A Third Party Inspection Service Can Save the Day

Shipment is one of the final steps of overseas sourcing and likely the most important. Everyone wants to avoid nasty surprises when they receive their goods so it is important to have some way to inspect them before they are shipped. There are different ways to do this. However, in most situations, a third party quality inspection is the best course of action.

The importance of inspection
One should never underestimate the importance of proper inspection before shipment. The chance for error is always present when making any kind of order. With overseas sourcing, the distances as well as shipping times, different legal systems and other factors complicate the process of replacing any defective products. Furthermore, payments are often made in advance and some suppliers may be reluctant to replace goods after they are shipped.

Even though most manufacturers will send replacements without issue, there is still the possibility of extra shipping and other costs, not to mention the lost time and angry customers.

Finally, sometimes improper loading or defective containers can ruin products that were manufactured to specifications.

Ways to pre-inspect goods

The factory agent
Many develop close working relationships with their factory agents and sometimes rely on them for inspection. This can be fraught with dangers though with conflicting interests being a major concern. Agents work for the factory and want to get the goods shipped. They are not likely to make any demands that might delay the shipment or increase costs, even if such steps would be the better long-term course of action.

Even with the best of intentions, the factory agent may not have the time and expertise to properly inspect the shipment. The agents are primarily chosen for the language and other skills so many simply do not have the knowledge needed to insure a shipment is ok.

Personal visits
While it is possible to send someone directly from the company placing the order to check the shipment, this is often not a very practical solution. There are the obvious time and monetary costs of sending someone. Since production and loading takes time, multiple trips may be needed, particularly when there is more than one order or supplier. Finally, specialized knowledge in loading and other aspects of shipping are required for a good inspection in many cases.

Third party quality inspections
There are many companies that specialize in third party quality inspections. A good company will send qualified engineers and others with specialized knowledge of product inspection, loading and shipping. They can witness the actual handling and loading of the cargo, verify container markings, photograph, check documentation and send a report to the purchaser. If there are any issues, they can hold the shipment until they are resolved.Third Party Inspection

Any business using third party quality inspections should ensure it is a reputable company with good personal near the factory. It is also important to make sure the inspection company does not have any relation with the manufacturer that would represent a conflict of interest. Considering the costs of mishaps, purchasers should be wary of cutting corners, but the fees charged by these inspection companies are usually quite reasonable.

It is not advisable to entirely entrust in a third party quality inspection. Make sure the contract with the manufacturer states inspection by a third party does not release them from their responsibility to replace any goods that are found defective upon arrival.

While it is sometimes possible to do business without inspection before shipment, it is not a good idea in most cases. If carried out by a good company, a third party quality inspection is often the best choice.

Measurements and Metrics

When giving specifications for a product, it is best to give everything in metrics. Doing so will make things simpler, easier and reduce the chances of error.

China, like the rest of the world, has adopted the metric system. The US is just one of the few countries that have not put it into full practice yet. While it is possible to use US measurements, there are almost no advantages to doing so but many potential pitfalls.

With the US still the largest economy in the world and the entity asking for the production the customer, Chinese or other overseas factories are often willing to accept specifications and measurements given in US units. However, keep in mind that this may be the only time that the people at the factory have encountered US measurements and thus they do not have any experience with them.

Usually, the factory will simply convert everything to metrics for internal use and then convert back to US measurements when contacting the customer. This creates another layer of complexity though and increases the chances of mistakes. There is also a greater chance of misunderstandings since people overseas looking at US measurements have no inner sense of what inches or other US measurements represent.Measurements and Metrics

With this in mind and the fact that the metric system is fundamentally more rational and easy to use, it is almost certainly best to simply convert everything to metrics when giving specifications. This will save time and reduce complexity.

Also, metrics have made some inroads in the US so most Americans at least have a concept of what they are and how they work. The same cannot be said for US measurements overseas. It often makes the most sense to only use metrics for products. There is no reason to use two systems when one will do.

In short, metrics make the sourcing process easier, reduce the chances of error and should be used whenever possible.

Manufacturing Sourcing and Sampling

Before beginning production, a sample should be made to confirm the quality of the manufacturing, flush out potential problems and ensure the factory understands the exact product specifications.

First and foremost, a sample gives a good indication of the quality of the manufacturer’s work. The sample process allows the purchaser to weed out low-quality manufacturers before investing significant time and money in them. A factory unable to produce a quality sample should be immediately dropped.

A sample also ensures the manufacturer understands the purchaser’s exact specifications. Even when a manufacturer and a purchaser feel they have reached an understanding, language, cultural and other differences may hide the fact the two sides actually have very different ideas. A sample significantly decreases the possibility of miscommunication.

The sampling phase often exposes unexpected problems that otherwise might not be noticed until production has started. Even if the manufacturer is 100% certain of the purchaser’s specifications, making a sample can reveal unforeseen difficulties in the manufacturing process.

In the event there are problems with the quality of the order, a sample sets a clear standard of accountability for the factory.

It is therefore critical to have a sample made as precisely as possible to specifications. Even if problems with the sample and changes needed are minor, it is not advisable to simply request the issues be fixed in production. Without another sample which meets all the purchaser’s specifications, there is a greatly increased chance of error, misunderstanding or other problems.Sourcing and Sampling

However, it is not always possible to make a sample, and a sample is not a guarantee of the quality of work the manufacturer will perform.

Manufacturers sometimes outsource the making of samples to third parties. Therefore, ask where the sample will be made and take other steps to make sure the manufacturer understands the process.

Also, making an exact sample is not always possible due to the nature of some manufacturing processes (e.g. plastics can only be manufactured in large quantities). Alternatives such as carving a model can sometimes be employed.

Finally, since the exact material that will be used in manufacturing cannot always be purchased in small quantities for samples, alternative materials may sometimes need to be used when making a sample. It is therefore important to specify the exact material to be used in production.

While a good sample will not assure a flawless manufacturing sourcing process, it is a good way to avoid potential problems and set the standard for quality. Therefore, if possible, a sample should be made before an order is placed.