Once you’ve decided to import a product, you need to identify a suitable supplier for that product. You may reach out to several manufacturers for quotations and product samples. And when you’re happy with one, you’ll place an order and make the required payments.
But how can you be sure that the products you receive will match your specifications and meet your quality expectations?
Manufacturers often put their best foot forward when producing samples because a good sample is more likely to earn them new business. But when it comes to the actual order, it’s not unheard of for importers to receive inferior products, even from a ‘gold-rated’ manufacturer that has produced a good sample for them.
Things get even trickier if you’ve paid for the products in full. If you’re buying from China, you will find that arbitration and litigation processes are almost impossible to navigate.
Understanding the intricacies of quality control and product inspections can help you mitigate these issues and ensure that you get quality products. But what exactly do these terms mean, and how are they different? We discuss this in detail below.
What is Quality Control?
Quality Control (QC) refers to processes or checks put in place during the manufacturing process to ensure the quality of a product is maintained. In simpler terms, QC is the process of ensuring that manufactured products meet specific pre-set standards.
A good quality control process will have checks at different stages of manufacturing. This helps the manufacturer prevent defects or identify problems and correct them as they occur, rather than at the end of the manufacturing process.
A manufacturer can choose any number of ways to conduct quality control depending on the product and likely production challenges. These could include product inspections, lab tests, product sampling, and validation testing.
From the manufacturer’s point of view, QC has numerous advantages. It facilitates consistently high-quality products in a timely manner, resulting in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and referrals. The manufacturer primarily controls quality by using internal inspectors.
As an importer, you may have little access to their processes, but you can hire third-party inspectors to ensure unbiased reporting.
What is Product Inspection?
Product inspection is the process of checking or verifying products to ensure that they meet set specifications. Product inspection is usually carried out at the manufacturing plant where your goods are being made.
Inspection can happen at any stage of the manufacturing process and mostly focuses on product quality, construction, and functionality. Most importantly, it ensures that the product meets safety standards and complies with import regulations in your country.
As an importer, product inspections are crucial because they help you ensure that you get value for your money by guaranteeing quality goods on time.
Product inspection is conducted in three main ways:
This is the inspection of newly manufactured goods often done before they are shipped out to the buyer. In most cases, pre-shipment inspection is done when all products are complete, and they are at least 80% packed. In pre-shipment inspection, quality control inspectors check for defects, dimensions, appearance, product quality, quantity, and safety requirements.
By carrying out inspections while the product is still in the factory, this inspection provides you with an opportunity to correct any issues that arise and avoid costly errors. One of the most commonly used methods for conducting pre-shipment inspections is using Acceptable Quality Limits (AQL).
During Production Inspection (DUPRO)
This inspection is conducted when 20-80% of production is completed and packed. The inspector randomly selects products to check their appearance, dimensions, labeling, function, barcodes, and other requirements.
DUPRO inspections are particularly useful in mass production as they can help pinpoint any problems early. This enables you to save time and money while ensuring that you get high-quality goods that meet your specifications.
Pre-production inspections take place before your selected factory starts production. Importers conduct these inspections to verify that raw materials are of the agreed quality, review the production schedule, or confirm the factory’s ability to produce the quantities ordered. Pre-production inspections are often useful when you are dealing with a new supplier.
What is the Difference Between Inspection and Quality Control?
We have defined quality control as the overall measures to ensure that manufactured goods meet the required standards. QC can be conducted in various ways depending on the product, the manufacturing process, and its challenges. Some of the most common methods of quality control include product inspection and lab testing.
On the other hand, product inspection is a component of quality control that involves verifying that manufactured products meet pre-set requirements. Inspection can be done during various manufacturing stages, with the most common being pre-production, during production, and pre-shipment inspections.
Where Does Quality Assurance Fit In?
You may have come across the term ‘quality assurance’ and wonder how it fits in with all this. Like quality control, QA is an aspect of quality management systems concerned with procedures and standards to be observed in manufacturing a particular product.
In other words, QA refers to actions taken to ensure that a product is safe and of good quality. These actions could be the documentation of operating procedures, reviews, personnel training, factory audits, customer surveys, and investigation procedures. QA also sets standards for product labeling, packaging, and design.
Quality control and quality assurance complement each other. QA focuses on ensuring a safe, up to par process, while QC relies on this process to deliver a high-quality product. As such, both QA and QC are crucial for a seamless manufacturing process.
The process of importing a product is intricate and costly. As an importer, you want to ensure that you receive high-quality goods that fit your specifications. One way of ensuring this is by conducting product inspections. But how do you ensure that your inspectors do the job right?
This free e-book tells you all you need to know about how to prepare for a product inspection.
Free Guide: How to Prepare for an Inspection
Are you thinking of hiring a third-party inspection company? If so, you need to be properly prepared. No one knows your product better than you do. So, make sure you give your service provider the information they need to ensure that your inspections are a success.
Download this free guide to successfully preparing for your product inspections.