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.
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.
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.