Updated by Neil
Your biggest concern while importing should be quality control. This chapter covers the primary methods by which you can inspect and manage product quality. The last two but essential steps in the Supplier Process is Pre-Shipping Inspection and Pay the Balance Owing.
Define Product Quality
The following important concepts will help you describe product quality:
Defects in products: The intensity of the damage classifies the varieties of defects. There are three types of defects recognized in the Quality Control world. They are:
- a) Minor (for instance, a little scratch or crack),
- b) Major (the damage affects the functioning of the product), and
- c) Critical (becomes harmful for your consumer)
It would help if you established how many defects are tolerable per order batch. It should be clearly stated in the purchase agreement.
AQL levels: The full form of AQL is ‘Acceptable Quality Limit.’ It is the maximum limit allowed for defects per order batch, written in ISO 2859 statistical standard. In consumer goods, the general AQL levels are 4.0 for minor imperfections, 2.5 for significant weaknesses, and 0 for critical flaws.
Safety Regulations: Thoroughly research the rules and regulations that apply to your product in the market you have chosen. Europe abides by REACH or RoHS Directives, but the US uses FDA, CPSC standards, etc.
Get Professional Assistance
You can choose to either let the factory hold inspections or work with a Quality Control (QC) provider. The various advantages in appointing a QC provider are:
Fast Response- Established Quality inspection providers have offices in every important manufacturing area. They can provide an inspector probably in 48 hours.
No conflict of interest– QC providers are in no way linked with your supplier, so they are sure to make an unbiased decision.
Expert advice- They can provide Audit facilities. They can help you audit the factory to reveal the supplier’s factories’ real working conditions, make an audit program for your supply chain, help you with sourcing, etc.
There can be a few disadvantages, as well:
Additional costs- The quality control aspect of importing is essential, but hiring a QC provider can be expensive.
Product Knowledge– The inspector will not know about your product as much as you. It would help if you kept that in mind while hiring one; you can appoint someone to look through the more technical aspects of Quality Control.
Pay the Balance Owing
After your products are thoroughly inspected at the supplier’s factory, you can demand any required modifications. If there are none, then you can positively finalize your shipment order.
Once you have approved the order, you should pay the balance amount to the supplier. One would prefer to pay after receiving the shipment, but most suppliers do not agree to this arrangement.
Best Times to Inspect your Product
The procedures that need to be carried out in a Quality Control inspection can happen during one or more of the following stages of your production process:
- Initial Production Check (IPC)- It is a preliminary inspection done of all machinery and materials in the manufacturing factory that would be used for production, performed before your production begins.
- During Production Inspection (DUPRO)- It is an on-site product inspection that assesses whether the factory is continuing to follow your directions and whether production is going as per schedule. It is conducted only after 20%-80% of your order is finished.
- Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI)- This is the final opportunity for you to make any modification before your order is finished and packed. It is performed when your production is at least 80% complete.
- Container Loading Check (CLC)- There is one final check when your order is about to be shipped. It is to make sure the quality, quantity, labeling, and packaging all followed your instructions.
- Production Monitoring (PM)- This is not a separate stage of quality control. It is a continuous process, where the daily progress is inspected on-site. This type of inspection is best suitable for sensitive and challenging orders (not to mention expensive) when you want everything to be perfect.
- After the first shipment is complete, you would have built a trusted relationship with your supplier and possibly would not need to be as strict with the QC. However, be sure to check on your orders regardless to prevent any “quality fade.”
You should be aware of all the safety regulations and have a clear picture of the product quality standards for reasonable quality control.
It would help if you always got your product’s quality inspected before it gets shipped. It would be wise to hire a professional QC provider.