Quality Inspection & Audit in China & Asia: How to make your supplier accepting them

Vendor Refuse Audit Inspection China, India, Bangladesh

Reluctancy of supplier, vendor or manufacturer in China & Asia to receive a quality inspector or a factory auditor is sometimes a problem for importers who need to reduce risks of getting scammed or disappointed before placing order to a new supplier which they don’t know very well yet.

We have several clients who had this issue in the past and we have helped them to finally obtain an agreement from their Chinese or Asian supplier to audit or inspect as they initially wanted.

In this blog articles you will learn a few technics and arguments you can use to persuade your vendors to accept to be inspected or audited by a third party inspection company like Asia Quality Control.

Please find the list of technics and arguments below:

# Explain why you want to do it and play partnership game

The best way to make your supplier or vendor to accept a quality inspector or a factory auditor to come inspecting goods or a factory is to play the game of using those tools not for giving pain or fine but to help the supplier to work even better so they can get more order and more clients. I don’t know any vendors who is not happy to get more clients, because it means more business, hence more revenue. All asian suppliers are always happy to get more customers but to do so sometimes the factory or manufacturing conditions have to been improved to give better results or better image when a customer come to visit factory. 

Sometimes also suppliers have difficulties. They may not tell you and may keep those problems for themselves. As you know dealing with problem alone is always more painful than sharing problem with someone else to attempt to find a solution together. This is the way you should communicate with your supplier : «  Inspections and audits are tools to help you get more order and to share with us the problems you may have so we can also help you to solve them »

Try to explain them that the quality inspector or factory auditor is not a policeman in charge of give punishment or fine. I remember, that inspecting in the past at a vendor who was quite young that he was scared at the idea of getting an inspector (me at the time) to inspect the goods he was supposed to ship to an australian buyer. At that time, I remember he was almost grumbling of scare. I was young at that time, but I remember I had to ask him to calm down and breathe and that I was not here to give him trouble, just to verify that all the goods he was supposed to ship where according to the specifications of the buyer.

# Explain what will be done

Nowadays, more and more vendors are used to receive quality inspectors or factory auditors, but still some don’t. If you are not sure wether your supplier is used to receive factory and quality inspectors, then you should brief them a bit in advance so they know what to expect. Roughly speaking you should explain them how the quality inspection or factory audit will be performed. We have in each pages of our services an explanation of what do we check during each type of operation. We also explain what are the essential steps which happen in each operation with a rough timing of what is done when and how.

By explaining them what is going to be done, time to time they would prepare to receive inspectors and auditors (which can either be goods in some situation or bad in other situations).

# Accept to sign a confidentiality agreement

Sometimes your supplier will be reluctant to get a factory auditor or a quality inspector to come as they worry some confidential information may be disclosed. Those information can be other customer name, special manufacturing process which give a competitive advantage to the manufacturer versus the competition. It is totally legitimate for a company to have the willingness to protect their data and competitive advantages. As a client you have to be able to understand this, but there is a way to establish this trust regarding disclosure of information that the manufacture may judge as sensible:

  • First let know your customer you fully understand it You can for example say (and this is what I say to them usually) : « I understand that you have sensible information, data and other process you would like to protect and I fully respect this. We have also been in this situation with our own customers in the past and this is the reason why I fully understand it. Yet, please understand that on our side we come for a precise goal related to our project/order and we have an internal process inside our company  to move forward working with suppliers and vendors and I have no power to change it. »
  • Second, propose them to sign a confidentiality agreement; This is legal documentation which states the rules of what can be done and what can not be done.
  • Third propose them to establish what you can access and what you can not so that they will feel a bit more confident of being in control of what you can see and what you can not (their confidential information)

In a recent audit operation I lead, the supplier (a major player in the eyewear industry which owner where not from China but from another country) had some very specific technics to process with eye wear product. They had a special machine which they didn’t want to show to the competitor etc… I remember the contact with them was not very easy at the beginning because they were very suspicious. It took me several weeks to convince them to let me get in. To do so I had to let them know that I was completely aware that they may have special processes to manufacture their products and that I fully understood the confidentiality matter. I propose them several time to sign a Confidentiality agreement and I had to tell them they could decide where I could go in their factory and where I could not go. They finally accepted.

# Use the pretext of a final client requiring an inspection to be done to make payment

If despite all of those arguments your supplier still doesn’t want to let you audit or inspect him then you can use the argument of having a client who require you to inspect the supply chain to better control it. Nowadays, big retailers are concerned about supply chain management and particularly social corporate responsibility. This sometimes can be a reason to provoke a factory audit. Even if the inspector would rather focus on the quality management system of the supplier, you can still claim that the audit would also have a quick look to social responsibility. 

You can also tell your supplier that your own customer require a pre shipment inspection report to be done to be able to release final payment. This something quite often being done when an importer use a letter of credit to pay a supplier or a trading company. You can explain to your vendor that without inspection report the bank would not release the fund and you would not be able to pay them.


# Use ethical inspector who will not ask money to supplier

One pain that some vendor sometimes also face are unethical inspector and auditor. As you know unfortunately in Asia some people abuse their job position to take money under the table. Some inspectors ask for money from manufacturers to declare some goods as passed or to give good grade to supplier during factory audit.. Those problems particularly appear in big inspection companies which have low control on their ressources. Another reason is that most of time big inspection companies deal with big clients, and those big clients usually place big orders so the stake of the auditor saying a supplier is reliable or not is of high importance so the auditor have more power to ask for money to the supplier (otherwise the supplier may miss a big client). We have a very strong code of ethic which we have implemented to avoid this kind of bad practices

When I was auditing, I don’t count how many times I heard supplier asking me if I wanted money. They were always amazed when I say « no, I just want to make my work with objectivity, whatever your audit result is good or not, this is all what it is, I can not be influenced by anything neither money, or gift or any other traditional delicacies… ». When you send an inspector doing his work properly and not just coming a few hours to get an envelope of cash, then your supplier have a much higher respect for the inspector who come to visit them. 

Another point I noticed when I was inspector is that suppliers were time to time amazed that the quality inspector made a real work and not just making work all the workers of the factory on behalf of me. Of course, when you have 40 cartons of 15kgs to move from a warehouse with no aircon (when temperature is above 30°C) to a QC area to be able to inspect the contents of the cartons, you do it much faster with more arms than only yours but still the inspector. Based on my understanding and based on what some manufacturers tell me, some inspectors don’t help anything the factories and just act as dictator. 

If the supplier don’t want to receive a quality inspector you can tell them you work with reliable and real inspectors who don’t ask for envelope and who inspect really the goods.


# Conclusion

If a supplier refuse a quality inspection or an audit, you have actually several ways to make them accept it depending on how you argue with them. Always play the partner and not the policeman and always reassure them that everything will be fine.

About Christopher Oliva 77 Articles
Christopher Oliva is an Engineer based in Shenzhen since 2008 involved in Product Development, Supply Chain, Sourcing, Quality Management and Manufacturing activities. With a Msc Electrical Engineering and a Business Administration background, an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor Certification, a Six Sigma Certification and a Quality Engineering Certification, he works as a consultant on mission and contract oriented to Product Development, Manufacturing Management, Quality Assurance & Quality Management System setup. He works in the product development and engineering field, and as well as an advisor and quality consultant for several quality control and quality assurance companies.

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