When you make consumer products to sell in the marketplace, you need to ensure that they are well-made. If people buy your product and it breaks easily or doesn’t work as expected, they’re likely to return it and give you a bad review. As such, product quality inspections are an essential tool.
A product quality inspection is a procedure that involves checking the various attributes of a product and testing it to ensure that it meets pre-specified standards. The factory’s quality control team, a buyer, or a third-party inspection company like Insight Quality Services can conduct this inspection.
Many experienced importers send an inspector to the factory to check their products before they ship. And here, we discuss how a product quality check works and what you need to know to conduct one. If you want to ensure the quality of your products, read on.
The Steps Involved in a Quality Inspection
At Insight Quality Services, we conduct many of these inspections. Here is a brief summary of our process:
- Travel to the Facility and Pull Random Samples
We conduct these inspections at the facility that manufactures your goods. Therefore, your inspector first needs to travel to the factory, and then they pull a random sample of your products for inspection using a method called AQL sampling, which we explain below.
- Complete Checks From the Inspection Checklist
Once they’ve pulled the sample, they run through all the tests and checks on your inspection checklist. They check packaging and labeling, do a visual inspection, check physical requirements, and more.
- Complete and Send the Inspection Report
After going through the entire checklist, they put together an inspection report. You receive a copy of this report, which tells you whether the goods passed inspection and includes photos of your products and any relevant notes.
Most commonly, importers conduct these inspections once the factory has finished production and before the products ship. But you can conduct an inspection before or during production as well. In the following sections, we’ll cover the steps above in more detail.
What is AQL Sampling?
AQL stands for ‘Acceptance Quality Limit,’ and it is the random sampling method used for quality control inspections. This statistical method helps you determine how many products to pull for inspection and how many defects are allowable in the shipment.
Before the inspection, you classify defects into three categories — minor, major, and critical defects. And when you conduct a product quality inspection, you need to decide in advance what percentage of each type is allowable.
Based on your instructions, the inspector uses an AQL chart (shown above) to determine the sample size and number of allowable defects. You can view our AQL sampling overview or download our AQL 101 guide for a deep dive into how these charts work.
How Do You Create an Inspection Checklist?
Every product quality inspection requires a checklist — it serves as a guide for your inspector and lists every test and check they need to perform. It covers areas such as packaging and labeling, functional testing, physical requirements, and more.
If you are working with an inspection service provider, you should collaborate with them to create your checklist. This collaboration is essential because you likely understand your products better than anyone. On the other hand, your service provider probably has a firm grounding in how to conduct inspections.
However, it is crucial to remember that responsibility for having the right items on your checklist ultimately falls on you as the buyer. You have to ensure that it covers every aspect of quality that matters to you and your customers. So be sure you put significant thought into this document — and if you’d like an example, see our article on how to create an inspection checklist.
What are the Different Types of Product Inspections?
Most often, importers choose to inspect their goods once the factory finishes production. This way, they can verify the quality of the final goods before they are loaded and shipped overseas. However, there are actually three main types of product quality inspections.
- Pre-Production Inspections are conducted before production starts, and these inspections can help verify the quality of raw materials and factory readiness.
- During Production Inspections are conducted while production is still underway. These inspections can help you catch defects early and reduce delays.
- Pre-Shipment Inspections are the most common type of inspection. These are conducted once your goods are 100% produced and at least 80% packaged.
Each type of inspection has its benefits, and some of our customers conduct all three types at different times. Of course, pre-shipment inspections are the most common, and some buyers use these exclusively. If you’d like to learn more, see our article on the various types of inspection.
What is in an Inspection Report?
Once the inspector has finished their work, you will receive an inspection report. This report gives your shipment a Pass, Fail, or Hold result and lists all inspection findings.
You’ll also see the result of each check they completed, with photos of each step to give you a clear understanding of your goods’ condition.
It is crucial that you thoroughly review your inspection report, regardless of whether it passed or failed inspection. If there are any issues, you will need to work with your supplier to determine corrective actions. If you’d like to get a better idea of what is included, download our sample QC inspection report.
By now, you should have a basic idea of how a quality inspection works for consumer products. If you want to ensure product quality, these inspections are a valuable tool to help you manage your supply chain and ensure good business outcomes.
If you’d like to learn more about our product inspection services, please reach out to us. And if you want to know how to prepare for a quality inspection, we recommend downloading the following guide.
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.
Note: This article was originally published in March of 2019 and was updated in September of 2021.