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Ways to Do Quality Control in Production Management

2024-02-28
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Numerous Western businesses opt to manufacture products or components in low-cost regions like China to benefit from reduced production expenses. However, a primary apprehension during this transition is the quality issue. Business managers frequently question whether Chinese factories can adhere to the same specifications as their counterparts in Europe or the United States.

Historically, the "Made in China" label was linked to poor quality, but this perception is gradually going down. Presently, a considerable number of Chinese factories produce goods that not only meet but often surpass Western quality standards.

This transformation is driven by several factors, including heightened exposure to the global market and its requirements. Additionally, the rising expectations of the expanding Chinese middle class play a key role in steering this shift toward higher-quality manufacturing.

Chinese consumers these days seek high-quality products such as:

- Electronics

- Home décor

- Toys

- Hardware

- Accessories

- Sports goods.

In fact, some Chinese consumer brands have gained global recognition by adopting quality control in production management.

What is quality control?

Quality control in China involves establishing standard levels to assess product quality and ensuring the reliability of products and services. Various techniques are employed for this purpose. When dealing with suppliers, especially in China, setting quality standards is crucial.

Communicating these standards to suppliers is essential to obtain high-quality products. Pre-shipment inspection becomes a pivotal step after placing an order, ensuring that the delivered products meet the specified quality criteria.

This summarises the essence of quality control. However, relying solely on pre-shipment inspection is insufficient. It is imperative to follow through with each step until the product quality aligns with your expectations.

Quality Control in China

Let us try to understand the real scenario of quality control in production management in China.

1) Accepting cultural divergences and holding on

Navigating China's cultural nuances in attitudes toward quality poses challenges for buyers and Chinese sourcing company. During quality inspections, factory representatives might argue that a product deviation is acceptable, contrary to Western standards.

This cultural difference persists, emphasizing the need to address quality concerns continually. Western quality control standards may not seamlessly align with those of Chinese factories.

While the presence of an in-process quality control officer may seem impressive, the qualifications and actual involvement of such personnel can vary, with experienced employees often conducting more effective inspections.

When choosing a factory in China,

- Prioritize those with expertise in your product or experience supplying Western countries for familiarity with quality expectations.

- Clearly communicate product specifications in writing during negotiations.

- Arrange or conduct quality control inspections, as resistance to such checks should be a cause for concern.

2) Being aware, even in the absence of official quality control records

Factory compliance audit based on Western standards can lead to two outcomes:

- The factory's quality control may seem inadequate on paper, yet the product meets the requirements.

- A apparently robust process may result in poor quality products.

Certain Chinese factories excel in quality due to specialization in niche segments and their in-depth knowledge of their products. While some lack formal quality control documentation, their awareness is noteworthy.

To ensure product excellence and minimize issues, prioritize factories with expertise in your specific product or those experienced in supplying Western countries.

3) Linking manufacturing cost and quality

Manufacturers bear costs for raw materials, labour, electricity, and infrastructure maintenance to uphold quality standards. There is a minimum cost threshold for maintaining quality. Essentially, you get what you pay for.

While large buyers may negotiate lower prices, unnaturally forcing reductions can compromise raw material quality, skilled labour, or working conditions, affecting product quality, delivery, and reputation. Striking a balance between cost and quality is essential for ensuring a successful product.

How do you perform quality control in China?

Some procedures need to be implemented to ensure the quality of products manufactured in China, as quality control is one of the essential components of the production process. The following is a general guide on quality control in production management in China.

1 - Define quality requirements

Initiate the pursuit of high-quality products by defining clear quality requirements. Specify standards encompassing product specifications, acceptable tolerances, and testing criteria. This ensures the identification of deviations from agreed specifications and guarantees the final product meets the required quality standards.

2 - Select reliable suppliers

Securing the products, you sell depends on selecting a small number of reliable and reputable suppliers.  Verify that the suppliers you work with have a history of generating high-quality products. Conducting supplier verification to evaluate their production capabilities and adherence to industry standards is essential.

3 - Develop a suitable quality control plan

Formulating a thorough quality control plan is essential to uphold the required standards. This plan should define inspection points, testing procedures, and acceptance criteria at various production stages, covering raw materials, in-process inspections, and final product evaluations.

4 - Conduct pre-production inspections

Conducting pre-production inspections is vital to verify supplier understanding of specifications and availability of resources. Identifying issues before production starts ensures the final product aligns with the required quality standards.

5 - Perform in-process inspections

Regularly inspect production processes to identify quality issues, monitor progress, and detect deviations. Utilize visual inspections, measurements, and functional testing for comprehensive evaluation.

6 - Conduct final product inspections

In addition to quality checks during the production stage, make sure that your products also undergo pre-shipment quality checks. The following tests must be part of the pre-shipment quality checks:

- Visual inspections

- Functional checks

- Safety testing

- Packing inspections

- Quantity verification.

7- Implement random sampling

To ensure an impartial depiction of overall product quality, random samples for inspection must be chosen using statistical sampling procedures. This can assist in finding any problems that were possibly overlooked during routine inspections.

8 - Engage third-party inspection services

Assuring that the finished product satisfies the necessary quality standards can be facilitated by using independent China inspection agency with experience in carrying out exhaustive and objective inspections.

9 - Maintain communication with suppliers

Often, due to cultural and language differences, there can be a communication gap. Therefore, if you are negotiating with Chinese suppliers, you must ensure that they have properly understood what you want to tell them. Also, you must maintain cordial professional and personal relationships so that quality issues can be addressed with cooperation and understanding.

10 - Continuous improvement

Finding areas for improvement in quality control processes requires ongoing monitoring and assessment of their efficacy. Maintaining a good working relationship with suppliers to put preventative and remedial measures into place will assist in guaranteeing that high-quality items are continuously delivered.

What should be the best methods?

1) For standard products

For purchasers of standard products from China, conducting a conclusive random inspection is crucial to ensure quality. Utilize a precise checklist or an approved sample. Go for an in-production inspection for initial orders to address issues promptly.

A brief factory visit helps identify subpar workshops, but comprehensive audits are suitable for larger orders or when the factory asserts a well-organized setup.

2) For custom-made products

Buyers of custom-made products should prioritize early inspections during pilot runs or initial bulk production, which is crucial for intricate items. A comprehensive process review at production commencement is essential.

Evaluate the factory's production capacity, especially for complex products, aligning with the buyer's defined ideal factory profile. Additionally, a final pre-shipment inspection is prudent to validate overall product quality before shipment.

Bonus tip

It is recommended to create an OEM agreement if the buyer must fund special moulds or tooling if private information is shared with the supplier, or if the payment conditions do not provide buyer security.

This contract ensures that the supplier is held responsible for upholding quality standards and that the buyer's intellectual property is safeguarded.

However, the real quality control in production management could vary based on your product and the manufacturing setting. When it comes to product quality checking in China, you should bear in mind the following five points.

1 - Chinese goods are not of low-quality

A widespread myth surrounding Chinese products is their poor quality, like disposable items. Contrary to this, many trusted, experienced, and leading manufacturers exhibit a robust quality control consciousness.

Reliable manufacturers invest in skills and equipment to meet desired standards, willingly subjecting themselves to third-party quality control inspections as prescribed by buyers.

While some may lack quality consciousness, it is essential to recognize the commitment to quality displayed by reputable Chinese manufacturers. Additionally, they are prepared to pay for premium raw materials. This leads us to our next point - producers must understand precisely which quality requirements to adhere to and when.

2 - Your requirements must be defined first

Defining your quality control requirements as a buyer is paramount before contract signing. Relying solely on approving a golden sample can pose risks. It is crucial to articulate all quality specifications and inspections explicitly in writing. Include safety standards in the agreement and utilize an experienced translator to convey these requirements in Chinese.

Providing clear and detailed quality control instructions facilitates better communication with the manufacturer, enhancing the likelihood of desired results. Written communication is key, ensuring both parties understand expectations. Emphasizing precision, clarity, and double-checking comprehension contributes to a more successful collaboration, minimizing the inherent risks in the manufacturing process.

3 - Cost and quality of manufacturing go together

Buyers must recognize the intrinsic link between quality and manufacturing costs, applicable universally in procurement outsourcing. While cost reduction is a common goal, solely prioritizing low manufacturing costs in China can lead to substandard products.

Quality raw materials, advanced equipment, and skilled labour require investment. Unrealistically low prices may compel manufacturers to use inferior materials and unskilled labour, compromising quality. Setting realistic quality control standards and prices is imperative for achieving better results, fostering a balance between cost-effectiveness and product excellence in outsourcing relationships.

4 - Collaborate with dependable manufacturing partners

The choice of a product manufacturer is paramount in upholding necessary quality and safety standards. For customized products, opt for a reliable, experienced, and skilled manufacturer.

Large-scale manufacturers may lack the required flexibility and niche-specific skills. It is advisable to collaborate with a manufacturer specializing in your niche segment and possesses a reputation for delivering high-quality products.

Do consider the following factors before choosing a manufacturer:

- During the busiest time of year, the manufacturer ought to be able to accommodate a higher order volume.

- If they have any certifications or customer references, they ought to be open to sharing them.

- They ought to be open to cooperating with an outside quality control inspector.

- They must have at least four or five years of experience producing goods comparable to yours.

5 - Ensure strict product inspection

The crucial and final step in ensuring product quality is implementing a realistic yet stringent inspection process. Employ your own staff or engage a third-party quality control inspection company in China to maintain the desired standards, recognizing that cooperation from the manufacturer is imperative.

Inspections should occur before, during, and after production, encompassing both products and packaging. Conduct regular laboratory and on-site tests if necessary, maintaining continuous communication with the manufacturer to prevent delays. Commencing quality checks during the early stage is crucial.

To further enhance control, link payments with inspections. If issues arise, the manufacturer must remedy them to receive payment, encouraging their agreement and cooperation with third-party inspections for a comprehensive quality assurance process.

Conclusion

Ensuring high-quality products in Chinese manufacturing involves a multifaceted approach. The longstanding myth of low-quality Chinese goods is being dispelled by numerous trusted manufacturers prioritizing rigorous quality control.

Buyers must define precise quality requirements, communicate them clearly, and recognize the link between cost and quality. Collaborating with dependable manufacturers, especially those specializing in a specific product or niche segment, is crucial.

Implementing strict product inspections at various stages, engaging third-party inspection services, and linking payments with inspections contribute to a comprehensive quality assurance strategy. Overcoming cultural divergences, understanding the manufacturing setting, and acknowledging the importance of early inspections are vital steps in navigating the complexities of Chinese quality control in production management.

By following these practices, buyers can foster successful collaborations, ensuring high-quality products that meet or exceed Western standards.

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