Guest Post: By Kevin Lee: Co-founder of Asianconn International
I am going to start this blog like an America TV commercial just to make it more entertaining rather than depressing. Are you tired of getting crappy products from China? Are you tired of dealing with customers who constantly complain about the quality of your product? Are you tired of losing money? If your answer is “YES” then you are in the right place! We will show you how to avoid all the pitfalls of sourcing from China and help you make millions! Does my offer entice you?
Look, what I am mentioning above is not a lie, in this post, I will outline things that you as a responsible buyer should do in order to offer the best possible product to your clients and that in the process you stress as little as possible and don’t lose money. And by the way, the advice is for free and based on many years of personal experience in quality control.
- Your QC needs when you source from China
Everything starts with what type of person you are and what kind of product do you require. In this post, I am going to focus on buyers that want the best quality product for their customers, and not just something that “that’s good enough”.
The first thing you need to understand is that when producing in China quality control is a must. Most of the factories have in-house QC, but in reality, that is just for show. Please understand that China can produce good quality products, everything just depends on the price that you as a buyer are willing to pay. Apple produces in China, Samsung, HP and these are just electronics giants. OBI, Chanel, Converse all produce in China in the same factories that no named brands and fakes are produced. Am I sure? Yes, because I have personally seen a production line where Converse and Chanel shoes were on the belt and worked with the factory that produced for OBI and Walmart.
Why do you need to do quality control? As I have mentioned above the reasons are pretty simple, you want a good quality product, you want your customers to be safe, you do not want any returns, bad reputation or even recalls. You want to protect yourself from monetary as well as psychological loss.
So let us take a look at the measures that you can take in order to safeguard the best possible product.
If you think quality control should start when your product is about to be shipped out, you are very much mistaken. First things first, the words quality control do not only apply to products, but they can also apply to anything you want. In pre-production case, we will apply them to the factory itself.
You received all the prices, confirmed the type of packaging and shipment method and decided to go with one particular supplier. But do not rush, before you send in the deposit you need to do a factory audit. If you can come to China and see the factory, meet the people and management that would be great. Factory audit includes all that, meaning checking out the premises, seeing how people are behaving, what are workers conditions in the factory. Additionally, it entails a search on the factory/company that will confirm its legitimacy. The easiest thing to do is ask your supplier to send you all of the company’s registration documents. And yes, they will all be in Chinese. If you do not possess the language, you can hire a Chinese freelancer to check them for you. That will not cost much but will go a long way. When documents are confirmed, you know that your supplier is legit and this will give you an extra piece of mind.
Next step is also before you place the mass order. You need to check out all the samples, and this is quality control as well. Do not be afraid to push, do not be afraid to request changes and make sure your final sample is exactly the way you want your mass production to be.
Let us look at shoelaces for example. You need green shoelaces with a very good plastic material at its tips. The last sample that you have seen was almost good, but the plastic at the tips is not the one you wanted. You get back with this particular feedback to your factory. They say: “No problem, no need to make another sample. When we start production, we will have the right plastic.” And you know what, yes sometimes when you work with a supplier for a long time and trust him you will say “Ok, no problem”.
But trust me, most of the buyers are not that lucky, guess what, when production is finished it will be bad quality plastic at the tips of your shoelaces, and they will say they did everything according to the sample. Even though you discussed additional changes with them and had confirmation of that, you will not come out a victor in this situation. So do rigorous quality control on your samples, ask your family and friends also take a look at the product. Sometimes they can see what you as a buyer cannot. Give full feedback to your supplier and make that feedback very clear. Reconfirm that they understand everything and have all the changes applied to the new sample. Yes, it will take more time, but it is worth it. Make sure your final sample is exactly what you want to have in your mass production.
If I could live in the factory when my products are being produced, I probably would. But I suppose total control also has its own drawbacks. Your samples are confirmed, it is time to start producing your product on a larger scale. What usually happens during production is that if a defect starts at some point, that from that moment on a large % of the following products will have that same defect. Example from experience. A customer ordered about 3,000 pcs of a handsaw. We were young and cocky and didn’t do any checks during the production itself. Every handsaw had a print on it with centimetres and some other things. Somewhere at the start of the production, the print went wrong, and we ended up with 90% of the product that we could send to our customer. The workers couldn’t care less about that, the in-house QC said, that the product looks great.
My point is, it is important to check production at the start, middle and the end. That’s a standard process which many professional procurement companies follow. If you can do it yourself because you are in China at the moment, that is perfect. Nobody knows better than you what you want and need in your product. If you are not in China than keep reading and I will get to that.
Sometimes you will have to intervene, completely freeze the production because things are just going terribly wrong. Do not be afraid to do it; it is your money, it is your product. Just be sensible about it. Remember we are all human and we make mistakes. Also, our cultures are different and Chinese have a unique understanding of how things should be done. Have patience and faith. Talk to your factory, explain to them the changes that should be made before re-launching the production line. At the end of the day, it is your product.
Hooray! Your product has been produced, but your torture is not over yet. Before the product is shipped out, you need to check it yet again. If you have such an opportunity check the items before they are being packed. Done? NO! The last inspection to do is right before your shipment is being loaded into a container and shipped to the country where you will sell your products and make millions.
When doing a pre-shipping inspection, never let the workers/managers at the factory select the boxes that you will check. Yes, it is because they can cheat. They hide boxes with goods with defects and give you the ones that are of good quality. You need to randomly select the boxes. Be aware during the inspection itself. Here is a funny story why. I was doing an inspection at one of the shoe factories in Wenzhou. There were three workers on my right side. The first worker takes a shoe box from the master carton, second opens the shoe box, and third takes the shoes out, closes the box and places the shoes on top after which the items are passed to me. So 10 minutes into inspection (and you really are concentrating on products) I see person number 2 throwing a pair of shoes out of the window and kicking the shoebox under the table! Yep, they thought I wouldn’t notice. How wrong were they?
- Optimal strategy when you can’t come to China
If you do not live in China, or can’t come for a visit that often or at all, all the above points still stand. It is just that you will need to find a trusted partner in China. There are agents and companies that focus on everything that was mentioned above, from the factory audit to the pre-loading QC.
But I want to tell you that you can participate in this quality control as well by using the marvels of modern technology. You can check production at any time, just ask your contact at the factory to take her/his phone go to the production facility and do a video call. Chinese 4G network is amazing, and it is everywhere. Samples can be sent to the country where you are based and arrive within days. Feedback on those samples can be given through email, Wechat, QQ, WhatsApp, Skype and any other application that you can think off.
However for the final quality control, before shipment, I would suggest hiring someone to do that for you. It is important, it is not expensive, and it can save you a lot of money.
I hope the information that I provided was useful as well as entertaining. Truth be told the topic of quality control can go on and on. But in this post, you can see the basics that you should be aware of. I welcome your questions and comments. And remember to spread the word and share this article so that many of us can become millionaires.
About the Author:
Kevin Lee is the Co-founder of Asianconn International, a China-based agency assisting worldwide importers & buyers in sourcing from China. Kevin writes about China sourcing trends and advice on www.asianconn.com. He lives full time in Shanghai, China since 2003. For further questions, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org