I wrote a number of articles about how to get maximum benefit from a third-party quality inspection. In 99% of cases, no reader challenges my point. However, through some of their comments, I noticed a concern in their mind:
There are many quality inspection firms out there, but how to make sure they will do a good job?
I just found a good article that deals with this precise question: Controlling Quality Worldwide – Without Leaving Your Office, written by Michael Hetzel (a VP at Pro QC Int’l, another QC firm that I respect).
Hetzel starts by making the case for using an independent inspection firm:
Even the largest companies routinely use third party logistics suppliers, those companies that move your shipments while consolidating multiple companies’ traffic and aggregating rates for best cost. Companies are unlikely to fly an individual to China just to schedule their next container shipment, yet companies frequently send a QA (Quality Assurance) inspector to China just to look at a product run or a process for a few days.
Third party quality service firms do much the same thing as the logistics firms. They have local personnel stationed in source locations, they consolidate the needs of multiple companies and they aggregate overhead for lowest costs. Some of the largest companies use these services instead of opening their own offices or hiring their own local personnel, just as they do with logistics, and even the smallest companies can afford the very same services and performance.
Then he gives a list of 5 tips to choose the right quality inspection firm:
1. Do they cover the right manufacturing areas?
2. Do they have full-time inspectors (good), do they subcontract and closely supervise inspections to another firm that has full-time inspectors (good), or do they act as a franchise and give jobs here and there (dangerous)?
3. Do they offer only basic quality control services (product inspections, ISO9000 factory audits)? Or do they have the capability to offer more value-added services (checklist definition, supplier development…)?
4. Do they issue a clear report, typed and in English?
5. What are their prices?
I agree with all the above. And I would add two criteria:
6. Do they put you in touch with an experienced account manager? Large inspection companies agencies do not take care of their small clients properly. It is important to get proper guidance, for example in cases where serious quality problems are found in the factory and you need to take the right decision.
7. Do they have significant experience working on your product category, if possible for other clients in your country?
Any other tips?