Export/Import Updates!
August 16, 2021

Quality Control and Inspections in China: A Complete Guide

In 2019, 28.7 percent of the global manufacturing output came from China compared with 16.8 percent from the US’, as per data from Statista. Considering that it stands as the world’s largest manufacturing nation - if you are a manufacturer, trader, or importer - it is highly likely that you source a number of your goods from China.  

For those who do have such dealings with China, it is extremely crucial for you to ensure that your goods meet your required specifications and comply with certain quality standards that you set. Quality control (QC) and inspection enables you to do this. It is also a necessary process to avoid defective goods. In this guide, we will cover  

  • Why quality inspection is essential  
  • Who can help you with quality inspection services in China
  • Types of quality inspections in China  
  • Costs of a quality inspection
  • Things to include in your quality control checklist
  • What you should expect in a quality control report
  • Tips for choosing a third-party QC company in China

Also read our article on the best practices for efficient communication with your Chinese supplier.  

Putting in place quality control and inspection processes will give you confidence that your quality requirements will be fulfilled by your Chinese manufacturer or supplier. Quality control and inspections involves two steps – Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC). QA involves setting in place processes and ensuring that the manufacturer follows them during production to maintain required quality standards, and reduce or eliminate defects. It includes training, changes control, documentation, audits, and investigation, among other steps. QC is done post-production, before the products are shipped. It includes batch inspection, sampling of products, identifying defects, validation, and lab testing. This process ensures that the completed products have met the defined standards.  

Why quality inspection is essential

  • Ensures production of quality goods – A combination of QA and QC will positively impact quality and adherence to your required specifications.
  • Minimises variations in production – During manufacturing, variations can occur in the items. Once you understand underlying reasons behind this, you can add steps and checks to your mandated QA processes to reduce these variations.
  • Reduces your losses – By doing QC checks, you reduce the number of defective pieces you receive, which may not be sellable. The more defective pieces you have, the higher losses you make.  
  • Increases or maintains your planned sales margins – QC checks also cuts down the chance of you receiving low quality pieces that you would have to sell at a discounted price.  
  • Leads to consumer retention – You would have determined your target customer group based on the quality you are expecting to supply. If you supply goods of lower quality, even if at a lower price, you risk the chance of losing that customer base.  
  • Increased consumer satisfaction – It allows you to assure and showcase to your customers that you are upholding the quality they expect from the products you are supplying them. Any certifications and accreditations you can offer them will increase their satisfaction and the likelihood that they will continue business with you long term. There is a direct correlation between assuring them quality and, them staying loyal to you.
Quality control and inspection processes will give you confidence that your quality requirements will be fulfilled by your Chinese supplier
Putting in place quality control and inspection processes will give you confidence that your quality requirements will be fulfilled by your Chinese supplier.

Who can help you with Quality Inspection services in China?

Manufacturers

You can ask your manufacturer to do an in-house review and send you a report. While this approach is less expensive, manufacturers are more concerned with protecting their business interests than assuring the quality of their products. The in-house QC team may have experience and dedication when it comes to quality control, but they may not be in your favour. They aim to build and deliver the goods as quickly as possible, and that does not go hand-in-hand with quality control.  

Trading or sourcing partner

Another viable option is to hire a trading or sourcing partner. Such entities will not just help you source your products from appropriate manufacturers in China, but also assist you in quality inspections. They work on commissions and would want to retain you as a customer so you continue to give them business. Thus, you can count on them to give an unbiased evaluation of product quality. Additionally, they have business relationships with many manufacturers due to their trade, and can leverage that to your benefit.  

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QC or Third party inspection services in China

Another option is to find a reputable third-party inspection service in China to perform a quality control inspection per your standards. As they don’t work for the supplier, they have a neutral and unbiased outlook towards them. But this doesn’t imply that you leave the process entirely to them to handle. It is advisable that you work with them to specify your requirements and check that the process they follow is to your satisfaction.  

Self-inspection

You can always get your own team to visit for quality inspections However, it comes at a high cost. Training, accommodation, and travel expenses will add up to your import costs.

Types of quality inspections

Pre-Production Inspection (PPI)

All the components and raw materials are inspected and validated by the quality inspector or third party inspection companies.  

During Production Check (DUPRO)

Production inspection process is typically done after 50 percent of the goods are manufactured. First, quality inspectors visit the factory to identify problems in the product, if any. Then, units are randomly selected and compared against product specifications set by the customer or relevant inspection bodies.  

Final Random Inspection (FRI)/ Pre-shipment Inspection (PSI)

FRI, also known as PSI is done when the production is complete and at least 80 percent of the goods are packed and ready to be shipped. Items are checked at random. It involves an on-site product inspection to ensure the products match your specifications, and are compliant with all country, industry, and other specified requirements. It also includes ensuring there are no major or minor defects in the products.

Pre-shipment inspection is done when production is complete and at least 80 percent of the goods are packed and ready to be shipped
Pre-shipment inspection is done when production is complete and at least 80 percent of the goods are packed and ready to be shipped.

Cost of a quality inspection

If you hire a third-party QC inspection company in China, it will cost you between $199 and $299 per working day. This rate generally applies when the warehouse or factory is within 60 km from the inspection company’s office. If it is further away, the fee increases.  

Factors that play an important role in determining inspection pricing in China are:  

  • Level of expertise – Experience and expertise in quality inspection is the main reason for the price difference between QC agencies.
  • Distance to the inspection site Most inspection agencies are located in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. If the location for inspection is in a small town, the inspector will need to travel to the factory. The increase in time taken and the additional travel costs will add to the total cost for inspection.
  • Checklist – Some agencies only provide basic checks, while others are more comprehensive with site audits and certifications. Depending on the checks being done, the cost will vary.  

PPI, FRI/PSI, and DUPRO are done at an average of $199 per day, and a factory audit will cost between $300 and $400 per man day.

Things to include in your QC checklist

Prior to finalizing your order or before the start of production, you must convey your product requirements to the supplier in a QC checklist. It should outline the product requirements and quality standards the supplier needs to meet along with objective criteria for inspection. Below are parameters you must include in your QC checklist -  

  • Product requirements – Material, height, weight, among other aspects.  
  • Packaging & labeling – Accurate packaging and labelling are essential compliance requirements in many industries. Some products need to be confirmed and labelled by certified labs.  
  • Visual inspection or on-site product tests and checks – This should be a part of your checklist to intimate your supplier that this will happen.  
  • Defect classification – There is a defect classification of three types during QC inspections - minor, major, and critical. Always provide an approved sample in the form of product, images or videos, to your quality control inspector.
  • Functional testing – If you are importing a device, outline the guidelines for testing the product's use or function.  
  • Special tests – For some types of products, such as pharmaceuticals or chemicals, particular specimens are sent to the lab to determine their quality based on the importers' guidelines.  
  • Carton drop tests – This is done to check the durability and strength of the packaging, before the goods are transported.  

What you should expect in a quality control report

  • Presented product quantity – The quantity of the finished products the supplier provides the inspector. The inspector will count the products to ensure that this is as per your order.
  • Visual defects – These are imperfections visible on the product or its packaging. The maximum number of acceptable defects is determined by the defect tolerance level on your QC checklist. If it doesn’t meet the permissible limit, then the inspection will signal a fail.
  • Conformity to requirements – These results validate that the goods meet the quality control requirements. Inspection on conformity requirements is done based on what your QC checklist constitutes. If the inspector discovers anything that isn't in accordance, they will note it in the final inspection report.
  • On-site tests & checks – This may be required to determine conformity to requirements depending on your product. The inspector issues a report covering all the areas after their quality control inspection.

Tips for choosing a third-party QC company in China

  • Hire a company that has relevant experience and understanding of your product category. This will allow them to make the best quality control judgments.
  • Ask for previous reports they have given customers, preferably within a similar product category to evaluated their capability to provide professional and clear reports
  • Be sure they understanding your quality requirements.
  • Finally, hire a company that offers transparent pricing for their quality control inspection services. It allows you to know your total costs to import, and plan your budget accordingly.

FAQS

What type of quality checks can be carried out by the quality inspector?

The quality inspector can verify product quantity, scan for visual defects, ensure conformity to requirements (product weight, dimensions, materials, colour, design, etc.), and perform a range of other on-site tests and checks.

When is the right time to book a quality inspection?

If your quality checklist has previously been approved, then most companies accept bookings made 72 hours prior.

How do I know if the inspector is qualified to perform QC and check my products?

Any quality inspector must have a solid track record, prior experience, communication skills and expertise in QC and inspections. They should also understand the approved quality checklist, measurable techniques to identify defects, and technical knowledge. You will know if the inspector is qualified by checking their qualifications, certification, and experience.

Is it useful to send pre-production samples to the agent?

Yes. Sending a pre-production sample will give the agent a better understanding of the required quality standards and allow more accurate assessment of the goods.

Will the inspected samples in a quality inspection be destroyed?

The samples picked for testing usually generally get destroyed, unless necessary as part of the inspection process. It depends on the nature of the test undertaken. For example – tests like fire resistance, strength and water resistance, etc. may damage the sample if it is not as per requirements. 

How long does it take to get an inspection report?

In China, inspection reports are sent out within 24 hours of completion. Some companies will give you the report on the same day for an extra fee.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Customer success manager
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