If you are a foreign buyer who has started importing products from China, you might find quality control processes a bit hard to understand. It is quite common for our customers to mix product inspection and product testing, since both terms sound so similar. After all, both indicate a process of quality assurance for certain products, right? While that is true, there are big differences between the two.
Why Knowing the Difference Between Product Inspection and Testing Is Key
As a buyer, you need to be very careful about the products you import. You need to know that they have undergone the proper quality control measures and the provider has delivered everything up to specifications. Our company specializes in offering third-party product inspection services and quality control. We know how important it is to be familiar with the different processes and how buyers benefit from each.
Product inspection and product safety are in fact different stages of an overall quality control process. In this article, we will outline the key differences between the two. We will also present the benefits each process offers to you as a buyer.
First, let’s take an in-depth look at what the two terms represent.
What Is Product Inspection?
Product inspection is a process of determining whether the manufactured goods and products are up to your specifications and requirements. This process is conducted at the factory that is manufacturing your products. Its main purpose is to find and fix any issues and quality defects before delivery.
Inspection teams analyze the functionality, appearance, and overall quality of the products, looking for flaws or details that are not up to specifications. There are a variety of methods for product inspection, with most of them including analysis of a random number of items from the overall order.
What Is Product Testing?
Product testing, also known as lab testing, is a controlled process that is conducted by a third-party laboratory and not the manufacturer’s plant. The testing can be done on-site, but it must be a part of a third-party inspection process. However, this does not happen often, since product testing needs to be performed in a different, more controlled environment.
When it comes to importing goods, product testing is not always necessary. It all depends on the type of product and the regulations you need to deal with. Goods that have gone through product testing obtain certificates that prove their quality and performance. Certain industries (food and beverages, chemical substances, etc.) require independent lab testing in order for a product to make it to the market.
The 4 Main Differences Between Product Inspection and Product Testing
Now that we have established what product inspection and product testing are, we can get down to the details. Even though both processes look and sound similar, we can point out four key differences between them.
First of all, the entity that conducts the quality check is different in each process. Second, the exact time when each quality check is performed is different as well. Next, both processes check a different number of units in order to perform the needed tests. Finally, product inspection and product testing offer different benefits to you as a buyer.
In the following paragraphs, we will take an in-depth look at each of those differences. In the end, you will understand why product inspection is not the same as product testing. Also, you will see the benefits of hiring a professional third-party product inspection company to ensure the quality of your imported goods.
1. Who Conducts the Process
As we already mentioned, one of the major differences between product testing and product inspection is the party who conducts the check. When it comes to product testing, it is performed on-site in the manufacturing facility.
Some factories employ full-time inspectors whose sole job is to ensure the quality of all production. In other cases, third-party personnel do the job. It is not unusual for the buyer to send their own inspectors to ensure all goods are up to specifications.
Product testing is almost exclusively conducted by certified third-party laboratories that operate in controlled environments. The manufacturer sends out samples to the lab, which in turn runs independent checks to make sure the products fulfill all requirements set by the buyer and any concerned parties. Only certified centers are authorized to perform product testing and issue certificates.
2. When the Process Is Conducted
Another key difference between the two quality checks can be found in the time when they are performed. The final product inspection, also known as pre-shipment inspection occurs when the manufacturer has completed 80% of your order. It is the bare minimum when it comes to consumer products. As you can guess, doing an inspection this late in a production process can lead to problems.
Since it happens quite late, there is often not enough time to address any issues with the production. The best time to begin product inspection would be when around 15% of the requested units are ready. That would give enough time to the manufacturer to go back and fix anything that is not up to specifications.
When it comes to third-party product testing, best practices dictate it should be performed at two key stages. The first testing should be conducted on samples right before mass production begins. After that, an additional test should be done after production has already started. Running a test right before and during the actual manufacturing process ensures that defects get discovered and fixed before it is too late.
A general rule of thumb when dealing with Chinese manufacturers is to always request a sample before mass production begins. On the one hand, you will make sure the product is what you requested. On the other, you will be able to send it for independent product testing at a certified lab.
3. Number of Units Checked
Product inspection and product testing differ in the number of units undergoing the quality check. With product inspection, checking only a percentage of the overall batch is unlikely to be effective. After all, you want to make sure that all units of your order are up to specifications. It is perfectly reasonable to request an inspection of 100% of the batch in the following cases:
- Your requested products need to be 100% perfect as per industry regulations (for example medical equipment)
- The order size is small enough
- You have had persistent quality issues with the manufacturer in question
As far as product testing is concerned, it can be efficiently performed on a small sample of the overall production. It is not uncommon to just send a few units to the lab. However, we advise you to not let the factory workers choose the samples themselves. There is always the possibility of them choosing units that are not necessarily representative of the entire batch.
The best way to go about this is to have your own inspectors select the samples which will be sent for third-party testing. Some manufacturers might even offer to do their own testing on-site — we do not recommend going with this option. We will go into more detail on the matter a bit later in the article.
4. How Buyers Benefit from Each Process
The final key difference between product inspection and product testing is the benefit it offers to you as a buyer. No matter the type of industry you are in or the nature of the products you are ordering, product inspection is not only beneficial — it is essential for the quality of your order. You need to make sure you are getting your money’s worth and a thorough, efficient inspection is the only way to do that. To be 100% certain of the quality of your order, we recommend hiring an independent product inspection company.
When it comes to product testing, its usefulness depends on the nature of your order and the requirements it has to meet. As we already mentioned, certain industries have tight regulations that can only be met through testing and certification by an independent laboratory. You can also rely on product testing if you have concerns about the safety of the product in question. Finally, testing is necessary if you want to compare the quality of the product you’re getting to what your competition offers.
Is Product Inspection More Important than Testing?
Given the similarities between product inspection and product testing, getting them mixed up is quite normal. However, while both ensure that the products you have ordered are up to specifications, they differ in a variety of factors. While testing is necessary only in specific situations, product inspection is essential to every manufacturing process. This is why you need to be 100% sure that the inspection is effective.
Can You Rely on Product Inspections and Testing by Your Manufacturer?
Based on what you have read so far, it is quite easy to understand how manufacturers performing inspections or testing themselves is a clear conflict of interest. We already mentioned that factory labs do not have the right equipment to test efficiently. On top of that, they are not third parties in any way, which goes against many regulations in various industries.
It is not uncommon for factory labs to actually forge positive test results or even needed certificates for their products. Before hiring a manufacturer, it is vital to do a background check on its record and customer testimonials.
When it comes to product testing, even though manufacturers have the equipment for the job, you as a buyer need to be 100% sure that the production is of the highest quality and according to specifications. Due to the conflict of interest, it is not recommended to rely only on the inspection performed by the manufacturer. To ensure the best possible results, we recommend hiring a professional company that specializes in product inspections in China.
We Provide Superb Product Inspection Services in China
If you are looking for a reliable third-party product inspection company in China, look no further than us. Jonble is a full-service quality control and inspection provider that serves all provinces and cities in China. With many years of experience in the business, we are a reliable partner to businesses all over the world. Our expertise will ensure the quality of your products and secure the success of your business in the long run.
We specialize in conducting product inspections on a wide range of soft and hard-line products, as well as consumer goods. Our services include initial, during-production, and pre-shipment inspections, as well as factory audits and more. We are among the leading product inspection and quality control companies in China, so you can rely on us for all your quality assurance needs.
As a foreign buyer, you need to make sure that your products arrive in the best possible condition, despite the size or nature of the order. Our team of experienced professionals can help you with that. Get in touch with us today and let’s discuss your project and product inspection needs.