One of my clients places lots of small orders in China. For example, they would place 15 orders in a factory, for shipment at the same time. Each order is a particular style, and all combined they don’t even fill a 20′ container.
How to inspect this type of shipment?
One solution is to bundle several references together in one inspection. The number of samples selected, in proportion of the total shipment quantity, is pretty small (e.g. 315 samples out of 20,000 pcs to ship). But it is not really workable if the inspector has to spend a lot of time checking the conformity of each reference (e.g. if each reference has a different measurements chart).
An alternative solution is to inspect only a few references. For example, we do 3 inspections on 3 references, out of 15. In this case, each style is checked in depth. If all references are made in the same workshop, the best option is often to inspect only the most complex products.
There is a risk with the latter solution. If the supplier knows long in advance which references will be checked, they will reserve the best production lines/workers for them. They might even subcontract them in a better factory. So the trick is to tell them there will be inspections, but they should only know which references will be inspected a few days in advance. All they can do is double check the goods and do easy corrections.
Which solution to choose? I would say it depends on too many factors to make good generalizations. Ask your QC manager or your inspection provider for their opinion.