Quality Mistakes for Importers of Consumer Products

As an importer, quality issues with your product can be the downfall of your business, even if you have a great product idea, a competitive marketing strategy and an enthusiastic customer base. They can lead to product returns, product recalls, bad product reviews and a damaged reputation for your brand. Any of these issues can lead customers to look to your competitors for a similar product instead of buying from you.

1. Omitting quality expectations from supplier negotiations

Would you wait until Christmas Eve to tell your friend you expect them to cook the main course for a Christmas dinner for 10 people? Probably not. So why should you wait to tell your factory about your quality standards until production is already underway for an order of hundreds or even thousands of units? The most successful importers outline their quality standards in the negotiation phase when they’re choosing suppliers. This means before they set a price, place their order and issue a purchase order.

1). Set a price that reflects your desired quality level

The old saying, “you get what you pay for” applies to working with overseas factories just as it does any other situation. A low price usually corresponds with lower product quality.

2). Ensure quality requirements are reasonable and feasible for your supplier

Setting an unreasonably low price for your order is one concern. Another is setting unreasonably high standards for your supplier. For example, a rookie furniture importer might expect their finished goods to have zero quality defects, which is virtually unheard of for consumer products, let alone furniture.

3). Set expectations for accountability to pre-shipment inspection results

Some importers place an order with a supplier and then announce later during production that they want pre-shipment inspection. This can create problems if the supplier resists your requests for inspection, which is more likely when hiring an independent third party to inspect.

2. Proceeding with mass production without first reviewing and approving a product sample

Product samples, sometimes referred to as "golden" samples, can be invaluable in ensuring your supplier understands your requirements. They reflect your supplier’s understanding of what you want, so they’re a great way to ensure your product requirements are clear.

1). Identify quality defects in product samples before production

Ideally, there should be zero quality issues in your golden sample. Golden samples are intended to be near-perfect representations of your desired product. They should be comparison models that factory staff and inspectors can check against production units for conformance to your requirements.

2). Clarify product requirements with a product sample to avoid further misunderstandings

Don’t assume factory staff will immediately understand your written specifications in a PO or quality document. Sometimes a misunderstanding can pop up where you never expected due to a language or cultural barrier.

3. Forgoing quality inspection before shipment

Quality inspection is one of your best options for catching quality issues before your products are loaded onto a ship. If you wait to address product defects after receiving your shipment, you could be stuck with thousands of dollars’ worth of unsellable goods. Whereas you can save significant money in wasted product by inspecting your goods and finding and addressing any problems before shipping.

Hire inspectors that put your interests first. A pre-shipment inspection is the bare minimum for importers in the consumer goods industry who want to compete in their market with quality goods. In contrast to internal QC, external inspectors can use your QC documents to check your products according to your standards and report on all quality issues found in the inspected sample.

4. Using outdated QC documents as a guide for production and inspection

Have you ever heard the popular saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”?

When quality problems repeatedly slip through inspection, it’s often because factory and inspection staff continue to refer to the same outdated QC documents. You can’t just assume your supplier will adjust production processes or quality standards based on previous orders. Instead, you’ll need to continually update QC documents to reflect any known quality issues and changes to your product.

Conclusion

If you’re waiting to discuss your quality standards with your suppliers until production begins, you might already be fighting a losing battle. And if you wait to fix issues when you find quality defects after production is finished, you’re already playing catch up. But worst of all, if you wait to address quality issues after you receive defective goods, any corrective actions will likely be difficult and very expensive.