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The Six Steps to successful Quality Control on China Suppliers
We can never stress to our customers enough, how important it is to conduct Quality Control when importing from China. Conducting Quality Control on your China suppliers is a must. Some importers have been purchasing from China for many years and have never conducted quality control and have been very very lucky. Unfortunately, on the other hand, there are plenty of experienced and first time importers who have been stung by bad quality products, who did not follow the proper Quality Control process or did not have the quality of their goods checked. If you do not have the resources on the ground in China to conduct quality control on your behalf, you are running a massive risk (even if you have found a great supplier). In order to conduct successful Quality Control in China you need to follow the following 6 steps:
1 – Find the right supplier
The first step in the Quality Control process is to find the right supplier. One that is capable of producing the goods that you wish to import at the quality standards you require. The way to ensure you have found the right supplier is to be very thorough when sourcing your potential suppliers and having the relevant due diligence conducted on them. If you do not get this step correct you will have very little or no chance of getting the good quality products you are after. Ideally you want to find a supplier with international experience exporting to your market, one that produces your product as its own core product and has their own quality control procedures in place.
2 – Negotiate favourable terms
Negotiating favourable terms can help determine the quality of your products in the future and the solving of any quality issues when they arise.
Price - In the beginning don’t push too hard for the cheapest price that will result in little or no profit margin for your supplier. If their profit margin is very low or non-existent, your supplier will not give much attention to your order. They may even go to the extreme of using lower quality materials or speeding up the process at the expense of quality to increase their profit margin. They may also increase the price during the middle of the process.
Payment Terms - It is important to negotiate favourable payment terms in the beginning to maintain some control over your supplier and the quality of your products. For example, if you pay 100% of the order value upfront to your supplier and quality issues arise during the process, what incentive do they have to solve the issues if they have already been paid 100% of the order value? On the other hand, if you negotiate 30% deposit 70% on completion (or even 50% deposit / 50% balance) the incentive for your supplier to fix any quality problems is that they want to be paid the balance of the order.
Penalties or guarantees – It is common to obtain quality guarantees from your supplier and to have those spelled out in Purchase Order contract. For example, the supplier may guarantee the life of the goods for 2 years which may allow you to give your clients a 12 or 18 month warranty on the goods. If they provide products that are inferior and do not last the guaranteed life the supplier may agree to replace the goods or provide a refund. Penalties for poor quality can also be included in the Purchase Order contract but are difficult to negotiate or enforce unless the importer has the balance of power in the relationship i.e. the order is very large, is valuable to the supplier and represents a large amount of repeat orders in the future.
3 – Complete detailed Product Specification Checklists and set clear expectations
Once you have completed negotiations it is extremely important that you provide your supplier with clear expectations of what you require and a detailed list of specifications along with photos and even actual samples if possible. Just because you are an expert in your type of product does not mean that your supplier is also. Don’t assume that they understand anything and don’t be afraid to give them too much information if that will ensure the quality of your products are up to the standards required. Details that need to be given include but are not limited to:
- Product type
- Measurements and dimensions
- Materials used
- Packaging requirements (of actual product)
- Packing requirements (inners and outers)
- Printing requirements
- Artwork designs
- Legal standards
- Any other information that will lead to high quality products
Often if you use a professional sourcing company they will be able to provide you with a Product Specification Checklist (PSC) to complete that will be provided to the supplier. This will be used in the sampling process and to conduct any Quality Control factory inspections.
4 – Conduct the relevant training
It is essential that the person conducting the Quality Control on your behalf fully understands your product and the specifications you are after. Therefore it is imperative that you train the relevant people to be qualified to inspect your goods and find any faults or quality issues that arise. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to use a professional sourcing company that has a team on the ground in China who are experienced in learning about different company’s products and then conducting inspections based on what they have learnt. The sourcing company should be skilled in training their staff to understand the specific product and what is required during the Quality Control inspection. It is especially important to get this step right if your product is custom made or not the supplier’s core product.
5 – Obtain pre-production samples
Prior to committing to mass production it is vital that you have pre-production samples produced and sent to you for your approval. The quality of these samples can then be compared to your original samples sent to the supplier along with the specifications and the photos that were also supplied. Following this step ensures that if the samples are not of the correct quality standards, new samples or changes to the existing samples can be made before you have invested in the mass production phase and most likely have paid your deposit. This will reduce the potential risks for quality issues or problems further down the process.
6 – Conduct a final Quality Control Inspection
Conducting a final Quality Control inspection is fundamental to getting the exact product you expected from your China supplier. Once mass production has finished and the order is ready to ship you should conduct a factory inspection to make sure the mass production batch of products have been produced to the same quality standard as the samples you approved in the pre-production sampling stage. If they are not, you have the ability to resolve any quality issues with the supplier before final payment is made (provided you negotiated favourable payment terms in step 2). Not only does this inspection help with Quality Control but it allows you to watch how the order is packed into the container and to make sure your order is correct and matches your Purchase Order. This step should not be relied upon alone. Without following each of the steps above this step may be ineffective and by that stage it may be too late.
As you can see conducting Quality Control steps when ordering from Chinese Suppliers is a must. There will always be risks when dealing with suppliers in China but by implementing the 6 steps to conducting Quality Control those risks are reduced significantly. The last thing you want to happen is for you to find the right supplier and invest heavily in your product only to find that when it arrives it is unsellable due to poor quality standards that could have been avoided. Don’t skimp on the costs of Quality Control to save money in the short-term, because it will come back to bite you in the long-term.
Good luck with your China importing!
Written by Matt Edwards