Key Points About Managing Quality Control in China
Regular, consistent and independent quality control is possibly the most important part of the buying-from-China experience. Some key points:
- Write it, confirm it, repeat it, and confirm it again with someone in authority. Get things repeated back to you from the people responsible for each step.
- Get things signed.
- Determine what is essential, what should happen, and what would be nice to have. But do not tell your supplier anything is less than mandatory.
- Safety, industry and customs standards are mandatory.
- Product features are crucial.
- Specific attributes that are not defined by law or function are important.
- In-house QC is not independent. It is profit insurance for the supplier. Either do QC yourself or pay a third party to do it for you. But do it no matter what.
- Check incoming materials/components, semi-finished goods, packaging and finished goods.
- Unless you can wait for a complete product re-do with no financial penalties, final QC on the last day before product is to be shipped is a complete waste of time and money.
- In-process QC is not a quality guarantee but it is preventive action to identify small problems before they become critical.
- Give your supplier a copy of all QC reports, and ask the manager to feedback with corrective actions on found defects.
Who must be involved
- Engineers-these are typically the only people that really know what the machines can do and what they can get out of them.
- QC and line managers-they have the most direct impact on the daily quality of your order.
- Managers-include them or everything else is a waste of time. They have to be the ones to sign off and enforce agreements when you are gone.
- Salespeople-they will need face from you when you find out they do not know what they are talking about. You will need to keep them happy since they are the ones that control the price.
- The only thing worse than no product is bad product. Negotiate accordingly and have a backup, just in case.
- There will be problems-count on it.
- Allow the supplier to fix it before you step in-but make sure you are aware of problems and solutions.
- Do not wait too long to stop problems.
- To find the real problem: Listen, ask, take notes and ask again-there is almost always a public story and a real issue.
- Keep detailed notes of every conversation.
- Just because you know who is to blame does not mean that you can now solve the problem.
- Admit when the problems are your fault and hold the factory to the same standard. Be fair and never be punitive.
- The goal is to get finished quality product. Do not go too far in your anger or demands.
- Lose a deposit instead of an entire order.
- The end of a production run can be especially risky.
- With other orders waiting to be filled and your deadline approaching, your supplier may:
- Rush through your final units to finish on time;
- Run out of approved materials and use a substandard substitute;
- Tell you production is complete to get final payment.
- Before your order is completed and packed, perform a pre-shipment inspection to ensure there will not be last-minute, nonconforming products on board.
- Ship safely. You cannot sell damaged or missing products.
- Perform a container loading check to ensure:
- Cartons contain the proper quantity, size, assortment, etc.
- All products are packed safely and loaded carefully.
- The container is properly sealed and recorded.