Many buyers are fed up with quality issues that went unnoticed and ended up being shipped out, and they know something needs to change. One obvious way to contain issues is to check quality before shipment.
At same time, they are afraid of shocking the manufacturer with a mark of distrust. They are afraid everything goes downhill from there.
Are you in this situation? Then this article is for you.
I collected the tips I usually offer to the new clients of our quality assurance agency.
1. Select a quality assurance agency that really understands your specifications and your standard — they might help you define some product specifications if you need help on that front.
If you can’t exchange emails (or talk) about your requirements with someone who offers thoughtful feedback, you are working with a provider of ‘run-of-the-mill QC jobs’ and your supplier will feel this new party who just came in the dance is pulling them away from you. Not your objective…
2. Make sure the people working in the factory know what you can’t accept — what types of imperfections are acceptable in small quantity, what issues have to be kept at a very small number, and what is really disastrous. (This is part of a good specification sheet.)
If you don’t do that, you need to reassure your supplier— “we will review the report together, and don’t hesitate to send us some of the samples immediately if so-called major or critical issues are reported”
3. Set the right inspection plan – it might involve a check of the main components and/or the first finished products and/or a final random inspection. The objective is to cover the main risks identified.
4. Don’t say “we will send a third party QC company”, as this might actually freak some suppliers out. Instead, say “we are working with an inspection agent to confirm the quality of the goods before shipment”.
5. Agree on who is to pay what. There are 2 angles here.
If your orders are above 10,000 USD, you can probably have the supplier agree in writing that they will compensate you for re-inspections, in case serious quality issues are detected.
I suggest this simple wording:
[Buyer] reserves the right to perform the following quality control activities, and any other activity not described below.
Product inspections: random inspections of products, conducted based on the ISO2859-1 standard (single stage, normal severity, level to be determined as we see fit). Acceptance quality limit (AQL) is 0% for critical defects, 2.5% for major defects, 4.0% for minor defects.
If a product inspection is refused, [Buyer] has the right to ask for a re-inspection, the cost of which will be re-invoiced to [supplier] in full. And so on until the inspection accepted by [Buyer].
If some products are found defective and/or not conform to product specifications, [supplier] will check the whole quantity and will sort them out of bulk quantity. If re-production is impossible, [supplier] should let [Buyer] know immediately about it.
On the other hand, if your orders are very low, the opposite might happen—you might have to pay 20-50 USD to the supplier to cover their extra expenses (having someone help unpack and repack the goods, coordinate the date with the QA agent, etc.) And it would be quite unlikely that they accept to bear the cost of re-inspections…
6. Give feedback about the QC report—an easy way is to print the report, handwrite some comments, and scan & email it to the supplier. Indicate what needs sorting out and reworking, and what is OK.
If the inspector was too lax or too strict, make sure their standard is adjusted properly going forward. Very often, we see quality inspections act as a facilitator of communication, when done well. Feedback is given to all in the factory, and immediately.
7. Be firm when they push back. Tell them it is your company policy, or it is required by a big customer, or an owner of the company got upset and enacted it across the board… Anything that will signal it’s not up for negotiations.
Have I forgotten something? Any other tips?