validating your quality inspection checklist by your vendor before starting any order. Many importers and international buyers don’t prepare their orders well enough and don’t take the necessary time to establish quality inspection checklist to secure their order at maximum and reduce risks related to quality.
Quality inspection checklist are useful because they help to establish what is acceptable and what is not. This is not only a contractual way to protect yourself against a potential « you didn’t tell me you didn’t accept this kind of deviation » speech but rather a way to assist your vendor to make his own quality control process better by himself before you send a third party inspection company to check your goods.
Special attention to quality inspection checklist should be cared of when your order is a bit in rush and that you can not afford to have a reworking or repairing process to be operated post mass production after a quality inspector identified some defects on your production.
Here below are a few guidances about how to prepare quality inspection checklist efficiently.
# List the expected defects in your quality inspection check list
Obviously the quality inspection checklist as its name indicate it will list the expected defects you may expect to find on your product. If you have manufacturing experience and a good methodology you may be able to establish easily the defects list. My personal methodology to do this work is actually to study the manufacturing process and to perform a PFMEA to attempt identifying potential risks of failure and defect generation on certain particular manufacturing processes.
For example, I know that gluing process performed by hand where the workers will have to deposit glue with a glue tube have a higher potential risk to generate defectives units than gluing process performed with a machine which for every shot will deposit always the same quantity of glue.
To understand which process is at risk, you have to make the effort to understand the manufacturing process operated on your product manufacturing. To understand the manufacturing process operated on your product mass production either you have already experience about it and it is wonderful, or you go onsite yourself to understand it, or you send some factory auditor to perform a manufacturing audit at your manufacturer facility and report to you what was audited so you can better understand the manufacturing process operated on your production.
Once you have a proper understanding of the manufacturing process, you can then identify which process has more chances to generate more defectives than other. This is those process you have to focus your effort on because those process will be the one to give you the more trouble and the more chance to have reworking or repairing your product post production.
Despite all those efforts you would deploy to attempt avoiding defectives product, you may forgot to list some defects type in your defective list. If you are worry of this happening, then the best way to process is to perform a quick inspection early in the manufacturing process via an initial production inspection to identify potential defects you may have forgot to list in your quality inspection check list.
If you have difficulties to establish those quality inspection check list for your product, we have capabilities to assit you via a consulting service, so that you can benefit an experienced team to free your time
# List the tests you need to perform on product in your inspection checklist
On the top of listing defects you expect to find on your product, you may also identify some functional non conformance . Those are non conformance related to functionality of your product and may quite often be findable only when testing the product in real condition.
Here, need to be differentiated lab testing and on site testing.
Obviously, the more technical your product the more test needed: example testing promotional gift pen testing may only relate to testing the pen can write a certain distance without having the ink to dry and the caps can close perfectly without play while opening and closing 20 or 30 times. On the other side, if you product is a mobile phone, then the testing list might be much longer: test screen brightness, sound speaker, connection capability to wireless (bluetooth, wifi, 3G, 4G), capability to install and setup mobile apps, etc…
# Use pictures
Most of people only use words to describe what they accept and what they don’t accept. Yet, based on my experience and following my lean manufacturing principles I always advise to you visual and easily understandable way to explain your partners what you want and what you don’t want.
So, when you prepare your quality control or quality inspection checklist make sure to include pictures, drawing. Ideally, some pictures of defectives and validated sample should also be supplied to your vendor to show your vendor what is acceptable and what is not.
For example, you may supply two pictures : one picture showing an area of your product with the defect and one picture showing the same area without the defect. So that your manufacturer can compare his product to the pictures easily when referring to the quality inspection checklist during his final quality control process.
# Indicate criticality of defects in your quality inspection checklist
If you plan to make a proper quality inspection checklist then you should consider the criticality of defects.
As most of importers use sampling and AQL methodology to establish the acceptability of their production lot during inspection process, this methodology involve to consider threshold based of defect rate based on defect criticality. When you list a defect in your list you have to indicate the level of criticality this defect is on your product.
Not all defects are critical, some defects are minor, some are major too. Your manufacturer may become mad or simply not accept your order if all the defects you list in your defective list are critical and subject to make your quality inspection be failed. Be realistic and honest in your approach. What is really major and make your product not sellable easily. What is minor and make your product sellable without any problem on your market. What is critical and make your product totally unsellable because dangerous.
# Choose threshold and gauge wisely
If you use the AQL standard to determinate your lot quality, then you have the choice to decide which gauge should be used. The AQL gauge are simply a translation of a percentage of accepted defect based on criticality of the defects found on your lot.
When you appoint a quality inspector to inspect or perform a quality control for you, then you have to notify your inspector what are the gauges used for critical, major and minor defects quantification. The lower the gauge the lower the percentage of defects being accepted. Obviously it is good for you to have a low rate of defectives accepted, but in this case your inspection may fail often as the tolerance for mistake of your supplier will be tightened.
Most of people use AQL level as 0 for critical, 2.5 for major and 5 for minor without really understanding what does it imply. Quite often they are also amazed to find defectives in their production. Well, when you accept an AQL level higher than 0, the chance you get defective in your production are usually not equal to 0.
Below I give a tip which can help you to reduce considerably your problems when importing from China
# Supply them with solution
If you had the courage to spend time generate a quality inspection check list then you better make one step further to anticipate in a proactive way how to solve problem related to those defectives.
An easy mindset would be to think : « this is not my problem, this is the supplier fault, he has to deal with those problems, I am just buying products. Period».
Well, you may think this way but you expose yourself to several risks:
First adopting a such attitude will make that indeed the supplier has to manage his problem himself alone. What about if they have no idea about how to manage them ? Normally, it should not happen if they have experience on the product they manufacture but in some rare case when you would work with a small factory for a small order or with a small factory which is 50% cheaper than the competition then you might find out they actually don’t know how to solve their problem. So, if you have capability to help them by supplying them with a solution to avoid defectives generation by implementing a simple solution then you better anticipate and supply them a solution.
Second, if they indeed face problems and that you are not a big buyer, then they may not want to repair or rework your goods because for them it involve extra cost, hence reduced margin. You will then be a in situation where the vendor got your goods (partly defective for sure) and will have your deposit as collateral. You are now in a situation where you have to negotiate endless to obtain a reworking of your goods otherwise you loose your deposit and you don’t get your goods to be shipped.
So, in order to avoid such situation, I invite you to anticipate those defectives which would be generated and which you could not accept while simultaneoulsy anticipate a solution to avoid or correct those defects before your goods to be packed in their packaging and shipped to overseas. Having a proactive approach will occur an extra small over charge of work load but may save you a lot of time and hassle later if things start to go wrong.