Product Inspection – Protect Yourself Against Poor Quality

Product Inspection – Protect Yourself Against Poor Quality

One of our readers just recently asked: ‘’how do I avoid buying poor quality products from China.” It was this question that made me realize that China really is two sided. Some people associate ‘made in China’ with poor quality phoney products, while others see it as the Silicon Valley of hardware. Yet, both sides are correct. The country has over one million factories ranging from small sheds to state-of-the-art manufacturing plants. And this, of course, results in a huge difference in product quality.

Now you might wonder why people would buy poor quality products from small sheds, while state-of-the-art factories are in abundance? Well, because most foreigners have great difficulty to [separate the good suppliers from the bad ones].

But does this mean there is always a risk of buying poor quality products? Of course not! There are plenty of ways to protect yourself against inadequate suppliers. In fact, the easiest way to protect yourself is to perform a quality inspection.

What is a Quality Inspection?

A quality inspection is a physical investigation of your goods performed by a third-party inspection agent. This means that a person will visit the factory on your behalf and will verify whether your goods comply with a predetermined standard. In general, there are three different inspections:

1. Pre -Production Inspection

Here, raw materials and components are inspected to ensure inputs are adequate.

2. During Production Inspection

Here, the transition of input into output will be inspected.

3. Pre-shipment Inspection

Here, final goods are inspected before they are shipped to you or to a warehouse.


The inspection method applied to the first and the last type is called Acceptance Sampling. Here, an agent will take a number of samples from your batch of products. The samples are then compared with acceptance/rejection criteria to determine the quality of your goods.

The inspection method used for the middle stage, during production, is called Process Control. Here, the inspector will analyze the outcome of a process by means of statistics.

Which Type of Inspection Should You Choose?

The type of inspection you should choose depends on two situations. The first situation is when you buy finished goods. In this case, the most appropriate type for you is a Pre-shipment Inspection. This will ensure that the products match with the criteria on your purchase order.

The second situation is when you make use of OEM –original equipment manufacturing. Here, you can choose any of the inspection types mentioned above. Of course, the type of inspection also depends on the type of product you wish to produce.

Low-cost high-volume goods might require less examination because production processes are mechanical operations which are highly reliable. Therefore, you might only wish to conduct a Pre-production Inspection in order to make sure that raw materials are adequate.

On the other hand, high-cost low-volume items might need multiple inspections. It is because production processes are usually less automated, and the costs associated with defective returns is high.

In this case you might wish to perform a During Production Inspection. For example, you can conduct an inspection before a certain irreversible process takes place. In any case, your agent will always advice you which type of inspection is best for you.

What Does It Cost to do a Quality Inspection?

 The average price of a quality inspection in China is $300 dollar per day. For this price, someone will travel to the factory, inspect your goods, and deliver a final report to you.

Now for some, this might seem expensive. Yet, you do need a skilled person to do the job. First of all, the inspector must be able to communicate in both Mandarin and English.

And second of all, the inspector must have technical knowledge and be familiar with technical procedures. However, whether or not it is really beneficial to conduct a quality inspection depends, of course, on your order value.

When Does it Pay Off to do a Quality Inspection?

With an order value of a $1000 dollars, a quality inspection could pay off. It is because 30% of all inspections in China fail to meet theAcceptable Quality Level(AQL).

Or in other words, there is a thirty percent chance that your products will be of poor quality. However, for $300 bucks (30% of the order value), you are able to protect yourself against that risk and thus secure your investment.

As for the AQL, most people agree on 1% or 2%. That is to say, each batch of goods may contain a maximum of 1% or 2% defective products.

Where Can You Find a Reliable Quality Inspection Agent?

In general, you can find plenty of inspection agencies on the web. Many of them are respectable firms which should be able to do the job. Here are some agencies which I  know from a personal account. They all have a longstanding history in China and know the tricks of the trade


How to Integrate Quality Assurance into Your Deal?

Agree with your supplier on the specific quality characteristics of your product.

First, you should clearly formulate what the quality should be. For example, material characteristics and functioning of the product. This is often done by agreeing on a final sample.

Second, you should agree on the Acceptable Quality Level (AQL). This means the maximum percentage of defectives you allow your batch of products to have.

Once these terms are in place, you can hire a third-party inspection agent to supervise those conditions. Do note that it is important to have those conditions formalized in a contract or purchase order. Otherwise, you are far from being protected.

In Summary

In short, a quality inspection will protect you against the risk of buying poor quality products. There are three different types of inspections with different methods to investigate the quality of your goods.

The best inspection type for you depends on the characteristics of your product. Moreover, the average price of an inspection is $300 dollar and the average percentage of inspections that fail to meet the AQL is 30%.

Hence, with a minimum order value of $1000 dollar it could pay off to conduct a quality inspection.

Now, if you decide to make use of an inspection agency, make sure that quality characteristics are included in your contract with the supplier. This way, alternative action can be enforced in case an inspection agent declares your batch defective.

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Written by
Ezra Bisschop
Join the discussion

1 comment
  • Hi Ezra,

    Great read!
    I have noticed that many SME’s that are active in trade choose to skip quality inspection for LCHQ products as the defect rate is acceptable for them. In my field of work I have often experienced that defected products are replaced or compensated with the following order. Hoewever, I must say that this does depend on the working relationship between supplier and buyer. The down-side is that the acceptance of a low defect rate is at the expense of the perspection of MIC products in the target market. Which ultimately may push end users towards products made in markets closer to them.

    I would always recommend SME’s to perform quality inspections during initial orders. Saving costs on inspections can slowely be applied as the relationship between supplier and buyer strengthens.

    I’m looking forward to moreof your posts!