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Quality Control in Manufacturing while Sourcing from China

2024-04-08
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In 2023, China accounted for 28.7% of the global manufacturing output, surpassing the United States (16.8%), Japan (7.5%), and Germany (5.3%). As the world’s largest manufacturing country, it is highly probable that if you are a manufacturer, trader, or importer, a significant portion of your goods is sourced from China.

When conducting business with China, ensuring that your goods meet specified requirements and adhere to quality standards is of utmost importance. Implementing quality control and inspection processes allows you to achieve these objectives effectively. By doing so, you can verify product compliance, identify and rectify any deviations, mitigate risks associated with substandard goods, and ultimately enhance customer satisfaction. Remember, a robust QC system contributes not only to your business reputation but also to long-term success.

Procuring your products from a manufacturer based in China presents significant cost-saving opportunities compared to collaborating with a domestic supplier. China has evolved into a global manufacturing epicentre, drawing in numerous enterprises and prominent brands from Western countries over time.

However, the label "Made in China" frequently carries negative connotations, particularly regarding product quality. There is a widespread perception that Chinese manufacturers neglect product quality.

Let us discuss how you can implement quality control in manufacturing while sourcing your products from China.

What is good quality?

When sourcing from China, there is not a universally accepted definition of "good quality." This is because quality is subjective and can vary depending on individual perspectives. What a production manager at a Chinese manufacturer view as high quality may differ significantly from what an importer in the US considers satisfactory.

In manufacturing, "good quality" is commonly understood as conformance to requirements.

Chinese suppliers engage with customers from diverse countries worldwide, each with its own unique quality standards, safety regulations, and testing and certification requirements. It is impractical to expect manufacturers to be well-versed in the regulations of every importing country.

Hence, it is upon the importer to clearly articulate their requirements and product specifications. Quality control comprises a series of procedures aimed at ensuring that a manufactured product aligns with a defined set of quality criteria or meets the client or customer's specifications.

In essence, quality control in manufacturing serves as a mechanism to guarantee that the product meets the specifications outlined by the importer when placing the order with the supplier.

Why is quality inspection essential?

Ensures production of quality goods – The effectiveness of QA and QC combined will increase quality and adherence to your necessary criteria.

Minimises variations in production – Variations may arise in the items during the production process. You can lessen these variances by adding stages and tests to your mandatory QA processes after you understand the underlying causes of this.

Reduces your losses – Performing quality control inspections lowers the number of defective items you receive that might not be able to be sold. Your losses increase with the number of faulty items you have.   

Increases and maintains your planned sales margins – Moreover, QC inspections lessen the possibility that you would receive items of poor quality that you would need to resell for less.

Leads to consumer retention – Based on the quality you hope to deliver, you would have identified your target market. You run the danger of losing that consumer base if you provide lower-quality products, even at a cheaper cost.

Increases consumer satisfaction – It enables you to reassure and demonstrate to your clients that you are maintaining the calibre of the goods you are providing. Your ability to provide them with certifications and accreditations will boost their satisfaction and the possibility that they will stay in business with you in the long run.

Assuring them of quality control in manufacturing is directly correlated with their continued loyalty to you.

How to conduct quality control in China?

1. Improve communication

Improving communication with suppliers can greatly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your business interactions. The strategies mentioned below can achieve this:

a. Utilize QC checklists: Centralize all product specifications, technical details, and instructions in comprehensive product and quality control checklist documents. Avoid dispersing instructions across multiple emails, as this can lead to confusion or oversight. By consolidating information in one place, you provide clarity and ensure that all critical details are easily accessible to the supplier.

b. Keep communication clear and simple: When communicating with suppliers, use clear and concise language. Keep sentences short and avoid using slang or technical jargon that may not be universally understood. Simplifying your language helps to minimize misunderstandings and ensures that your messages are easily comprehensible to all parties involved.

c. Follow up with phone or video calls: While written communication is common, following up critical emails with phone or Skype calls can provide additional clarity and confirm understanding. Chinese individuals proficient in English may feel more comfortable with written communication, but verbal conversations can offer opportunities for immediate clarification and discussion. Additionally, phone calls may encourage suppliers to ask questions or raise concerns they might not have conveyed via email.

d. Leverage WeChat for quick contact: Download the WeChat app, a widely used messaging platform in China, for quick and direct communication with your supplier. While WeChat is suitable for rapid exchanges and inquiries, it should not replace formal documentation for conveying product specifications and instructions. Reserve WeChat for casual communication or clarifying doubts and ensure that all crucial details are documented in designated checklist documents.

By implementing these communication strategies, you can establish clear channels for conveying requirements, minimizing errors, and fostering productive collaboration with your suppliers.

2. Give detailed product specifications

Importers must collaborate directly with suppliers to craft a comprehensive product specifications document, ensuring a clear understanding of expectations. Leaving gaps for suppliers to fill is discouraged.

Specifications should cover design, functionality, materials, tests, certifications, labelling, and packaging in detail. Avoid ambiguity by specifying conditions explicitly. For instance, stating minimum operating temperatures rather than general climates.

Use precise language, avoiding vague pronouns like "it" to prevent confusion. After document creation, review it thoroughly with the supplier, clarifying any uncertainties. It is common practice to have a manager sign and stamp the document.

Detailed specifications are crucial for new product development, significant modifications, technical items, or stringent safety requirements. This meticulous approach minimizes errors and corners cut due to unclear instructions.

3. Arrange product inspections

Early notification to suppliers of the intention to perform a pre-shipment inspection reduces the likelihood of issues developing later.

Payments must be linked to inspections wherever feasible. This often entails making 30% of the money upfront and the full amount after the pre-shipment inspection.

Once an inspection is completed and the goods are transported, the last payment should be made. Importers should not be afraid to ask suppliers for this as it is typical practice in the sector.

4. Keep golden sample

Provide an inspected sample for comparison to the manufacturing and quality control inspectors to be used during quality control in manufacturing. These are also known as golden samples, and they are typically created in advance of production. Three samples should be sent out: one for the inspection firm, one for the factory's record, and one for the client.

5. Encourage suppliers to ask questions

As you go forward, find out from suppliers whether they have any queries or worries. You can encourage them to ask questions through Skype or WeChat conversation after you send them an email.

Who can offer you QC Inspection services in China?

1. Manufacturers

You have the option to request an internal review and report from your manufacturer. Although this method is less costly, producers are more focused on safeguarding their commercial interests than ensuring the calibre of their output.

Even though the internal QC crew is dedicated and experienced in quality control, things may not work out well for you. Their goal is to produce and distribute the goods as soon as possible, which is incompatible with maintaining quality control.

2. Sourcing partner

The hiring of a sourcing partner is another feasible choice. These organizations will support you not only in finding suitable Chinese manufacturers for your goods but also in conducting quality checks.

They operate on a commission basis and would like to keep you as a client so that you will keep doing business with them. As such, you can rely on them to provide an objective assessment of the calibre of the goods. Because of their trade, they also have commercial ties to numerous manufacturers, which they can use to your advantage.

3. Third-party inspection agencies

Finding a trustworthy third-party inspection company in China to carry out a quality control inspection in accordance with your requirements is an additional choice. They view the supplier objectively and impartially because they are not employed by them.

However, this does not mean that you give them complete control over the process. It is advised that you collaborate with them to clarify your needs and make sure the procedure they adhere to meets your standards.

4. Self-inspection

You can always arrange for a crew to visit and do quality checks. But it costs a lot of money. The fees associated with training, lodging, and travel will increase your import expenses.

When should you hire QC inspection service in China?

You can inspect your products with the help of a quality control company in China. You might not always be able to check quality in China. Hiring a quality control China firm is therefore preferable. You must hire a Chinese quality control business under the following situations:

- If you lack time to physically visit the location, you should engage someone who can perform quality control procedures.
- Hiring professionals is usually recommended if you don’t know how to do it.
- You are sourcing your products from China for the first few times.

Statistical quality control charts are used as part of quality control procedures in Chinese businesses. The samples' quality can be ascertained with the help of these statistical quality control charts.

What are the best quality control methods?

There are several factors to consider while performing QC checks. The following steps are the best technique to follow:

- Get the details about your products, which must include everything about the products.

- Get the sample.

- Send your sample to any well-recognized laboratory.

- Wait for the report from the lab and show it to your quality control team.

- Choose an experienced team.

Tips to select a third-party QC service provider in China

a. Ensure the company has the AQSIQ license to offer quality control services in China and also has an ISO 9001 certification. 

b. A reliable QC service provider will offer you the following quality control inspection services:

- Pre-production inspection

- Online inspection

- Pre-shipment inspection

- Container loading supervision

- Factory auditing service

- Social auditing service

- Environmental auditing service.

c. Hire a company in China that has enough relevant experience and understanding about your product. This will help them to provide you with the best quality control judgments.

d. Ask your service provider to provide previous reports of their customers, preferably in a similar product category like yours, to evaluate their capability and professionalism about their quality reports.

e. Be sure that the service provider understands your quality requirements.

f. Hire a certain quality inspection company in China that offers transparent pricing for their inspection services. It will help you to evaluate the total costs to import, and you can plan your budget accordingly.

Conclusion

China has emerged as a supplier of every kind of product at a very low cost, and therefore, businesses all over the world prefer to source their products from this country. However, quality control in manufacturing is very important to ensure that you get the product of the right quality.

Therefore, it is necessary that either you send your own representative to check the quality of your products during manufacturing in China or hire a third-party quality inspection service provider. You can also hire a trustworthy sourcing company in China that can coordinate these activities on your behalf.

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