Over the years, I noticed that many buying offices and trading companies are hesitant to make changes to their quality control inspection procedure. In fact, their QC process hasn’t changed for years.
Many times, the last significant move was for inspectors to start reporting on Microsoft Word. Apart from that, they are stuck in a process that was set up long ago and is far behind what technology allows these days.
The purchasers and the accountants have adopted an ERP and/or specialized productivity software, but the quality department’s processes are seldom supported in such a way.
Don’t get me wrong – using email and Word/Excel documents is not a problem in itself. But do you recognize your process in the chart below?
Let’s go through the pain points one by one.
Excessively manual processes in the office
Here are a few examples:
- Collect information and then send it by email to inspectors
- Send emails through Outlook to push suppliers to confirm a date
- Maintain an inspection schedule in Excel, and double-check constantly to avoid mistakes
Just as an ERP automates the processes of a purchase request, a purchase order issuance, a release of shipment order, and so on, specialized quality inspection software can take care of most office processes – both automate them and remove the possibility of mistakes.
Some information gets lost, some points gets skipped
Do you sometimes forget to send certain documents (for example photos of the product, or comments on production samples) to an inspector?
Do inspectors sometimes forget to check one point (for example the shipping marks on one side of the cartons)?
And do inspectors sometimes forget to include certain findings in their report, even if they took photos?
I bet all this sounds familiar to you. These are indications of serious gaps in your quality inspection process.
Staff gradually gets the habit of taking shortcuts
The sad truth is, most Chinese inspectors have taken bad habits over the years. For example, they pick the most convenient cartons to open and they take the pieces that are most easily accessible in those cartons.
There is a long list of shortcuts they can take, just considering the counting & sampling process. If the sampling is not done correctly, the inspection results don’t mean much!
Difficulty to manage inspectors
Do you know if your field staff are currently following your inspection procedure? Maybe not. Let’s review a few bad surprises you might have:
- They might arrive late in the factory and expedite the job;
- They might not even go to a factory, and prepare a report based on old photos and photos sent by the supplier;
- They might be too friendly with the factory and let a few issues go unreported;
- They might put a lot of pressure on a supplier in the hope of getting a red envelope;
- They might rush your inspection in the morning and then take a freelance gig in the afternoon (most third-party inspection firms use freelance inspectors, many of whom have a stable job in a buying office).
Possibility for suppliers to interfere
Once the QC inspector is done with a job, he should write down his findings and THEN explain them to a factory representative, right?
Unfortunately, in many cases the supplier can “negotiate” and dispute a few issues before final results are sent to the office. We looked at the issue of factory cooperation in depth before.
Excessive amount of time spent on reporting
Most inspectors take 1-2 hours a night to prepare their reports in Word or Excel. That’s pure paperwork. And that time is not free… Nothing is free in China!
If your reporting template calls for a lot of details and photos, inspectors can’t check more than a few SKUs in their day.
Many reports are sent after 10pm, and then it is difficult to get a hold of the supplier’s representative. The issues have to wait until the following day, even if it is urgent to fix them and ship the goods out.
Lack of visibility over suppliers’ performance and recurring issues
What is the single best way to reduce your quality control budget? To work with a better group of suppliers. Measuring each supplier’s reliability over time is of paramount importance. Do you do it?
Similarly, do you have a view over the issues that come back again and again? If you don’t, you probably can’t put pressure on the manufacturer to fix those issues once and for all. And this is probably causing extra quality issues, cost, and delays for your company.
Sorry for the long list of horror stories. I hope to open your eyes on the fact that your QC procedures might be ill-suited and might need a complete overhaul.
What do you think? Have I forgotten to mention some other issues?