Published on February 24, 2014
8 TIPS for Quality Control in Asia
Performing over 65,000 product inspections, factory audits and lab tests each year, AsiaInspection is established as a market leader providing quality control services in Asia. Clients from more than 100 countries book and manage their quality control completely online at www.AsiaInspection.com. These 8 tips will help to prevent you from working with fraudulent suppliers and from paying for non-conforming product when importing from Asia. Tip #1: Start Off with a Factory Audit Quality Control is crucial even before you sign a supplier contract. You don’t want to make payment to a factory only to find its facilities can’t meet your production needs—or that it doesn’t even exist. With so many suppliers available online, on websites such as Alibaba.com, it’s hard to tell which ones are legitimate, which ones are overpromising, and which ones are potential reliable partners. It’s therefore critical to conduct your due diligence. Sending a third-party QC representative to assess factory conditions before you commit, greatly reduces this risk of being scammed. A factory audit is an in-depth pre-production assessment, not only of your factory’s ability to satisfy ISO 9001 standards for quality management systems, but also of factory and personnel records, conditions of manufacturing equipment and facilities. This ensures you know: (1) your factory exists (2) it has a record of completing orders and (3) has the proper equipment and processes in place to complete your production to your specifications. One of the most frequent issues a factory audit will spot are related to sub-contracting. Quite often factories will take your order, but actually sub-contract it to another factory, and never tell you. You’re in danger if your order takes too much of the factory’s capacity, since they may not hesitate to stop your production should a more profitable client come. A factory audit costs $599 USD with AsiaInspection; a wise investment before releasing a down payment to potential suppliers. Tip #2: Be Transparent with Your Supplier When Setting Up QC Many buyers are often hesitant to send a qualified inspector to the factory to check their suppliers out of fear of insulting them. To mitigate this, state from the beginning, both verbally and in writing in your purchase order (PO) to the supplier, that on-site inspections will be performed throughout production. This way you are up front and honest with your supplier, while sending the message you mean business. As for the exact time of the inspector or auditors visit, it is recommended to schedule the inspection with your supplier. Surprise inspections do not build trust and tend to be counter-productive. In addition, surprise visits are difficult to make happen; factory doors aren’t just opened for un-announced visitors, particularly someone looking for mishaps.
Tip #3: Stick to a Quality Control Schedule Regardless of the demands of your production schedule, regular visits to the factory by a QC professional are critical. Schedule an inspection at the beginning of production. If you only schedule an inspection prior to shipment it may mean flaws are caught too late. It will also send the message to your supplier, right from the start, that you’re serious. A good rule to follow, after your factory audit and when production is less than 20% complete, schedule an initial production check to ensure the production was launched properly (materials used for production, machines calibration, etc). Following this, when your production is at least 20% complete, schedule a during production check to reinforce your specifications and catch any potential problems before you’re too far into production. In the last stage of production, when all products are finished and at least 80% packed, perform a pre-shipment inspection to have a random control over the whole production lot. Finally, a container loading check ensures the right quantity is loaded for shipping and the goods will travel safely to your final destination. For challenging or sensitive orders, have an inspector monitor your production and report daily to identify and fix problems in real-time. Tip #4: Know Your AQL (Acceptable Quality Limit) It’s your responsibility to define, “how many defects are too many?” and to what accuracy this is ensured. This is done by selecting the AQL (Acceptable Quality Level) and sampling size that is right for you and fits to your production specifications and volume. International sampling standards (ISO 2859, ANSI/ASQC Z1.4, BS 6001, DIN 40080) define how the inspector should perform the sampling from your production. The total quantity determines how many pieces should be selected and how many defects are allowed for an inspection to pass. Differences are made between minor (aesthetical), major (functional) and critical (safety) defects. Understanding how sampling and the AQL works is critical for you to be able to properly set the right level of tolerance that you want for your inspections. The default sampling level would be ‘Level II’ and AQL would be 0.065 for critical defects, 2.5 for major and 4.0 for minor defects. As an example, for a hypothetical inspection of a production with 4,000 units, with an AQL of II, the first table indicates a general inspection level of “L”. Referring to the second table row L, for a sample size of 200 with an AQL of 2.5, no more than 10 units may fail for a passed inspection report.
SAMPLE SIZE CODE LETTERS General Inspection Levels Special Inspection Levels Lot Size I II III S1 S2 S3 S4 2 to 8 9 to 15 16 to 25 A A B A B C B C D A A A A A A A A B A A B 26 to 50 51 to 90 91 to 150 C C D D E F E F G A B B B B B B C C C C D 151 to 280 281 to 500 501 to 1200 E F G G H J H J K B B C C C C D D E E E F 1201 to 3200 3201 to 10000 10001 to 35000 H J K K L M L M N C C C D D D E F F G G H 35001 to 150000 150001 to 500000 500001 and over L M N N P Q P Q R D D D E E E G G H J J K ANSI/ASQ Standard Z1.4 - 2008 SINGLE SAMPLING PLANS FOR NORMAL INSPECTION Sample Sample Acceptable Quality Levels (Normal Inspection) Size Size 0.065 0.10 0.15 0.25 0.40 0.65 1.0 1.5 2.5 4.0 Code Letter Ac Re Ac Re Ac Re Ac Re Ac Re Ac Re Ac Re Ac Re Ac Re Ac Re A 2 0 1 B 3 0 1 C 5 0 1 D 8 0 1 1 2 E 13 0 1 1 2 2 3 F 20 0 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 G 32 0 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 5 6 H 50 0 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 J 80 0 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 K 125 0 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 14 15 L 200 1 2 2 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 14 15 21 22 M 315 1 2 2 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 14 15 21 22 N 500 1 2 2 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 14 15 21 22 P 800 Q 1250 2 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 14 15 21 22 R 2000 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 14 15 21 22 6.5 Ac Re 0 1 1 2 3 5 7 10 14 21 2 3 4 6 8 11 15 22 Use first sampling plan above arrow, if sample size equals or exceeds lot or batch size, do 100 percent inspection. Use first sampling plan below arrow AC : Acceptance number Re : Rejection number
Tip #5: Crystal Clear Design Specifications in Writing Never leave any design decisions up to the factory or allow room for interpretation. Be as specific as possible and never expect the factory to be able to know what you were thinking. A new client came to AsiaInspection after having purchased an order of plastic jugs intended to hold fluid, but had not specified the wall thickness. The factory, in order to save cost, made the walls so thin that they were unable to hold fluid without collapsing. If the client had only specified the wall thickness, assuming the factory followed the specifications, this would not have been an issue. Make sure to list every detail of your product out, for example: provide the bar code as an image so that it can be copied by the factory, provide text as a text format that can be copy and pasted not allowing for typos, state exact color codes (Pantone being a widely recognized reference standard) and product measurements and acceptable measurement deviations (+/-5% is common practice – but it depends on your product type). By delivering detailed design specifications to the factory, and in the hands of a professional QC specialist, you help to ensure that your design specifications will be clearly understood, followed and finally checked. Tip #6: Use Reference Samples Opened for Opened for Inspection Inspection Opened for Opened for Inspection Inspection sample reference Don’t waste your time with a generic reference sample from a potential supplier. Before you start your actual production run, request at least three reference samples of your actual product. Once you confirm the reference samples, sign all three so it’s clear it is one of the approved reference samples. Keep one for yourself, send one to the factory to be used by them as an exact guide during manufacturing and the last one should be sealed and also sent to the factory that will later be opened by your inspector during your quality inspection to compare to the final manufactured goods. Giving your inspector an approved sample ensures a tangible reference when assessing the quality and accuracy of your entire production. This is much easier and allows for common sense to be applied versus just reading specifications on paper. As well, it’s encouraged that during the inspection you ask the inspector to collect randomly a few production samples and send them to you for an additional look at the production’s actual quality, on top of the inspection report.
Tip #7: Stay Safe with Lab Testing In almost every developed country, including the United States, Europe and Australia, the importer is considered the manufacturer and bears all criminal and civil liability for the product they sell. Simply put, once you import a product, it’s the same as if you made it yourself. Globally, thousands of products are recalled every year putting consumers at risk for their safety, and you at risk of losing your investment and tarnishing your brand and image. Laboratory testing, while it may sound complicated and expensive, is much easier and cheaper than you may think. For example, AsiaInspection clients from their free online account can select their product and destination country and all required and recommended tests will be displayed requiring no technical expertise. Pricing starts at just $88 USD. When performing a lab test, do not let the factory decide which sample to test, or you may end up with perfect testing reports that are not consistent with the actual production lot. Have your inspector select random samples from your actual production lot during an inspection, and have them sent to the lab. This way you know the actual product you will be importing does not contain dangerous chemicals and will meet all import regulations. Tip #8: Secure Payment to a Supplier with QC When agreeing to payment terms in your contract, consider this question, “What if I received my product after having already paid for it and it couldn’t be sold”. This powerless situation is easily avoidable by scheduling payment to coincide with approval of your final inspection. This is done by issuing a letter of credit to the factory, with payment tied to an inspection certificate. A letter of credit is a promise to pay. Banks issue letters of credit as a way to ensure sellers that they will get paid as long as they do what they’ve agreed to do. For you, this means your bank will only release payment after an approved inspection by a third-party quality control provider. To get a letter of credit, ask your bank. Your bank will issue the letter of credit stating they (the bank) promise to pay the supplier once all agreed documents (including the inspection certificate) have been issued. Your bank will not release those funds before. This protects both you and the suppler; the supplier is guaranteed payment and you conforming quality product.
About AsiaInspection AsiaInspection is a leading quality control services provider for importers from Asia and Africa performing inspections, audits and lab tests annually for for brands, retailers and importers from more than 100 countries. With over 400 inspectors and auditors classified by product range and an international management team, you can be sure AsiaInspection is Your Eyes in the Factory!™ Our Services • • • • • www.AsiaInspection.com firstname.lastname@example.org Factory Audits Social Audits Environmental Audits Products Inspections Laboratory Testing © AsiaInspection, 2014.
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