For China sourcing, it’s crucial to receive what you order, according to specification and on the time agreed upon. In order to get goods from Chinese suppliers, you will need to consider below 3 main areas:
1) Select the right supplier;
2) Manage quality control system;
3) Put in place the right inspection plan.
1. Select the right supplier
I like to summarize the importance of supplier selection in three sentences.
You will NEVER get quality from a supplier that is not properly equipped to make it. Suppliers need to have the right equipment, skills and experience.
You will OCCASIONALLY get quality from a supplier with the right equipment and skills but with poor processes in places.
You will get INCREASING quality from a good supplier with equipment, skills and processes and which is also willing to cooperate with you for continuous improvements.
2. Manage quality control system
When an inspector rejects a delivery because products are below standard, the good news is that it prevented defective goods from being sent to you. But the bad news is that you do not get any goods at all.
It is better to work upstream to further reduce the risk of getting goods below standards instead of just filtering them at the end of the process.
Most buyers purchasing from Western suppliers will “delegate” all quality control activities and planning to the supplier. But in China, it is dangerous to do so. Quality remains the responsibility of the supplier, without doubt. But it is necessary to dig in the details of what actions the supplier has implemented to fulfill this responsibility.
After you select a good supplier, you will want to review the quality control system the supplier is using as a routine. The review is used to make sure that all aspects are covered.
When some areas are not covered, it is common practice to ask the supplier to add a few control items to the plan. In most case it is really not a problem to have additional controls and to receive reports on the results.
It also allows you to explicitly highlight quality requirements and expectations. Many misunderstandings will be avoided during this step.
3. Put in place the right inspection plan
Once the two previous areas are covered, you can think of pre-shipment inspections. The main purpose here is to avoid that the supplier makes sub-standard products, not only to catch poor products before shipment.
When you focus only on catching poor products, it is like subscribing to a full coverage car insurance policy but continuing driving recklessly which leads to lots of accidents.
Beside catching poorly made products, pre-shipment inspections also can have a strong preventive role. When the supplier knows that the products will be strictly inspected by buyer, they will be more serious on production quality.
In addition, discussing the inspection plan with the supplier is the best way to avoid misunderstanding.
The role of the inspection should include:
Review of the supplier routine QC documentation and reports;
Do again a range of tests on a sample of the goods;
Possibly performing additional tests (material, destructive tests or non-destructive tests).
In our experience, there is no shortcut to these three areas. The difference between very good suppliers and others is that the process will be faster and more straightforward. But skipping one step leads to problem one day or another.