I distinguish two types of quality control plans:
- The quality control plan to include in a contract with a Chinese supplier
- The quality control plan that decomposes production in each process step (often called control plan)
1. The quality control plan to include in a contract with a Chinese supplier
Defining a basic quality control plan with every new supplier is one of those things that take 5min but that can save lots of time and money. It can be standardized and sent to every supplier with only minor adaptations. Buyers are advised to talk about it with a manager and get it signed/chopped.
A quality control plan is a standard exhibit in contracts drafted by specialized lawyers, together with the P.O. and the product specifications (see this interesting post on the China Law Blog: China OEM Agreements. Ten Things To Consider.)
So, what to include in a quality control plan?
Of course, it depends on each buyer’s needs. I wrote a short (and fictitious) QC plan below, for inspiration (A is the buyer and B is the supplier).
Timing of inspections
A reserves the right to send one of his employees/representatives in the factory to inspect production at anytime.
Communication of status of production
B should send an email to A 3 days before it receives the main materials/components, and should send a confirmation email on the day they arrive in the factory’s warehouse.
B should send an email to A 3 days before the factory starts working on its order, and should send a confirmation email on the same day it happens.
B should send an email to A 3 days before the first finished products are out of the lines (i.e. fully produced), and should send a confirmation email on the same day it happens.
B should send an email to A 3 days before 100% of the shipment quantity is finished and 80% is fully packed (i.e. ready to ship), and should send a confirmation email on the same day it happens.
B should sent an email to A every time some samples are sent to a laboratory for testing.
Description of quality control activities
A reserves the right to perform the following quality control activities, and any other activity not described below.
Product inspections: random inspections of products, conducted based on the ISO2859-1 standard (single stage, normal severity, level to be determined as we see fit). Acceptable quality level (AQL) is 0% for critical defects, 2.5% for major defects, 4.0% for minor defects.
Lab tests: B will have to send 2 samples to ABC laboratory for XYZ tests, in order to respect the consumer safety law of the importing country. These samples must be extracted from bulk production. A may, or may not, ask the inspector to pick these samples.
What to do in case of failure?
If a product inspection or a laboratory test is failed, B will get in contact with A within 24 hours with a detailed explanation. If shipment is delayed because of unacceptable quality, B will bear all consequences for this delay.
If a product inspection is refused, A has the right to ask for a re-inspection, the cost of which will be re-invoiced to B in full. And so on until the inspection accepted by A.
If some products are found defective and/or not conform to product specifications, B will check the whole quantity and will sort them out of bulk quantity. If re-production is impossible, B should let A know immediately about it.
If the inspection is failed (and refused by A) twice in a row, A reserves the right to ask B to pay for a third-party inspection firm (appointed by A in written), which will do a 100% check on the shipment.
If a lab test is failed, B will have to pay for additional tests from the same laboratory.
What inspections and lab tests do NOT represent
Product inspections and lab tests are only tools used by A to take a decision. Putting pressure on an inspector is useless and is forbidden. Trying to give money/favors to an inspector is forbidden by law and will end all business relationships between A and B.
Even if all inspections and tests are passed, B should wait for A’s agreement for shipment.
Even if all inspections and tests are passed, they do not relieve B from its contractual liabilities or prejudice A’ right for compensation for any apparent and/or hidden defects not detected by the inspection(s) and/or the test(s).
2. The control plan that decomposes production in each process step
Writing this document forces the manufacturer to:
- Identify each process step, and indicate whether it is critical (i.e. likely to cause serious quality issues if improperly handled) or not;
- Define the QA controls: what is checked, how often, using what methods, and how it is recorded.
You can see an example of control plan by clicking on the image below:
It is mostly used by the North American auto industry, but it is VERY useful for any type of production.
For buyers of consumer goods, this format is often too complex. I would advise to spend the most time on defining your requirements concerning the finished products (by following the guidelines in this article).