China has been the largest exporter of goods in the world since 2009, with exports exceeding 3.3 trillion USD in 2021. And while manufacturing your goods in China has many benefits, finding a reliable manufacturer can often feel like a gamble. That’s why ensuring that your products meet quality standards prior to shipping is an essential business practice.
Pre-Shipment Inspections are an effective tool to help you meet regulations and make sure that your goods are (and stay!) high quality. In this article, we’ll reveal what pre-shipment inspections are, how they work, and five things you absolutely need to know when conducting one.
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What is a Pre-Shipment Inspection?
A Pre-Shipment Inspection (or PSI) is a product quality check that occurs once your goods are 100% produced and at least 80% packaged. An inspector goes to the factory, pulls a random selection of products, and runs through a checklist that helps them identify defects before they ship.
A PSI ensures that your goods are up to the standard you agreed upon with your manufacturer when you placed the purchase order. A PSI is also sometimes called a final random inspection.
How does a Pre-Shipment Inspection Work?
A pre-shipment inspection is usually conducted via the following procedure:
- Arrive at Factory: An inspector will travel to the supplier’s facility and hold a pre-inspection meeting with factory staff. Then they will pull a random sampling of products from your order using a method called AQL.
- Conduct Pre-Shipment Inspection: During the inspection, they will check the products for compliance with your predetermined quality standards. The inspector will check them visually and verify that they meet all physical requirements. They will conduct functional tests, and ensure products are correctly packaged and labeled for shipping. They use a QC checklist to guide the inspection. You can see a sample QC checklist here.
- Inspection report: Once the inspector is finished checking your goods, they will write a report to summarize their findings. The inspection report lists the results of all the QC checks they completed. It also includes many photos of your products and gives a pass, fail, or hold result for the lot. This gives you the information you need to determine whether to accept or reject the shipment. Download a sample inspection report to see what it includes.
Why are Pre-Shipment Inspections Important?
A PSI ensures that products match your specifications, are up to your company’s standards and that all goods are packaged and labeled properly.
PSIs help you avoid expensive manufacturing or shipping mistakes. This type of quality control procedure is vital to keep your supply chain operating smoothly and effectively. You don’t want to have to deal with shipment delays, damaged goods, or the customer complaints that will inevitably come with such deficiencies.
Keep in mind that if you don’t discover product defects until after the order ships, it is likely already too late to do anything about it. Conducting an inspection before you make your final payment to the supplier lets you hold the manufacturer accountable.
5 Things You Need to Know When Conducting a Pre-Shipment Inspection in China
1. How to Hire the Right Inspection Agency
Hiring the right third-party inspection agency for your company is critical. When deciding who to work with, you should consider a variety of factors, such as whether they are certified to provide inspections in China and have an ASQIQ license.
You should also verify whether they are experienced in your product category (e.g. furniture, textiles, electronics, building materials, etc.). And you should ask them if they can provide references, consider their coverage area, and inquire about whether trip expenses are included in the inspection cost.
2. How to Develop an Inspection Checklist for Pre-Shipment Inspections in China
The quickest way to conduct an unhelpful inspection is by not setting clear expectations beforehand. You should be incredibly detailed in laying out what you want the inspector to check for. Your inspection checklist should be well thought out, and touch on packaging, labeling, visual inspection, functional testing, and more.
If a particular type of defect is not accounted for in your checklist, the inspector will not necessarily look for it. So it is essential to work together with your inspection company to develop this list.
3. How to Establish which Party is Responsible for Re-inspection
What happens if your inspector discovers excessive errors during the inspection and the lot fails? In that case, the manufacturer will need to rework your products. Once they do, you’ll have to verify that they are now satisfactory by conducting another inspection. But who pays for it?
In your contract with the supplier, you should include a stipulation that if goods need to be reworked, the factory is responsible for re-inspection. This way, they have an added incentive to get it right the first time, and you don’t end up with additional costs to ensure they’re doing their job.
4. How AQL Sampling Works for Pre-Shipment Inspections in China
When your inspector goes to the factory in China, they will need to pull a random selection of products to check. But how do they choose these products? To do this, they use a method called AQL, or Acceptance Quality Limit.
This sampling method is vital because it determines two key things: 1) how many units to inspect, and 2) how many defective products are allowable before the goods fail inspection. Before conducting your inspection, it is essential that you understand this method and make the right selections. To learn more about this, you can read our article on AQL sampling, or download our free guide to using it.
5. How to Keep Improving
When your products are subject to a PSI, you’ll receive an additional benefit: the comprehensive inspection report. Even if everything is up to your current quality standards, this report will contain insights about your current shipment and clues as to what may need improvement.
For example, your PSI may reveal some minor defects. Even if you accept a minorly defective shipment, you can take action to communicate the discrepancy to your manufacturer so they can fix the error or test different materials and/or processes in your next batch.
To see what the inspection report looks like, download our sample inspection report.
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Free Guide: How to Prepare for an Inspection
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