Recently, a company that makes small, metal ladders discovered a big issue with products they had put out into the market.
They found that the locking pins and rung fasteners on their ladders were prone to fail, posing a fall hazard to the people standing on them.
They had to recall a significant number of these multipurpose ladders for repair, costing them time and money and undoubtedly affecting their bottom line.
For many newer importers, stories like these can be frightening. The time, effort, and costs involved in dealing with these issues can add up. And when you can’t be at a factory in person, it’s difficult to know what steps to take to ensure the quality of your products.
So how can you avoid these issues with overseas factories?
If you want to get the best quality out of your factory, you need to take a higher-level view and be proactive. One of the most important keys is to put a basic quality management plan into place.
An effective plan requires two things. First, it requires proper specifications to ensure the factory is 100% clear on your requirements, because only then can you hold them accountable. Second, you need to have a proper inspection and testing plan to ensure that they’re meeting those specs.
Let’s talk about these two basic elements of your quality plan, starting with specifications.
Your Product Specifications are Key
Far too often, we see importers place orders without first having well-defined specifications for their product. This can lead to problems down the line.In the ladder example above, the problem may have been the grade of metal that was being used in the fasteners.
Thus, one important key is to specify the grade of metal, plastic, or other material you’re using in a specification sheet. A spec sheet clearly states the materials, dimensions, components and all relevant details about your product.
Leaving any ambiguity in your specs gives the factory leeway to do something you don’t expect. Sometimes, factories cut corners to save time, effort, or costs.
If you’re just starting out and you’re not that familiar with how your product is manufactured, you need to be proactive about understanding it. Your job is to get to know every detail about your product that you can. Only then can you properly define its materials, components, measurements, etc.
Also, before you start production, you should have an approval sample (or golden sample) in place. This sample is perfectly produced to your specifications, and it gives your inspectors something to compare any production units to.
Once you have clear specifications and an approval sample, you can hold them accountable. But, how?
An Inspection and Testing Plan Holds Factories Accountable
The best ways to hold your factory accountable are through third-party lab tests and inspections.
You need to plan, in advance, when you will conduct them.
Inspections help you visually and physically check products that have been produced. Lab tests help you test for things such as hazardous chemicals or incorrect materials (like the incorrect grade of metal that might have been found in the ladder fasteners).
When it comes to inspections, the most common type is the pre-shipment inspection.
Pre-shipment inspections are conducted once the products in your order are 100% produced and 80% packaged. These are also called Final Random Inspections. They will give you a pass or fail result before shipment. That way you can decide whether to allow your factory to ship the order.
When it comes to lab tests, these can be conducted at any stage, from pre-production through post-production. A sample of the factory’s materials or a product can be collected and tested with specialized equipment. This help you avoid issues with low-grade materials.
By creating a plan for when and how you will conduct inspections and do testing, you can hold your factory accountable and get great results.
Remember that success will come from clear specifications and then a program for verification.
Be Proactive and Plan for Quality
By being proactive and realizing that not only do you need to check your products for defects, but also plan in advance to avoid them, you can have more success with quality as an importer.
Create a good specification sheet and have your factory produce a golden sample. Then make a plan for when to inspect and test your products. Doing so will take you a long way.
And when it comes to inspections, if you’re thinking about conducting one soon, we recommend you download our Guide to Successfully Preparing for a Product Inspection.
How to Prepare for a Quality 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.