By Renaud Anjoran
More and more potential clients ask us, ‘can your inspector do real-time updates, in photos or videos, on WeChat or Whatsapp?’ I thought it was an interesting topic.
That’s one of those ideas that sound nice but that are actually bad 99% of the time.
Certain inspection companies offer it as an option, and inexperienced buyers often like the idea. I can understand why — they would do the inspection by themselves if they were in China during production. The only reason they need an inspection agency is, they cannot be in the factory when production is underway. I get that.
The problem is, it is quite easy to get distracted when performing a random inspection. (In many cases, the factory representatives already provide plenty of distraction!)
Let’s take an example. The inspector is picking the samples; after that he should place some type of marking (such as a signature or special stamp) on the cartons that he selected. And then, in theory, the factory staff brings those cartons to the inspection area under close supervision.
But let’s say the inspector takes a photo of all the cartons and sends it by Wechat… Then the client immediately replies ‘can you please take some other photos of the cartons on the right? I cannot see clearly and it looks weird.’
See how the inspector becomes ‘remote controlled’? Of course he will forget about the logical steps to follow. He can forget to place a mark on the cartons and he might let the factory staff take them away. BOOM! Here is an opportunity for the factory to replace the content of the cartons while the inspector is busy exchanging with the client.
This is just one loophole in the sampling process. There are many other little details that can be forgotten and that, in the end, can result in serious issues for the buyer. I wrote about this last week.
Another thing that makes me uncomfortable is that the buyer doesn’t feel he has to specify his requirements in detail prior to production and prior to inspections. Since they can ‘see’ their products before authorizing shipment, they feel the Wechat updates are a good solution.
I see a lot of small buyers who communicate their needs through Skype, Wechat, and email with suppliers and never put together a master list of requirements. That means the factory and the inspectors have no clear specifications to work with. That approach actually generates quality issues!
I’m not implying these buyers are lazy. They are poorly organized.
Instead they should follow the advice I wrote in The Magic Triangle: Product Specifications, Sample Reviews, and QC Inspections. It really is a whole system.
Jumping directly to the quality inspection without defining the specifications is usually a mistake.
It is way too late at that stage to reject production simply because specifications were not clarified properly. This is really not fair to the supplier who, of course will be unhappy and might not cooperate in doing the proper rework…
Renaud Anjoran has been managing his quality assurance agency (Sofeast Ltd) since 2006. In addition, a passion for improving the way people work has pushed him to launch a consultancy to improve factories and a web application to manage the purchasing process. He writes advice for importers on qualityinspection.org.