In this episode…
Renaud explores what quality standards are here.
There is a combination of physical samples and written resources that outline and clarify your product quality expectations to your manufacturer and quality inspectors.
There are different levels, from most basic to advanced…you’ll see how, together, they keep everyone aligned and reduce quality risks from early in your cooperation with a supplier.
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🎧 Levels of Quality Standards (from Basic to Advanced) 🎧
00:00 – Greetings & Introduction
01:03 – What are quality standards?
Buying products being manufactured for you in Asia is not like purchasing goods from a local store or brand, your expectations need to be documented clearly in a quality standard. This outlines your product quality requirements and tolerances to the manufacturer, sub-suppliers, inspection agencies like Sofeast, and potential customers of your own (in the case of physical samples). In short, how it looks, works, what it’s made from, who makes it, what defects are and aren’t OK, acceptable or unacceptable variations in color, etc, and more.
The standard should not be affected by the price paid, for example. In China, a lower price may lead to the assumption that lower quality is appropriate, but your quality standard should clarify that nothing changes regardless.
07:51 – Does every importer implement a clear standard?
Actually, no. They often leave it up to the manufacturer, assuming that they know best. But this leads to a lot of gray areas where the manufacturer does something that they believe is ‘good enough,’ but the customer rejects it. This is very reactive and wastes a lot of time and resources with the back-and-forth needed to reach the goal.
Many importers also employ an inspection agency and don’t provide a quality standard either, leaving the inspector to try to work out what’s acceptable or not during the product inspection.
These situations could be avoided by proactively providing them with a quality standard from the start so there is no room for guesswork (or naughty behavior).
10:41 – 1. The golden sample
The golden sample is a physical example of what an acceptable product (and packaging) coming from production looks like. This will be approved by you before production can start and should not change. It is helpful for the manufacturer and quality inspectors to refer to check your requirements.
For simple products this alone may be enough, but more complex products will require further levels of quality standards because a golden sample can’t convey your tolerances (how different products are allowed to be from that sample before they’re considered unacceptable).
16:20 – 2. Specifications sheet
You document your expectations into a central specifications sheet, for example, how thick cooking pans need to be, what type of plastic a handle should be made from, the tolerances that are acceptable (indicated on 2D CAD drawings), the main materials to be used, common defects, which aspects are CTQ, CMF data, etc. The sheet will include packaging specs and markings, too. Nothing is left to interpretation or chance and the manufacturer can be held accountable if they don’t deliver as expected. As changes occur or defects are found the specifications sheet is updated and agreed upon by the manufacturer. It should be translated into your supplier’s local language as well as being a part of your manufacturing agreement with the supplier.
27:13 – 3. Defect board
After products have been made, perhaps in the first production run, collect pieces with the most common defects and put them on show (as a ‘defect board’) in the factory so everyone can see and refer to them regularly. Both operators and inspectors can use them as a physical guide to compare with pieces from the current production to ascertain if an issue is a minor defect or more serious. They also show colors faithfully, unlike a photo.
29:23 – 4. Boundary samples
Similar to the defect board, these are physical samples that can be referred to in the factory and by quality inspectors, but in this case, they are not just defective pieces that are unacceptable. Rather, they demonstrate a range of what is and isn’t acceptable and show your tolerances. For example, one sample will be slightly incorrect compared to the golden sample, but it’s still acceptable, perhaps the color is very slightly too dark. Whereas another sample, darker still, is not acceptable. Using these, it’s possible to categorize pieces coming off of production correctly within your boundaries, even when there are slight variations. This is common in automotive, but less so in consumer goods.
34:37 – How to handle and keep physical samples safe?
Colors can fade over time, so keep the sample clean, bagged up, and out of the sun where possible.
As samples are used, or even cut open or disassembled to check things, you will need to get new ones made and approved from ongoing production over time.
Distribute golden samples to the supply chain players who need one, such as plating suppliers, inspection agency, etc.
Provide written guidance on how and when to interpret the samples or just photos, such as counting how many dots within a square inch there are and how many would be classified as a defect.
Key staff of your suppliers, such as a project manager or people in the quality team can be trained up on your quality standard and expectations and can pass this on to the rest of the team.
38:19 – Avoiding different conclusions being drawn during inspections by confirming the measurement system to be used, etc.
Not all parties using the quality standards discussed will draw the same conclusions, especially if they use different measurement systems by accident. Your quality standard also needs to align everyone on how to interpret and measure the samples in order to avoid confusion. A gauge repeatability & reproducibility study (GR&R) of different inspectors using the same samples will flag how individual biases cause variations in results if everyone is not aligned.
41:57 – Wrapping up
- Product specifications template for importers in China [FREE download]
- Documenting Your Company’s Quality Standard into the Details
- Is your China factory’s quality standard too low?
- Golden Sample: Why You Need It Before Mass Production Starts
- Why Is A Pre-Production Sample So Important? [Podcast]
- Quality Control Plan: Defining Expectations Before Production
- Product quality inspections in China/Asia [solutions from Sofeast]
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