If you’re placing large enough orders with your overseas manufacturers there are ways in which you can optimize the product QC inspections you’re conducting in order to get better quality results for the same costs or to reduce overall inspection costs without increasing risks. While we’re talking about improving quality, a great way to reduce your need for inspections is to analyze and improve product designs, testing, and production processes in order to lock in good quality before products are manufactured.
How to go about doing this?
Listen to the post here:
Why would a business want to optimize inspections?
Importers who do a lot of QC inspections repeatedly on the same products need to consider how to optimize what they’re doing and improve quality further as resources to devote to this are finite. Over time you can tweak your inspections to be more or less in-depth depending on the supplier and product. You may check fewer samples for reliable suppliers, and more for those where problems are more commonly found. Random sampling inspections are a trade-off – do you apply the same rules to every single inspection regardless of order size, value, and supplier, or do you allocate resources where they’re needed the most? (11:02)
How to reduce costs by adjusting inspection type, severity, and regularity?
If inspection resources stay the same but you focus them on riskier orders, it makes finding and fixing issues more likely and therefore you get a better quality result for the same money. By optimizing which inspections are done and where (focusing on the riskiest areas), it might be possible to reduce your overall budget and inspection staff level without increasing your risks to an unacceptable level – this is good for the bottom line and shouldn’t increase quality issues if you analyze supplier performance carefully before easing off on inspections. (16:22)
2 must-have elements your business needs to put in place for improved quality
- You need a good quality standard in order to understand and interpret inspectors’ findings.
- After 5-10 inspections you can use examples of deviations from specs to document what is acceptable or not, both in written documents and boundary/limit samples.Detailed information illustrating your expectations minimizes the chance of inspectors ‘wasting time’ on activities you don’t need them to, again, lowering costs. (18:26)
What improvement approaches are there we can follow?
There 2 approaches which depend on the relationship with the supplier and your order quantity and value:
- If the number of pieces being made isn’t too high and the value is lower, you’ll rely more on manual inspection work to verify that the quality reaches your requirements.
- If the quantities being made are higher and your quality standard is strict, preventive measures should be your focus. That means more time and resources spent during the NPI process on product development to reduce the likelihood of quality issues and to make them easier to detect. As you go through the prototype builds you will find and fix issues that would cause quality problems in the mass-produced product. Mistake proofing can also be implemented to reduce the risks of quality issues occurring during production. Similar preventive work can be done with sub-suppliers, too, to improve input quality and factory audits can be done to check on how good their process controls and preventive maintenance are, for example. This ‘risk thinking’ replaces the need for product inspections by reducing the risks of poor quality upstream by improving manufacturing and testing and measurement processes which is probably cheaper for everyone in the long term. (23:38)
Having the weight to drive your suppliers to improve…
You need to have the weight to push a supplier to make changes, such as if you’re a key customer of theirs who purchases large quantities. ‘Small’ buyers who are having issues with a supplier may have difficulty in persuading them to make adjustments to processes etc in the name of improving quality, especially in China. If that’s the case, focusing on inspections will remain the best choice, or switching to a better supplier as a worst-case option. (35:35)
Is it possible to delegate inspections to the supplier over time (without raising risks, hopefully)?
Manufacturing suppliers can be requested to inspect their work and provide an inspection report without it increasing your cost. You might provide them with an inspection template and some training about how you want them to do the inspections. It may not be as credible as a third party’s, but it helps hold them accountable because they know that if you find quality issues you will question how they missed them.
If a supplier proves to be reliable, you may adjust your inspection schedule, performing fewer or going to random spot inspections. However, before and after Chinese New Year, a comprehensive inspection schedule should be adopted to cope with the riskier period.
The optimization process could be: inspections as normal > work on preventive measures > if successful reduce inspections > move towards more self-inspection. (37:03)
Have you had any luck optimizing your product inspections? Maybe you worked with suppliers so they could improve their processes and provide better quality products that gave you fewer issues in the first place? Let me know by commenting, and contact me if you have any questions.
P.S. Related content on the topic of inspection and quality optimization…
- Get a quotation from Sofeast for help from our quality engineers and QA team who will assess your situation and find ways to make the optimizations discussed here: QA/QC Inspection Optimization Services
- Read more about why Supplier Self-Inspections Are Getting More Popular in China
- Learn about Switching from Acceptance Sampling to Process Control
- HK is cutting hotel quarantine to 3 days, plus 4 days medical surveillance
- How To Switch To A Newer, Better Chinese Manufacturer? [eBook]
- Why you need a good quality standard
- Explore boundary/limit samples
- Read The New Product Introduction Process Guide for Hardware Startups
- Listen to The NPI Process: Trouble Awaits If You Skip Its Steps!