How to manage a QC partner

 In my past videos, blogs and articles I am constantly encouraging readers to do a quality control inspection before the goods ship out from China. I am happy to say that more and more buyers are taking that advice and having fewer quality problems and less friction with their suppliers over quality and payments. In the previous blog post, I wrote about how to find 3rd party QC (3PQC) service provider. Today I’d like to talk about how to manage this kind of partnership. My friend Renaud at the blog wrote a good piece on this subject and with his permission I would like to list some of his ideas and add a few comments below. 

Some importers often over-estimate the amount of time it will take them to manage a third-party quality control (QC) firm. So I made a list of the main “touch points” and of the required steps.
Writing clear specifications and/or sending a reference sample
If you appoint an independent quality inspector and you want to make the most of his service, you need to give him the checkpoints. He will not guess what you want to see on your product & packing.
That’s a tradeoff between hiring your own QC staff and working with a service provider: your own staff will know exactly what is important, whereas an independent QC guy will need your input, preferably in a written and structured way.

So true. There is always a balance between setting up your own team on the ground vs. outsourcing. In my experience, most buyers purchasing under 15 million USD per year, find it cost effective to outsource. Some small buyers who want their own footprint on the ground in China hire individuals based in China rather than setting up a proper office. This can be real dangerous. Read Finding a good employee  to learn why.
“Your suppliers also need these specifications in a written and structured way. If you weren’t doing it until now, it is a good idea to start right away,” Renaud explains.

Insisting on inspections, and tying payments to quality confirmations
If you pay for a QC inspection, you’d better use its findings to take a decision that is respected by your supplier, right? Then you need to do two things:
#1. Make sure your suppliers know that the inspection is not optional, that it will take 1-2 full days in their production schedule, and that they can’t ship out until they have your green light.
#2. Paying only after quality is confirmed.

Read more about linking payments to quality performance at the following blog posts:

Best Practices : paying Chinese suppliers

Payment terms in China

Payment tied to Performance = Protected Buyer

A final tip about who pays for the inspection.
Some suppliers will object to having a 3rd party come to their factory for an inspection. One way to get around this objection is to explain to the supplier that if the product passes the inspection based on a mutually agreed standard, then the buyer will pay the costs of the 3rd party inspector. If the inspection fails, the supplier should pay a pre-agreed multiple (3X, 5X) the costs of the inspector. Don’t forget that if an inspection fails, then the inspector needs to come back again. So these costs add up quick if the supplier is sloppy. Make sure you aren’t the one having to cover these extra expenses.

Wishing you successful China sourcing!

Mike Bellamy

About the blogger

Mike Bellamy is an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center ( He is also the author of, “The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing” ( and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions (

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