When importers ask me how they should organize the testing of their products, I usually advise them to take the process in their own hands and to follow these steps:
- Send an inspector to pick up some real production samples in a random manner, for on-site testing and/or for sending to a laboratory. It is important to use a testing lab of YOUR choice, that YOU will pay, and that sends all the results directly to YOU. Depending on the risks to avoid, this step can take place once the bulk materials/components are in the factory and/or when some totally finished products are off the lines.
- If the tests are failed, communicate with the lab to see if the goods are really beyond what can be tolerated, and to confirm that failures concern “compulsory” tests (rather than “recommended” tests).
- You are entitled to ask the supplier to pay for re-picking random samples and for re-testing (same procedure as the first testing round). This procedure should be defined in advance, in a quality control plan.
However, in some cases the buyer doesn’t want to manage the testing process himself, for three reasons:
- For certain types of products, it is much more difficult for a supplier to play games and circumvent the testing process;
- There is a basic level of trust in many buyer-supplier relationships;
- Some buyers have enough leverage to force their suppliers to pay for lab tests.
What is the risk to avoid?
Sometimes suppliers send samples, get a failed result, and then ask the lab to change the standard slightly (or to remove one or two checkpoints) just to get a passed report… and they send a passed but incomplete report to the importer!
How to avoid this risk? By nominating one testing lab and setting up a testing scheme that follows these guidelines:
- Certain fields in the booking form given to suppliers are protected, so a supplier rep can’t untick any option (such as what tests will be done, who will receive results…);
- Suppliers send samples and pay for tests;
- The buyer receives all results, in their entirety, whether they are passed or failed;
- If a test is failed, the laboratory should indicate how many samples are necessary for re-testing;
- The buyer does not give the green light for shipment until tests are all passed.
Maybe some readers have other tips related to testing and product safety?