A timely delivery is not your only consideration when buying goods from China. Quality is going to be a topmost concern with your order and a critical step in the quality control process is the on-site pre-shipment inspection (PSI).

Prior to the products being loaded on to the container, you should have a third-party inspector, not related to the factory, visit for one last quality control inspection. This is a critical step, because you will be checking the quality criteria you specified when getting clear quotes from your supplier. This PSI is your last line of defense, before your products are sent overseas.

When performing the on-site inspection, the following are useful steps to follow to ensure the inspection meets your order requirements:

  1. Order Quantity: Check the quantity of the products to be loaded onto the container to make sure they match up with the order placed. Confirm the quantity with the factory and count the pallets.
  2. Select a Random Sample of Goods: Randomly select goods to be inspected in accordance with AQL (Acceptance Quality Level) standards in order to determine the condition where the “quality level.. is the worst tolerable” (ISO 2859 standard), meaning that if this limit is reached, the shipment needs to be redone. For a more detailed overview of AQL and AQL chart, Quality Wars does a good write up on understanding how to apply the AQL to your shipment. Do a physical examination of the sample of the goods checking for surface treatment, color, weight, etc. making sure to check the consistency of the goods. For those that are not the same, set them aside, divided into groups according to the inconsistencies.
  3. Check the Quality of the Products Against the Product Specification Sheet: This information should be available on the specification sheet from when you originally placed the order. When both buyer and seller have agreed on an order, both parties should have signed the specification sheet to confirm the agreement. The form should include at least: the product name, drawing number, color, finish, weight, standard, and packaging requirements in addition to any other details specific to the product or order. Each group of goods divided in step #2 must be checked against the specification sheet. Once the inferior quality has been confirmed, you need to confirm that these are either a class A failure (affecting the performance), a class B failure (not affecting the performance, but manufacturing quality is still sub-par). AQL 4.0 is one of the most common standards used to judge an acceptable number of rejects. You would use a table similar to the one below to determine this number. Note that the number in the far left column is the total quantity of the order and the far right column is the amount of defects at which you would reject the shipment.
  4. Table to determine the acceptable level of defects
  5. Take Photos: Make sure your inspector takes photos throughout the inspection having a picture for each requirement marked on the specification sheet. Most importantly, have pictures of the defects in order to identify and verify the level of severity.
  6. Confirm and Review Results with the Factory: Typically you won't be placing one time orders with a factory, thus it is important that the results of the inspection are discussed together with your supplier to help identify the causes of the problems in order to resolve them for future production.
  7. Inspector Follow Up: Your inspector should follow up with you regarding the results of the inspection. The formal report you should expect to receive should include the final results, dimension checklist, feedback on problems, inspection photos, and material certifications. If the inspection is ultimately qualified according to your AQL, you can move forward as planned with the delivery, otherwise a solution needs to be arranged according to the level of severity of the quality issues.

Once you have gone through these steps and your inspection adequately meets your pre-defined quality expectations, you should be able to confidently load your goods and proceed with your standard shipping procedure.

What other standard quality control procedures do you use when performing your on-site pre-shipment inspections? How do you avoid quality problems before shipping your goods?

  • Steven Wang- CPG Quality Control Inspector