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Surprisingly common reasons an inspection is marked pending or fail

by Steve Mogentale

Sub-par accessories

Accessory items are often NOT produced at the factory making the main item, and many factories do not pay enough attention to ensuring the quality of the components sourced from these outside suppliers because it costs time and money.

  • EXAMPLE #1: a car charger for a MP3 player. Common problems include: incorrect cable length, incorrect male/female connector, and poor assembly.
  • EXAMPLE #2: emergency kits that ship from a bag factory. Each component that goes inside the bag might come from a different supplier. Do not expect that the bag factory is paying enough attention – or even knows what to look for – when the bags are filled with jumper cables and reflective equipment.
  • RECOMMENDATION: check with your supplier about where your accessory parts will originate from and how the quality will be controlled prior to your inspection. If you have the opportunity to investigate this personally at the factory, you can get a good idea of how much risk there is to your order if the outside suppliers are providing unacceptable parts. If you are using a 3rd-party inspection company, it is worth discussing with them what steps can be taken to secure your supply chain.

Incorrect or incomplete shipping marks

The reason for this can be two-fold: aversion to waste and/or a careless factory contact. In an effort to cut costs, factories often reuse old cartons instead of discarding them – even if they are damaged or have incorrect shipping marks. This problem is relatively easy to fix and usually will not cause a delay to your shipment, but it is also totally preventable!

  • EXAMPLE: you scrapped an order of knives last fall for a serious quality issue. The factory kept the cartons in anticipation of a new order, but forgot to correct the shipping marks after you issued a new PO 6 months later. Understandably, the factory is more likely to make this mistake if there are already markings on the cartons.
  • RECOMMENDATION #1: if your factory has a history of making this mistake, consider requiring that the factory take a photo of at least one carton bearing the correct shipping marks in advance. This should get the wheels turning upstairs…
  • RECOMMENDATION #2: if you have very specific burst-strength or other transit standards that need to be met with every shipment and know the cartons are being re-used, require that the factory prove the cartons are still in acceptable condition to meet these requirements. Cartons can become damaged after being sealed and opened repeatedly, especially if they are mishandled. If you know they have been in storage for a long time, another concern is how and where they were stored.

Barcodes are difficult to scan or do not scan at all with some pieces of equipment

The bane of every retailer’s operation! The second shipment of the latest and greatest items that are flying off the shelves has arrived, but nobody can scan the codes to get them into the system and out on the floor for sale.

  • LIKELY CULPRIT: this is usually because the barcodes have been printed directly on the cartons.
  • EASY SOLUTION:InTouch recommends always printing barcodes on stickers and then affixing those to the cartons. Problem solved.

What if the barcodes can be scanned with the factory’s equipment, but not the scanner your 3rd-party inspection company brought to the factory?

This happens from time to time and is not necessarily representative of a bad barcode or a bad scanner.
What we recommend you do here is to have other parties in your supply chain try scanning a printed version (a clear photo!) of the barcode in question. If all is good there, then you can ship the goods.


Steve Mogentale is a Client Manager at InTouch Manufacturing Services, a QC firm that performs product inspections and factory audits in China for US and EU clients. Steve also writes for the QC-related blog, Quality Wars.

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