With most modern consumer goods being made in China, one of the most pressing issues facing retailers today is how they can ensure the quality of their products.
Particularly in Western markets, there’s the everlasting perception that no matter how much you’re willing to pay for quality, Chinese manufacturers will never live up to your expectations. While that’s certainly not the case for every Chinese manufacturer, the truth remains that you get what you pay for.
This is why you must work with a reputable product quality inspections company to ensure that the products you order from your Chinese manufacturing partners fit your specifications.
Why You Need a Product Quality Inspection Company – Key Statistics
In 2017, it’s estimated that returns cost US companies $350 billion in delivery fees alone, and that’s before restocking fees, labor costs and wastage costs are considered. Retail experts estimate that half of online returns have almost no resale value, which is both due to poor quality products that cannot be resold, and the fact that most products return to retailers in less than perfect condition.
A survey of US consumers found that the second-highest reason for products being returned was that the product was “damaged, broken, or no longer functional”. With most retailers having a returns window of 14-30 days, poor quality products that break not long after receipt is likely to cost retailers millions of dollars.
Optoro estimates that over 3.5 billion products are returned in the US each year, with 20% of those returns being due to defective products. Because returning products comes with increasing labor costs at warehouses for retailers, it’s easier for defective products to be sent to landfill, rather than donated or recycled into new products. This not only costs retailers money to ship products to landfills but also contributes to the 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that product return waste generates in landfills.
With all of this in mind, it’s clear that defective, low-quality products are one of the largest drains on your profit margins. While it’s to be expected that large companies can afford to take a hit from returns, this won’t be the case for smaller retailers. Therefore, it’s vital that every retailer that imports products from China work with a reputable product quality inspection company to ensure that their goods are fit for purpose.
What You Need To Look For in a Reputable Product Quality Inspections Company
With all of that being said, not every product quality inspections company is made equally. As more retailers import their products from China or elsewhere overseas, there are more options for hiring third-party product inspectors than ever. However, that also means that some inspectors won’t offer you value for money.
So, let’s take a look at what you need to keep in mind when you’re hiring a third-party product inspection company.
1. Their Staff
All reputable product quality inspection companies should either hire their own inspectors or sub-contract your job to another inspection team under close supervision.
When a company hires full-time inspectors, they’re held accountable by the company and made to follow a set of procedures. You also know that the company will have trained inspectors to work on every service that they offer, whether they’re a generic third-party inspector or specialize in certain industries.
Under close supervision from your chosen product inspection company, sub-contracting out your job can be just as effective. This is done for a variety of reasons, which you’ll need to pay attention to. Common reasons include that this company doesn’t hire its own inspectors, but works with another company on an ad-hoc basis. Also, their own inspectors may be ill or unavailable, or the company has recommended that you work with a specialized inspector that they can’t offer.
Third-party inspection companies that operate as a franchise, or subcontract work out without close supervision or without disclosing to you that they do so, should be avoided at all costs.
2. Their Services
Before you hire a company to conduct quality inspections, you need to make sure that they offer a full spectrum of services.
Most quality inspections companies will only offer basic quality control services, which can be a cheaper option if you’re working with a limited budget. Services like pre-shipment inspections, in-production inspections, and full inspections are considered to be essential product quality inspections, and as such, you should be wary of any company that doesn’t offer all three of these services.
However, you’ll also need to check if they specialize in certain industries or manufacturing areas. While most third-party inspection companies will be able to handle any kind of product inspection service, some may only offer their services in textile, electrical, or vehicle manufacturing. Reputable quality inspections companies will be able to confirm which industries they specialize in, as well as recommend which services you’ll need for your product.
3. Their Prices
“If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” is a phrase that you need to bear in mind when you’re comparing prices between product quality inspections companies.
Most reputable companies charge between $200-300 per man-day for product inspection services, which simply means you’ll be looking to pay this rate per product quality inspector per day. On average, this pays for 8-12 hours of product quality inspections time. However, these rates are often higher if you’re looking for a specialized audit.
If companies are charging less than this, then it’s likely that they’re not employing trained product quality inspectors or they’re paying their staff below the going rate for quality inspections. This means that it’s more likely that they’ll cut corners when they’re inspecting your products.
It’s worth noting that all product quality inspections will be priced differently depending on what you need. Most reputable third-party inspection companies will charge additional fees depending on how far their inspector has to travel, which may involve you needing to pay for additional man-days.
This goes without saying, but as part of your inspection, sampling, photographs, and your product inspection report should be included in the price. If the third-party inspection company you’ve chosen tries to charge you more for a report, larger sampling sizes, or product photographs, then this is a red flag.
4. Their Reports
Every reputable product quality inspection company will provide a clear report of the inspector’s findings in English, including photographs of your products and any noticed defects or issues with the product’s quality.
This report will detail the issues found during the inspection, and many reputable companies also suggest in their reports how to rectify this. This report should also detail the steps the inspector took, how they tested your products, how many products were inspected, and how many of those products had defects or were faulty. In all cases, this should match with the product specifications you’ve given both your manufacturer and the inspector.
In some cases, you may receive one report after the initial inspection, and a second, more thorough report once the inspector has concluded their work. In this final report, the inspector will mark the products as PASS (acceptable within your specifications), FAIL (more defects found than you deemed acceptable), or HOLD (non-quality issues are holding up order fulfillment).
Before you make a final decision as to which third-party inspectors to use, you should ask them how they manage the reporting procedure and what you can expect from them. As above, you should never be asked to pay extra to receive a report or for additional detail within that report. If it’s possible, asking for them to share case studies or examples of previous reports can be a great way to understand if they provide enough information for your needs.
5. Their Results
With so many manufacturing plants in China, factories are keen to understand where they’ve gone wrong so they can rectify it and secure future business. Product quality inspectors are a key part of this, particularly when you can’t be there in person to discuss how to move forwards.
If the product inspector finds issues with your order, you have two main options. If the defects are minor, then you can accept the products anyway. However, if the problems are significant, you can talk to your product inspection company and ask them to talk with your supplier about fixing the issue.
In these cases, it’s best to discuss with your inspections company about arranging a second inspection to ensure that the fixes you’ve asked for are completed. This ensures that defects aren’t found only when the product reaches your customers, which can save a lot of potential expenses.
A reputable quality inspections company will be able to arrange for product support in the case that your supplier hasn’t lived up to your expectations. This can be identifying problems during production and working with the supplier to eliminate them, removing defective products from a shipment, and liaising with suppliers to fix any issues on behalf of the client.
In many cases, good product quality inspections companies will also work with partnered sourcing agents to ensure that you’re getting the best products for your money.
6. Account Management
Every reputable inspection company should be able to offer you a dedicated account manager as your point of contact throughout the inspection process.
Unfortunately, many large product quality inspections companies don’t offer enough support for their smaller clients, and these smaller retailers can end up with their information lost within the system. So, you must make sure that the company you’ve chosen offers an account manager for your services. Before you pay for anything, you should be able to find out how long it will take to get your products inspected, and how long it takes for them to generate a report for you.
Having a dedicated point of contact also means that if any problems are found, you’re notified straight away, which means your product shipment will only undergo minimal delays. It also means that if defects are found during the production process, you’ll be able to get these solved before more defective products are made.
With the growth of manufacturing in China, it’s vital that you find a reputable product quality inspections company to ensure that your supplier is delivering what they promised. This can not only save you money on returns costs further down the line but also ensure that your reputation as a retailer is protected.
Jonble is a leading third-party inspection company in China that ensures that the products you’ve ordered meet your specifications. To learn more, please get in touch with our friendly team of experts, and we’d be happy to talk you through our process.