Quality Inspection is key

Everyone knows that the success of a business is built on the relationships it has with its clients and their continued satisfaction with the products and services they purchase. It's such an obvious truth that it can be forgotten though, and all too often it's forgotten when engaging an outsourced manufacturing partner. The cost savings detailed on their offer are amazing and the excitement over the low price, instead of setting alarm bells ringing, allows firms to squander their hard earned reputation when the goods that are delivered don't meet their customer's usual exacting quality demands.

China may not be new to manufacturing, but often quality is relatively new concept to that workplace. The domestic market doesn't care about anything but price and suppliers that have only worked in that space have no real controls over production, when cheap is everything and consumers don't care if something isn't of the highest standard why would they? The trouble for the unsuspecting outsourcer is that customers in their markets do care, and won't settle for less.

In order to make sure that your clients get the products manufactured to a level they expect you need to introduce quality into the process, the additional costs are rarely substantive and they guarantee that you maintain the reputation you've worked so hard to obtain.

Options for Quality Inspection in China

The Manufacturer: It's a sensible place to start, working with your supplier to ensure that they have the processes, procedures and systems that support the level of production at the right grade. However you can't rely solely on the supplier themselves, corner cutting is often in their interests and once you've taken receipt of the goods it's often hard to rectify issues without significant impacts on timescales and costs.

Do it yourself: Some client's start up a local operation to manage the quality of their output, particularly when they have multiple suppliers or massive order quantities. This approach is a good one, but very expensive. Starting a representative office or "Wholly owned foreign enterprise" (WhOFE) is fraught with problems and is time consuming and costly. The Staff has to be bi-lingual and at least one member will need to be an expatriate on a high salary (usually topped up with a "hardship" allowance), with all the additional expense of relocation, annual flights, medical allowances etc.

If your expatriate staff leaves at any point the costs can exponentially increase as you seek to replace them, and still maintain your operation. Then there are the costs of training and retaining the local knowledge during the handover process.

There's no arguing that you have the highest level of control by locating your own quality team in China, but the costs often become prohibitive.

Use a Chinese owned QC Company: Chinese QC companies are extremely cheap in comparison to doing it yourself. The trouble is there are often further headaches brought about by using local businesses to run your Quality Inspections. Chinese culture doesn't easily extend to having other Chinese point out your mistakes for you, this can cause a "loss of face" and set back your working relationships with your suppliers.

Sadly there's also the issue of corruption to consider, Chinese QC staff are often paid very poorly by the company they work for. This leaves them open to accept gifts, favours or even "hong bao" (money usually given in a red envelope for "luck") to lower their standards when inspecting your goods and the factory owner desperately wants them out the door to move onto the next well paid job.

You also may find yourself facing cultural issues and differences, because the Chinese themselves do not place such an emphasis on perfection in finished products it's possible that when they perform an inspection that the goods will meet their standards, but still not meet your customers standards particularly when they find themselves being cajoled in front of angry factory workers by an unhappy manager or owner who wants the end results on a boat and no longer in his warehouse.

Use a Western run QC Company: While this will almost certainly be more costly than using a solely local business, it offers value in other ways. There's no cultural or linguistic barrier to working with a specialist who speaks your language and understands the needs of your customers.

They often have a vast array of expertise to call on when faced with issues, and experience of resolving those issues in a timely and "face saving" way for the supplier and the client.

You will also only pay for the time they spend on any given project, rather than having to employ full-time staff if your order quantities don't merit them.

Even when you decide on your own presence in China this kind of company can often lend an independent eye to validate your decisions and add additional surety.

In the long run, Quality Control Inspections in China are the key to delivering what your customers demand. The best strategies for QC Inspection usually involve a mixture of some or all of the options above, but guarantee the right result when you receive your goods.

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