4 Human Reasons Why Quality Inspections Let Defective Goods Pass

If you manage a team of QC inspectors in China, you were probably challenged: “Are they really useful?”
At about 10,000 RMB each (including travel expenses, hardware…), does it make sense?

Actually the most difficult question is, ‘why don’t quality inspections catch all big issues?’

It is difficult because a variety of factors can be at play. We outlined a few below:

I will focus on the “inspector issues” here, and I will get back to the other ‘branches’ in future articles.

Take a close look at all aspects of Quality Inspection Software in our expert guide.


1. Lack of inspector training

There are actually 2 types of training needs:

  • Inspection process training – how to draw a statistically valid random sample, how to avoid common risks, etc.
  • Product specific training – checking stones, antique furniture, or electrical items required more than “common sense”.

I saw very few buying offices with a proper training system for their QC inspectors. They usually hire some staff from an inspection company, and get the rest of inspectors learn “on the job” next to more experienced employees.


2. Bad Habits

What happens when you hire someone with 5 years of experience at BigCo? They come with a lot of accumulated knowledge, but also a set of bad habits!

Here are a few examples:

  • They check stop the visual check at 50 pieces (instead of doing the full 200 pieces) if they “feel” quality is OK.
  • They don’t really pick samples from different places; instead they pick what is most convenient.
  • They can rush a job in 3 hours in order to do another job (for another company) in the afternoon.

Several quality managers complained that their most senior staff had all sorts of bad habits and couldn’t be trusted to train the new recruits properly. Don’t end up in that situation. Hiring and training new staff is often better in the long run.

3. Lack of motivation

Many inspectors just don’t care about doing a good job. There is no direct impact on their pay. And, should they get fired, they can find a new job at the same salary level in the same city within 3 weeks (since virtually nobody calls previous employers in China).

How does this translate, in practice?

  • They let the factory select and unpack the products (without supervision).
  • They take plenty of photos to produce a nice report (the only thing the manager will look at) but they don’t really do the tests.
  • They leave home at 9:30am and they are back at 5:30pm.


4. Integrity issues

Many people think Chinese inspectors get a “red envelope” every other day. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

The most common issue is what I would call social pressure. The factory reps get to know the inspector, they pick him/her up and bring him/her out for a good lunch, they make sure the inspection room in air conditioned… In exchange, when some issues are found, the inspector doesn’t really dare to report them.

A less frequent issue is outright corruption… The factory is racketed, and reports are failed if no money is paid.

It has become a widespread issue in the inspection teams of a few large companies (even the supervisors and the managers were on the take, and were retaliating with even tougher standards when a supplier complained officially). This is less likely to become the norm in a smaller company, where it would get noticed and corrected faster.

When do these cases happen? Social pressure usually results in ignoring relatively minor issues, rarely big ones. On the other hand, when money changes hands, everything is relative… to the number of zeroes.


Have you observed the same types of issues? Anything important I forgot? Let us know in the comments below and we will respond.

Take a close look at all aspects of Quality Inspection Software in our expert guide.

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