Incoming Materials: How Good are Your Supplier’s Inspection Practices?

by | Apr 13, 2021 | Quality Control

When your manufacturer is getting ready to start a production run, they need raw materials to make your product. But if they do not have the appropriate procedures in place to ensure the quality of those materials, you could be courting disaster.

Raw materials are the basic building blocks that make up your product. If a manufacturer uses substandard materials, your products might be more prone to breakage or perform inadequately. Substandard products can lead to problems for your business down the road, such as an increase in returns, one-star reviews, or customer complaints.

Here we discuss the practices your manufacturer should follow for the inspection of incoming materials. If you are working with suppliers in low-cost countries, this article will give you a better idea about how to verify that they are following the correct procedures.

This is How Your Manufacturer Should Handle All Incoming Material

Ultrasonic test being performed on incoming materials

Ultrasonic test to detect imperfections in steel

A high-performing factory will have a well-defined quality management system (QMS). As such, they should be able to give you an overview of their incoming quality control processes if you ask. They should generally have the following four steps in place for conducting incoming material inspections.

Step 1: Keep All New, Untested Material in a Separate Area

Every so often, your manufacturer will purchase a batch of raw materials and receive a shipment. Whether the material is 304 stainless steel, 6061 aluminum, PET plastic, or something else, all material received should be set aside in a specified receiving area. It should not leave the receiving area until it has been tested.

Step 2: Conduct a Receiving Inspection to Test Raw Material

The manufacturer should check the material in the receiving area to ensure that it matches the specified requirements. Some manufacturers use special equipment for material testing — for example, they might use an Optical Emission Spectrometer (OES) to test metals. This device can identify the specific alloy used with a high degree of accuracy.

Step 3: Reject Any Material That Does Not Match Specifications

If the material received does not meet the factory’s specifications and quality standards, it should be rejected. Once the inspection procedure is complete, the inspector should set it aside and store it. Then the factory can send it back to the material supplier and follow up to discuss the quality issues they found during the receiving inspection.

Step 4: Move Accepted Material to Pre-Production Storage

When a batch of material has gone through incoming inspection and meets the specified criteria, factory employees can remove it from the receiving area. It should then go to the pre-production storage area, where it can be pulled later for production.

How to Ensure That Your Manufacturer Uses the Right Material

Auditor from Insight Quality Services on site at a factory

Insight auditor onsite at a factory to assess their quality management system

When it comes down to it, manufacturer selection is crucial to ensuring the quality of your products. If you don’t select a good manufacturer, it can lead to endless headaches down the road.

That’s why it’s essential to do the proper due diligence during the supplier selection process. You should conduct a factory audit to assess their quality management system before you begin working with a new manufacturing partner. And you can also choose to audit an existing supplier, which will give you a clear picture of how they are managing quality control so that you can look for opportunities for supplier development.

Keep in mind that quality fade is a real issue in developing countries. Many importers find that their manufacturers start out producing high-quality products for them, but over time, that quality can slip. If you think your supplier may be cutting corners, consider conducting a pre-production inspection to verify raw material quality.

If you would like assistance auditing a factory or conducting inspections in China, Vietnam, or another low-cost country, feel free to reach out to us to inquire about our services. And if you have been experiencing quality issues with a supplier, we recommend reading the following guide about what to do when things go wrong during an inspection.

Guide to Handling When Things Go Wrong During Product Inspections

Free Guide: What to do When Things Go Wrong

When a quality problem happens – and they will – how you approach the problem makes all the difference in successfully squelching it.

Learn how to deal with the problem at hand, see potential quality gaps throughout your supply chain, and take proactive measures to avoid future problems.

Note: This article was originally published in November of 2017 and was updated in April of 2021.

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