The 10-Step Checklist for Choosing Your Quality Assurance Agent

by | Nov 10, 2016 | Sourcing

If you’re reading this, chances are you are either in the middle of a factory-related emergency or you’re wisely considering a partner to handle your inspections overseas. We hope it’s the latter!

You are now faced with hundreds of potential inspection and sourcing organizations. As you seek to determine which company will best serve you, allow this checklist to help you measure and vet your options.

  1. Are they responsive and available?

Working with factories in China always means there will be some sort of communication barrier. Even if you are fluent in Mandarin, the other side of the world has immense differences in culture and time zones that will hamper communication.

When something goes wrong, you want your quality assurance company to be immediately responsive and able to communicate clearly with your factory. Many QA companies are US owned, but few are US based. A company like Insight Quality that’s based in the US (Texas) and has offices in China will be able to offer clear communication between you and the factory.

  1. Have you visited their office?

Sometimes a good website, glossy presentations and technical jargon can hide a shady operation. Stop by your service partner’s location to make sure it’s not an apartment in Mainland China with fly-by-night part-time employees. These companies are often gone as soon as they appear.

  1. Is their leadership highly experienced and qualified?

Do some investigative work to look at the leadership of a prospective company – but don’t just look at the company website. Check out public platforms like LinkedIn and view the profiles of their senior leadership. Good inspection providers or sourcing agents will have a rich, diverse background and positive recommendations or reviews from real people.

  1. Do they have a background in general business?

Ideally, you will want to find partners who have decent exposure to different parts of the retail world, not just the quality and sourcing side.

It’s important to work with a company that understands the different pieces of your supply chain, your business objectives, margins, the P&L sheet, and other realities of retail. When an inspection company or sourcing agent knows your business they will be able to translate that knowledge into smart decisions for you in their daily operations.

  1. Do their reports meet your needs and objectives?

Just because someone inspects your factory and gives you a thumbs up on paper does not mean you’re good to go. The report that you receive needs to provide information and details that allows you to make an educated, data driven decision or it won’t help you! Be sure to investigate the accreditations and licenses that your provider currently holds to ensure you are working with a company that is legitimate.

  1. Have you checked their references?

Companies worth their salt will be able to give you a list of references that you can check to ensure they are reputable. If obtaining references becomes a problem, that’s a big red flag. Even if the agent does provide references, go ahead and check them before allowing the agent to take responsibility for your product line.

  1. Are they insured?

Not having insurance is a giveaway that your prospective partner is not taking every precaution to protect themselves, their reputation, and you! Find out what kind of insurance they have and who provides it.

  1. Have they been established long enough to be reliable?

Don’t neglect to ask how long the company has been around, even if all the other ducks are in a row. It’s not always a deal breaker, but it may provide you with insights that influence your decision.

  1. Do they work with relevant product categories?

This one is a deal breaker. The inspection service or sourcing agent needs to work with the product lines or categories that you are manufacturing. While this information should be readily available, don’t forget to check this one off before beginning to work with a new service provider.

  1. Have they exemplified problem solving with other clients?

The purpose of conducting inspections is to prevent problems, but they will inevitably occur. For instance, one of our factories was experiencing production issues on a product line and we were able to identify that before shipment. The issue caused us to miss the shipping window, but catching it prevented sub-standard products from being shipped, thereby preventing heavy reputational, legal, and financial impact down the line.

Once the production issue was resolved, we worked with a freight forwarder to reroute the batch through another port and expedite the shipping, still resulting in a delay, but one that fell within the shipping window.

The inevitability of problems means that your QA partner needs to identify, understand, and solve problems effectively to mitigate adverse effects to your bottom line.

Contact us to discover how we can help provide you peace of mind about your manufacturing overseas.

Further reading

Thanks for reading! Do you have any questions about the article? Is there something else you’d like to add? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you.

Andy Church

Founder & CEO, Insight Quality Services


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