This post is about re-inspections following a rejection for quality issues. Not about second inspections that are booked because the first inspection was impossible to carry out (e.g. because a last-minute problem delayed all production, and nothing could be checked)
Sometimes re-inspections show the same results as first inspections, suggesting that no corrections were performed. Why? It can come from both sides:
- I saw factories lying to a trading company, doing no real repairing, and just waiting until the importer has no more time and has to ship out.
- But I also saw cases where the information from the purchaser is not clear enough, and no one in the supply chain knows what to do.
How to avoid such situations? I usually advise my clients to follow a few steps:
Sending guidelines to the supplier
Some importers ask for a re-inspection but do not wonder what it implies in the factory. When a shipment is rejected, they simply tell their supplier to “repair the products and set a re-inspection date”. But this is not enough. If you are a buyer in this situation, what should you do?
First, ask yourself “can they really repair these issues?” If so, ask them to do it. If not, there are basically three options:
- Let the supplier ship the goods as they are,
- Ask the supplier to sort out the bad goods and either re-produce (if there is no minimum order quantity problem on the materials and if timing allows) or short-ship,
- Ask the supplier to sort out the worst goods (according to an exceptional tolerance) and either re-produce or short-ship. (Note that this “exceptional” tolerance might well become the standard for future productions, in the factory’s mind).
Second, list the steps that should be followed by the manufacturer. Below is an example, based on an email I sent to a supplier recently:
The shipment is refused, because of [XYZ problem reported by the inspector]. Please confirm your understanding.
Please tell the factory to follow this procedure:
- Open all the cartons,
- Check 100% of the pieces, sort out the pieces that are out of tolerance,
- Tell us the proportions of good pieces and bad pieces,
- Repair what can be repaired, and reproduce what cannot be repaired (only if you still have enough materials on hand),
- Send us photos of several products, before and after repairing,
- If certain quality issues cannot be repaired, please tell us immediately,
- We need to have shipped out the products by 5 Feb., so the re-inspection has to take place on 1 Feb. at the latest,
- You need to present 100% fully packed when the inspector arrives. If the shipment quantity is smaller than the order quantity, please let us know in advance.
This way, an importer can easily spot some red flags, even from 10,000 miles away. If the proportion of defective products is 20% on the 1st inspection report but only 3% according to the supplier’s sorting job, obviously there is a problem!! In such a situation, the only sensible thing to do is to send somebody in the factory to show them physically what is acceptable and what is not…
If a trading company is involved in the transaction, the importer should not hesitate to ask them for their internal QC reports. In most cases, with local trading companies, inspections (when they do take place) are very “light” and unreliable. But it can get better with pressure from the buyer and the perspective of an independent inspection coming up soon.
A buyer is also advised to systematically ask for a corrective action plan whenever re-work is necessary.
Changes in inspection scope
During a re-inspection, the inspector should not proceed like the first time.
Some changes are obvious:
- Ask for 100% packed instead of just 80% (to avoid the temptation of hiding some defective products),
- Follow at least a normal level (since level I is not adapted to re-inspections following a rejection for quality issues).
But then, should the checkpoints be the same? I don’t think so.
Let’s take an example: all is fine except for the weight of the saucepans (the issue: 50% of samples are found below the 5% tolerance). During the re-inspection the inspector does not need to check colors or shipping marks with the same attention–he should spend at least 60% of his time weighing randomly-selected samples.
All the QC firm needs to do is ask the importer to confirm what points are fine and don’t need to be re-checked. Unfortunately, some inspection providers don’t do it systematically, simply because of a lack of follow-up. What they do is follow the flow: they let the buyer communicate (or not) with the supplier, and they just set a date and send an inspector with the same checklist as the first time. If there is a need for a third inspection because the second one was useless, it’s good for them (more fees to get paid)…
I observed this phenomenon in particular with inspection companies that ask their clients to book inspections online. The client is only asked to click on “re-inspect”, and the checklist sent to the inspector is exactly similar. Without adequate hand-holding from the QC firm, there can be three perverse effects:
- The checklist is similar, so the inspector does not spend much more time on the problems that caused refusal,
- The amount of work is similar, even though only 1 or 2 points need to be checked, so 2 inspectors might be sent where 1 would be enough,
- Often, multiple discrepancies are shown in the first inspection report, but only 1 or 2 are really serious problems. If the buyer does not communicate this clearly in written, the supplier does not even know what to focus on. And the corrections are not as effective as they should.
How to avoid all these headaches in the first place
Sending an inspector just before shipment is a little late. At that point, getting rid of non-conformities causes a lot of trouble in the factory, and some unexpected delays for the buyer. But there is a better way.
Sending an inspector during production is usually enough to catch issues early. In this case, the buyer has time to ask for corrective issues, and avoids last-minute surprises. In-process inspections are a powerful tool that can avoid both quality problems and shipment delays.