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What your inspection firm will not tell you

by Renaud Anjoran in 'Quality Inspection Blog'

It has been said that there is a price to pay for working in a given industry: the intimate knowledge of its dark sides.

I have already written about the perverse effects of social compliance audits and about the dangerous games of some testing laboratories. Now I want to write about the dark practices of some quality inspections agencies.

Just like in a factory, reliability depends mostly on day-to-day decisions taken by middle managers. In good inspection firms, managers always have to take the reliable option—even if it costs more and even if the client is small. In some other agencies, it is not the case.

Let's study a few examples to see what kinds of tradeoffs are common.

Example 1:

A client books a one-man-day inspection of garments in Xiamen on June 8. No garment inspector is available on June 8, but we can easily send an inspector specializing in hard goods. We can send a garment inspector on June 7 or 9. The supplier tells us timing is tight.

What a not-so-good inspection firm will do:

Send the hard goods inspector. It seems to be the convenient choice for everybody. But he might miss some problems.

What a good one is supposed to do:

Send an email to the client (if possible two working days before) and ask him to wait until June 9. If the client insists: respond that the only option is June 7.

Example 2:

A client books a one-man-day inspection of electronics in Ningbo on June 8. No electronics inspector is available, except for a freelance inspector that was never tested. A qualified inspector can be sent on June 9, but the client says timing is tight.

What a not-so-good inspection firm will do:

Send the untested freelancer. Again, it is the convenient solution.

What a good one is supposed to do:

Send the untested freelancer on June 8, together with another tested inspector (who does not know the product, but who can check the behavior of the untested guy). It costs double, but it is the price of reliability.

Example 3:

A supervisor receives a report at 11pm on a Tuesday. The client (in Europe) asks for the result urgently, because the forwarder just advanced the closing date. But the report is rather complex, and the supervisor feels sleepy.

What a not-so-good inspection firm will do:

The supervisor quickly reviews the information from the inspector, to see if the format is fine, and sends it to the client.

What a good one is supposed to do:

The supervisor only sends a quick summary of the main problems, and writes to the client, "This is not the official report, and you are strongly advised to wait until tomorrow." He also quickly scans the report to see if some info is obviously missing (to ask the inspector if needed).

He sends the official report the morning after, when his mind is fresh, because it's better to be late than to be wrong.

(Note: a good QC firm usually asks a few other QC firms if they have available and qualified inspectors. For simplicity, I disregarded this fact in the first two examples.)

Renaud Anjoran is the founder of Sofeast Quality Control and helps importers to improve and secure their product quality in China. He writes advice for importers on the Quality Inspection blog. He lives full time in Shenzhen, China. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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