If during your manufacturing in China or in Asia you are concerned about your products compliance face to the market where you sell or distribute them, then you might consider performing some product lab testing in China or Asia before shipping them from your manufacturer to your warehouse.
Most of time, your Asian based vendor may propose you to handle the lab testing and product certification process on his side for you. It can be tempting to let your Chinese or Asian supplier to handle the process of lab testing in Asia himself as in appearance it simplify the process for you and free your time up.
Yet, a few tricks are sometimes used by vendors. Those tricks are unknown by most of international buyers and I explain here why it is safer to use a third party inspection company in China to manage your lab testing instead of letting your vendor to do it.
# The vendor choose the lab he wants
As you may know, there are plenty of testing labs on the planet who offer testing and certification services. When I say there are plenty, I literally mean there are really everything: you will find big labs, small labs, middle sized lab. Some are specialized in a certain type of goods while other are generalist.
You will find some labs which are accredited with ISO 17025 accreditation, some labs add up ILAC accreditation to their background, some labs are recognized and well trusted by the custom bureau of your country and some are much less trusted or even not recognized at all. Some have expensive product testing fees and some have cheap lab testing fees. All of those parameters are obviously well correlated together.
If your vendor handles the whole process of product certification, then he might choose the lab which is to his advantage (most of time the cheapest lab), and probably not the best lab to your advantage. He may also choose the one where he has relationship so he can get the certification more easily (when not being totally guaranteed to pass it by paying an under the table commission…).
You may get a product being tested and certified by a lab which is not recognized by your custom bureau at all. If your product passed the test and certification of a lab which is not accredited and recognized properly by your custom bureau, then you might be in trouble because your certification is potentially worthless and just not recognized by your government organization. If your certification is worthless, then your custom bureau can just block your goods to enter in your country and in case of quality issue affecting safety of your customer your insurance may not cover.
Lab accreditation are delivered to labs which comply to a certain standard of compliance to perform lab testing operation (ISO 17025). Labs have to prove they are indeed capable to perform testing in proper manner and with proper methodology (sampling, calibration etc..).
Hence, when performing certification with your vendor, you need to make sure the lab performing the testing and the certification for your product is well accredited and recognized by your market.
Personally, when I perform and handle lab testing management for a client, I exclusively work with accredited lab recognized by custom bureau in the country where my client plan to sell and distribute their products.
# The supplier send to the lab the sample he wants
When the time comes to perform product lab testing, a set of sample usually need to be sent to the lab so they can perform their testing process on the sample. Obviously the quality of those sample will influence the output of the testing and the certification issuance. If sample sent are in compliance with requirement, then the product get certified. If the sample sent are not compliant with the testing standard requirement, then the testing is failed and the certification is not given, so quality standard of the sample being tested is critical.
Obviously, the sample sent should reflect the reality of your production. If your sample pass the test, your product get certified, but the production doesn’t, it can be a problem. Indeed, later if a custom officer decide to test again your product sold (coming from mass production) once at home, the result might be quite different and you may be in trouble.
In the past I had a customer who delegated the testing process to his vendor and got a “PASS” certification for his product based on sample not being issue from the production, but in pre-production phase.
He then gave the “go to mass produce” to his manufacturer and finally shipped the goods to its country. When the goods arrived at destination, a few samples of the cargo were drawn and tested by the custom bureau via a local accredited lab. The custom bureau found the goods were not in a PASS status and were not compliant with the quality standard requested by the market. The importer didn’t understand how it was possible as the product had been tested and certified by the vendor based on the same quality standard.
I investigated a bit and found out that the vendor simply had changed the components/raw materials of the products between the pre-production sample and the actual mass production. Why did they did so? Just to lower the manufacturing cost of the product.
The sample was tested and certified but then the cargo was not at the same standard anymore than the pre-production sample since two different raw materials had been used. The vendor had modified the bill of material between the pre-production sample and the real production.
Should the client would have drawn sample on the mass production instead of letting the manufacturer to send it to the lab, this would not have happened.
For this reason I usually recommend to use a neutral hand via a third party inspection company to draw sample from the actual production to send those samples to the lab and not to let the manufacturer to do it himself.
If your production is about to start you can use an Initial Production Inspection to send a quality inspector in China at your manufacturing place to check the quality of the product which the production just get started. In the same time, the quality inspector can pick himself a sample on the line and send it to the testing lab for compliance testing and certification.
This give you possibility to retain your final payment to your supplier in case your manufactured product didn’t pass the test. You can use the same technic with a During Production Inspection or a Pre-Shipment Inspection of course but testing sample at the beginning of the production give you the advantage of being able to stop the production at earlier time in case non compliance of your product is revealed.