Quality inspections tell you how successful your production process is. Inspections give you data about what is and isn’t working in your manufacturing system to ensure your factory is always maintaining key standards. With consistent assessments, you can find the best means for streamlining your supply chain, improving your product, and reducing production-related defects and costs.

Quality inspections are more than just inspecting the product, though. These also include an inspection of the facility, workers, equipment, managers, documentation, storage facilities, social compliance, environmental footprint, and more. These inspections look at every aspect of the manufacturing process to ensure your factory is aligned with your brand’s social missions and quality standards.

Why do you need ongoing quality inspections and how should you implement these for the greatest success? Why And How To Use Quality Inspections For Overseas Sourcing quality checklist

Why Quality Inspections

Quality inspections separate the average or poor factories from the great ones. If you perform frequent inspections, you are consistently ensuring that your manufacturer is upholding the highest standards.

What are the benefits of quality inspections for your business?

1. Quality products

You set certain standards for what your product should look and feel like. Inspections ensure that these standards are met reliably and regularly.

Your business is only as strong as the products you offer your customers. When quality is lacking, you’ll quickly lose customers, get bad reviews, and have a higher return rate—which all damage your brand reputation and standing on Amazon.

Quality brands have quality products. Quality products come from quality inspections.

2. Reduction in defects

Defective products are one of the biggest expenses to a business. A large enough defect could be a significant expense, which can completely ruin a small business. Sending defective products to customers can also result in liability concerns and dissatisfied reviews.

Avoiding defects is crucial to upholding your brand’s reputation.

Ongoing inspections and production checkpoints can catch defects or concerns before they grow into bigger problems. You can find and fix mistakes early, before you produce an entire defective order. Inspections can also analyze where defects are coming from to avoid future concerns.

3. Social compliance

Inspections ensure that your factory is up to social regulations, including the lowest possible carbon footprint. Upholding compliance is crucial to avoid liability and government intervention, which can be so costly that even one instance can put you out of business.

Ensuring social standards also helps to maintain relationships with customers who want to purchase from socially conscious, environmentally friendly companies. Maintaining social standards can also help prevent production delays from worker strikes or factory closures.

Learn more about the importance of social compliance here.

4. Lean supply chains

Your manufacturer is the first or second step in your supply chain. This means it’s the foundation for the rest of your manufacturing process. You want this first part to be as smooth and efficient as possible, so the rest of your supply chain will also be lean and streamlined.

Paying attention to upholding quality at the beginning of your supply chain will beget a strong process for the remainder of the chain.

Why And How To Use Quality Inspections For Overseas Sourcing handshake in warehouse

5. Supplier relationship

You want a strong relationship with your supplier. Relationships can make you a high-value client to the manufacturer, which means they will prioritize your production. A strong supplier relationship can reduce lead times, provide scaling opportunities, give discounts on production and shipping, regulate MOQs, enhance collaboration, and efficiently handle obstacles or defects.

Quality inspections give you consistent, face-to-face interaction with your supplier. Not only does this keep your factory up to standards, it shows that you care about your production system—which will make your manufacturer care in tandem. Moreover, putting in “face time” can keep employees motivated because they appreciate your commitment to maintaining quality working standards.

6. Transparency

Ultimately, quality inspections offer greater transparency of the production process. You have access to and visibility of your supply system in a way that gives you more control of your product and business. This, in turn, helps reduce the risk of sourcing and provide better service to your customers.

Transparency is crucial when working with overseas suppliers in a globalized structure.

 

How To Perform Quality Inspections

1. Set formal standards.

Create a list of quality and factory standards. This specifies exactly what you expect from your manufacturer with regards to products and compliance.

Product standards should include specifications regarding:

  • Design
  • Functionality
  • Materials
  • Material sources
  • Adhesives
  • Sizing
  • Color
  • Assembly
  • Accessories

Factory standards should include:

  • Health and safety precautions
  • Use of protective gear
  • Employee wages and benefits
  • Management
  • Employee feedback (confidential)

Put these standards in your sourcing contract with a penalty clause. This ensures that your factory is required to meet your standards or they risk facing liability and loss. Learn more about using contracts for sourcing agreements here.

2. Build a three-pronged inspection process.

There are three phases of inspections:

  1. Raw materials inspection
  2. In-process inspection with various checkpoints
  3. Final inspections and tests

The raw materials inspection is the first checkpoint before the factory begins production. This ensures that the base materials being sourced are high quality—enough to build quality products.

The in-process inspection utilizes checkpoints at each step of the process. This becomes a consistent means of monitoring. This is where you should focus your attention.

The final inspections will ideally always end in approvals, because you have already inspected the products prior to the finalization. You want to focus on quality throughout the production process, not just at the end. If you wait until the end, you have a higher risk of running into costly defects and delays.

Note: Product samples are a great way to perform a fourth type of inspection: the customer viewpoint inspection. Samples can help you see the product as your customer experiences it.

2. Use inspection tools.

There are a number of tools you can use to measure your quality standards. Some of our favorites include SPC, Six Sigma, and ISO-9000 certification.

Statistical process control (SPC) tracks a variety of production metrics. These can help find problem areas along the production process.

Six Sigma looks at five principles that ensure a low number of defects. Their quality standard is 3.4 errors out of every million units. This is a demanding level of quality, so each process needs to be as error-proof as possible.

The ISO-9000 certification is usually performed by an independent agency. It documents whether certain processes are followed within the organization. Understanding the standards of ISO-9000 can ensure high-level compliance.

You should also create a scaling system, rather than a typical pass/fail system. Some products will “pass” inspection though they are borderline defective. These “edge cases” can end up defective in certain environments, like when they get to your customer’s doorstep.

You want a more in-depth analysis of rating quality to ensure that approved products truly withhold your standards. Work with a sourcing agency like Ask Idea Sourcing to build this quality inspections analysis.

Why And How To Use Quality Inspections For Overseas Sourcing businessmen in factory performing quality inspections

3. Do a root cause analysis.

The goal of quality inspections is not to fix individual products. The goal is to perfect your production processes in a way that reduces quality concerns on a larger scale.

If you find a defect, perform a root cause analysis. Where is the quality concern coming from? Is it caused by the machine, the materials, or a lack of training? What can you do to fix this problem moving forward?

Attacking defects and problems at the root can help implement processes that boost your overall efficiency and quality.

This means you should also have a method of responding to problems.

If there is a defect:

  • Will the entire batch be rejected?
  • Will you repair or throw out the defective products?
  • Will you halt production to avoid further defects?
  • Will you continue testing the products?
  • How big will the test batch be?
  • How will you avoid defects in the future?

If there is a social compliance concern:

  • Who is responsible for reporting?
  • Who is responsible for handling the problem?
  • What methods and steps will you take towards compliance?

4. Create a cadence of official inspections.

You should always perform quality inspections before signing a contract with a new supplier. This ensures legitimacy and compliance of the supplier so you can feel secure moving forward with the relationship.

You should visit the factory at least once a month to continuously uphold quality standards. Some sellers have partners that can visit the factory more frequently to maintain a strong presence with the supplier.

When you work with Ask Idea Sourcing, we send our team in China to our clients’ factories on a regular basis for quality inspections and order monitoring. Learn more about our inspection processes here.

5. Train factory workers to perform inspections.

Although you should be performing quality inspections yourself (or by a partner), you also want your factory workers to be able to spot quality concerns and defects early on. Employees can report problems faster and more efficiently than even weekly inspections.

Talk to your manufacturer to collaborate on employee trainings for quality control processes. Offer to provide this training for the factory. You can then implement certain processes that help your employees better spot defects and quality problems early on. This can also give them tools and resources to best create your products from the get-go.

Training factory workers—the people holding your products every day—ensures quality products and working conditions.

The Bottom Line

Visiting your Chinese manufacturer builds relationships and upholds quality standards to ensure your supply chain and product are always at their peak.

But you don’t have to make weekly trips out to China to do consistent quality inspections.

Ask Idea Sourcing has a team on the ground in China to perform ongoing inspections and updates for you. Learn more about our quality inspection services here.

Contact us now to start building high-quality production processes with your supplier!