When you are importing consumer goods from Asia, managing quality control can seem like a daunting proposition.
With your supplier an ocean away, how can you ensure that the goods you receive match your expectations for quality?
Recently, a large retailer had to recall 7,000 infant bibs they imported from Vietnam because the button snap was detaching and posing a choking hazard to children. Stories like this don’t exactly make you feel any better.
If this can happen to a large international company, how can you prevent it from happening to you? Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can take to develop a quality control process for your product.
If there is a problem with your order and it gets sent to you on a container ship, then by the time you receive it and examine the goods, it’s already too late to do anything about it. It’s unrealistic to think that you can just send the shipment back or expect the factory to re-make an entire order.
This almost never happens with manufacturers in low-cost countries, no matter how unhappy you are with the products you receive.
This is where the Final Random Inspection (FRI) comes into the picture.
The FRI is one of the most common third-party services conducted by importers working with low-cost-country manufacturers.
What is a Final Random Inspection?
A Final Random Inspection (FRI) is a quality control method used to check the products in your order after the factory has finished making them, but before they are shipped.
You hire a third-party inspection company (like Insight Quality) to travel to the factory on your behalf and conduct a series of checks to ensure that products:
- Match your specifications
- Are free from excessive defects
- Have the proper packaging and labels
- Meet any defined standards you have for them
To conduct an FRI, production must be 100% completed and products need to be at least 80% packaged.
Once your product inspection is complete, the inspector will generate a detailed inspection report.
The report gives you a Pass, Fail, or Hold result, shows the results of all checks performed, and provides photos of your products and packaging for reference. You can then use this information to make a decision about whether to accept the shipment or to ask the factory to take some corrective action.
It is important to note that, at Insight Quality, we generally refer to FRI’s as “Pre-Shipment Inspections” and in the world of quality control these names are interchangeable.
So, what do you need to know about these inspections?
How are Final Random Inspections Conducted? 3 Things to Understand
Before you can conduct a Final Random Inspection, you need to work with your third-party inspection company to do several things:
- Develop a list of specific defects that the inspector will look for
- Determine the quality levels you are willing to accept
- Develop a checklist that will guide the inspection
Let’s talk about each of these in more detail.
#1 The Importance of Your Defect List
In order to conduct an inspection, the inspector needs to understand the specifics of your product and know what they should be looking for.
So, you will need to develop a list of potential defects and divide them into three categories: Minor, Major, and Critical:
- Minor Defect: A slight deviation from specifications that the consumer might not notice and doesn’t make the item unsaleable.
- Major Defect: A significant deviation from specifications that makes the item unsaleable or likely to be returned.
- Critical Defect: A problem with the product that makes it hazardous, dangerous, or unsafe for the consumer to use.
It is important that you put serious thought into developing your defect list, as the inspector will use it to determine the severity of any issues they find.
These defect types are used in conjunction with the standard sampling procedures to determine the result of your inspection.
So, how do these sampling procedures work?
#2 The Sampling Procedures for Your Inspection
When conducting inspections, unless you have a very small order, it doesn’t make sense for the inspector to look at every single item.
In the quality industry, we use a time-tested and statistically-based sampling procedure called AQL (Acceptance Quality Level).
AQL is used to determine two things:
- The number of units to inspect
- The number of defects to trigger a failed inspection
An AQL chart is used to come up with these numbers, and for your inspection to work properly, it’s important that your defects are well-categorized.
A miscategorized defect can be the difference between an inspection passing and failing.
#3 How Your Inspection Checklist Works
With your defects categorized and your AQL levels set, you can develop a product inspection checklist.
It’s important to remember that this is a collaborative process since you understand (or should strive to understand) all aspects of your product better than anyone else.
The checklist covers a number of areas such as:
- Packaging and labeling
- Visual inspection
- Functional testing
- Physical requirements
- And others
The inspector will go through each procedure on the list and determine if there are any defects present. They will also take photos of your items and these will go into your final inspection report.
So, what should you know about the inspection report?
What is the Inspection Report and How do You Use It?
At the end of every FRI inspection, you will receive a report.
This report is designed to give you a clear idea about whether the products from your order meet the quality standards you have set.
The report also gives you one of three results, Pass, Fail, or Hold. It details the number of units that were inspected, shows the results of each check, and gives you photos from the inspector. You can use this information to make a decision about whether to accept or reject the shipment from your supplier.
You can download our sample QC inspection report to get a clear picture of what you receive at the end of your inspection.
Just keep in mind that you should review your inspection report thoroughly to fully understand the condition of your order, even if the inspection doesn’t fail. It is ultimately your responsibility if you receive a shipment and are unhappy with the quality of the products. So, take great care to review the results of any inspection and ask questions about anything that is unclear to you.
Now let’s recap.
Final Random Inspections/Pre-Shipment Inspections help you to verify the quality of your products before they are shipped.
To conduct an FRI, you need to first develop a defect list, set your AQL levels, and develop a product inspection checklist. The third-party inspector will perform a number of checks and provide you with a complete inspection report for you to review.
After reviewing your inspection report in detail, you can decide whether to accept or reject the shipment.
We recommend downloading the white paper below to learn more about how third-party inspections are conducted.
Free Download: Your Guide to Third-Party Inspections
When hiring manufacturers in developing countries, it is difficult to manage product quality.
Working with a third-party inspection company like ours helps you to ensure product safety, minimize returns, and maintain your good brand image. But there are certain things you need to understand to really leverage the service and get the best results.
Find out what they are in this white paper.