Well, the first is to find the right supplier. That’s probably the most important thing you can do, if you need to manufacture products in China. It is necessary. But it is not sufficient.
Aside from supplier selection, there are three steps that I feel are indispensable. Most experienced buyers never skip these steps.
1. Product specification sheet
Before you confirm an order to a Chinese supplier, you need to explain what you want. In other words, define your expectations before you order.
A good specification sheet includes:
How the product needs to be checked, and what is expected
How the product should be labelled and packed
What the tolerances are on measurements
What the potential defects are and how to classify them
Note that you should be aware of your country’s regulatory standards, and include related considerations in the specification sheet.
If you are not sure how to document all this, you can hire acompany to work for you.
2. Pre-production sample review (in the office)
As part of the development before production starts, the supplier will send you samples. You should use the specification sheet as a checklist. It will structure your feedback to the supplier, and it will help you refine the specification sheet.
Once production is under way, you should also request samples from the supplier. This might not be realistic if you buy large items, then, at least detailed pictures. Again, use the specification sheet as a checklist. It is not too late to make changes to the spec sheet and send a new version to the supplier. And, hopefully, the supplier also uses it as a checklist in their internal inspections.
3. Product inspection (in the factory)
If discover the products are not acceptable after delivery, it is way too late to do anything. You probably have paid the order in full at the point, and there is virtually no way of sending the goods back to China for rework.
That’s why serious importers inspect the products during production and/or after production (a few days before shipment). You can do it yourself or hire a QC company.
During production — allows you to catch issues early in the process. This way, you can request corrective actions and go back to check again a few days later. It is much easier to make “adjustments” before all the goods are completed and packed.
After production — allows you to check the quantity, the packing & labelling, and the average quality as you can pull samples at random and check what average quality is like. A passed inspection, at this point, means the supplier can ship out.
If you have prepared a complete specification sheet, the inspector will know how to categorize most of the defects, and will know if the batch should be accepted or rejected (based on the AQL limits you have set in the spec sheet).
If you have done a good job with above steps, there is little room for arguments. In case serious issues are found, the supplier won’t have many excuses and will have chance to solve all the problems before shipment.