As I wrote before, some suppliers try to discredit third-party inspectors, in an attempt to persuade their customer to stop doing QC. That’s why serious inspection firms have to maintain a certain standard of professionalism.
One remark I heard a few times is “these inspectors don’t know anything about our products, how can you trust them and not trust our technicians?” I certainly don’t like to see a supplier writing this to a client of mine, but it is actually easy to respond.
The inspectors don’t have production experience, but it’s not an issue
The response is easy: the purpose of inspections is to stop serious quality issues, and to point to discrepancies. Not to hold the factory’s hand.
Professional inspectors usually only work on one type of products (for consumer goods the categories are: soft goods, hard goods, electronics & electrical products, and automotive products). In their category, they are supposed to know how to find defects that the final buyer will not tolerate, and they should see if the product/labeling/packing specifications are respected. These are the only things that matter.
Some firms are highly specialized in one product category, and they have technicians who can actually help the factory during the production launch. But third-party inspection companies usually don’t do this. They wait until enough products are finished, and they examine them. There are three main reasons for this:
- It would be unmanageable to have inspectors with production experience in each process of the thousands of consumer products: molded plastic, extruded plastic, and so on and so forth.
- It is too easy for the supplier to say “but the inspector told us to do this, that’s why we have these quality issues now”. How can the inspector precisely describe the advice given on the fly, and maintain a sense of accountability? Better work on the basis of tangibles such as finished products and their specs.
- It is quite difficult to find Chinese people with years of production experience AND an English level sufficient for understanding the client’s requirements and for writing a report. Generally, the ones who learn English do so at college, and the last thing they want to do is work on a factory floor.
By the way, I already wrote about these issues in Why inspection services are standardized.
The issue is not trust, but a double check by an external eye
The factory’s workers and inspectors are all day immerged in their own production issues, and they are too close to the action to see 100% of the problems. It is human nature. So it is better to send an inspector to check the products and report his findings. It is all about risk reduction.
If a supplier has a track record of 100% reliability, of course there is no need for third-party inspections. But I never saw anything remotely close to 100% reliability in the apparel industry, for example.
It is also a little about trust, of course. It is not in the interest of the supplier (be it the manufacturer or an intermediary) to reveal serious issues to its buyer… Or rather, it is often in its long-term interest but certainly not in its short-term interest.