When importing from China, it’s very important to try to detect defects at earlier stage as possible. It’s way too late if you find out the defects when the products arrive at your premises. Managing product quality with lowers your risk of product returns, unhappy customers and many other costly and avoidable problems.
How to do it? Following are the common QC inspection types and their purpose. Let’s discover what value inspection offers at various times to determine when it’s best for you.
1. Where quality control inspections offer value at different production stages
Every inspection type aims to detect any product defects or other issues before the factory ships the finished goods. But QC inspection provides different insight into your product when performed at different points in production. The greatest value in finding problems early is being able to address them with your supplier before it becomes difficult or expensive to do so, such as after you or your customers have received the shipment.
Importers commonly perform product inspection at various stages of production or shipping, including:
1) Quality control inspection helps identify product defects.
2) Inspecting semi-finished products and finished products during production.
3) Inspecting finished products (with or without packaging) after production.
4) Monitoring the loading of shipping containers.
2. Incoming quality control (IQC)
Inspecting parts and materials chosen for a product, a process called incoming quality control (IQC), is an important first step in identifying any quality problems. Importers typically leave IQC to their supplier’s own staff to perform, rather than visiting the factory themselves or hiring a third-party QC inspector for this purpose. If you’ve bargained your order price too low when negotiating with suppliers, don’t be surprised if factories attempt to recoup lost margin on your order by using cheaper, substandard materials or parts.
3. First article inspection (FAI)
For some importers, the next prudent step in identifying product defects after IQC is checking some of the first mass-produced units. During first article inspection (FAI), an inspector will check one or a few of the first units of an order off the production line, or a unit from the first production lot.
Reviewing a golden sample is similar to FAI in that it aims to establish a quality standard for production. But the insight gained from FAI will typically vary greatly from that obtained by reviewing a pre-production sample.
4. In-process quality control (IPQC) and during production inspection (DUPRO)
The next logical stage to consider quality control inspection after FAI is when production is well underway. The two types of inspections commonly performed here are in-process quality control (IPQC) and during production inspection (DUPRO). The difference between these is that inspectors generally perform IPQC on semi-finished goods, while they conduct DUPRO on finished goods. DUPRO typically occurs when the factory has manufactured 15-80 percent of the total order quantity.
5. Final inspection
The most common time importers choose to perform quality control inspection is when most of the goods are finished—typically 80 percent or more. Usually called final inspection, this represents your last opportunity to see the quality and condition of your shipment while it’s still in the factory. Many experienced importers and QC professionals consider final inspection to be the bare minimum required level of product oversight.
Like DUPRO and some other earlier inspections, QC staff typically use AQL sampling or an alternative sampling method for final inspection. But final inspection typically offers a look at a more representative sample than inspections conducted earlier because more of the units will be finished.
6. Monitoring container loading
Some importers require inspection while workers load their goods into a container for shipping. During the process of monitoring container loading, inspectors check the packed cartons and loading method and verify workers have properly sealed the shipping container before transit.
Inspectors might open one or two cartons to check a small sample of product and verify packing method. But most factory managers want to load the containers and get them out of the way as quickly as possible. So, it’s not practical to inspect a larger sample as you might with DUPRO or final inspection. The main points of monitoring container loading usually include:
1) Checking the internal condition of the container for moisture, leakage, contamination and other issues;
2) Monitoring loading by the factory workers and recording quantities of cartons loaded;
3) Verifying the sealing of containers and recording details of the seal placed on the containers.