Whether you’re just getting started as an Amazon seller or have been at it for a while, you know that you need to ensure the quality of your products. Getting too many sub-5-star reviews and product returns will hurt your business. So we reached out to Andy Church of Insight Quality Services to get answers to sellers’ most burning questions. As a seasoned pro, he was able to provide some great insight about quality inspections.
Over to you, Andy:
Whenever I talk to business owners about quality inspections, they tend to hit me with a barrage of questions. They want to know things like how many units they should inspect, or how to prepare for inspections? Or they want to know what to do if their inspections fail?
It’s natural to have these kinds of questions because the inspection process is complicated. And it can seem pretty daunting to those who aren’t familiar with it.
But no matter how daunting it may seem, remember that it’s important to put your energy into understanding it as best you can.
Investing in quality up front is one of the best things you can do because catching problems early will save you time and money in the long run. And it will also save you from having too many sleepless nights when things go wrong.
The High Cost of Not Investing in Quality Inspections
I’ve had plenty of customers who learned the value of inspections the hard way before eventually deciding to work with me. For example, I worked with a company that makes fire pits.
They should have had their fire pits properly inspected at the factory before shipping. But, alas, they didn’t. And the factory sent their units to the USA. It was only after the fire pits arrived that they realized they would have to be reworked.
They brought in teams of people and spent tens of thousands of dollars to finish the job. And all that could have been avoided if they had just invested in third-party quality control at the factory.
6 of the Most Common Questions About Quality Inspections, Now Answered
The quality inspection process is important to understand. So if you’ve got questions about it, then by all means, you should ask them! Asking your questions and getting answers to them is one of the best investments you can make with your time.
Below are 6 common questions about quality inspection and my answers. These answers are all based on my years of experience in the industry. And I love to share my knowledge and expertise! So, let’s begin.
#1 What’s the best practice on the percentage of units to inspect? For example, should you inspect all units on the first order and 30% on all future orders?
In terms of percentages, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Using a set percentage such as 10, 20 or 30% may not be appropriate. And it’s often impractical to conduct a 100% inspection of your order.
To determine the right percentage for your situation, you need to figure out your AQL (Acceptable Quality Limit).
AQL is the industry standard for inspections. And you can follow these sampling guidelines, as they are statistically valid. The factory should be aware of the methodology, too. In fact, they’re probably conducting their own internal inspections using AQL.
If the order quantity is low, it may be possible to conduct a 100% inspection. The limitation is in how complex the item is and how many pieces the inspector can inspect in a given day.
#2 Should buyers outline what the next steps are for major defect units before the inspection? Are there standardized contracts for this?
It is important that you include specifications and inspection criteria right there in the purchase order.
When an inspection fails, the factory will often say the inspector was too tough. Or they might say the quality checks were too stringent. They may even think that the buyer’s expectation is too high.
This kind of pushback can be avoided by discussing the inspection criteria beforehand. Then, once discussed, it should be provided to the factory as part of the purchase order.
You should be as specific as possible when describing what counts as a defect. And you should define how you classify product defects. You need to be clear about what qualifies as a major, minor and critical defect.
#3 Should you inspect units pre-packaging, post-packaging, or both?
In a Final Random Inspection (also called Pre-Shipment Inspection), the entire order has been 100% produced and at least 80% packaged.
This is generally the best type of inspection to perform. The purpose of an FRI (Final Random Inspection) is to inspect the actual goods that the factory will ship.
For retail customers, packaging can be as important as the quality of the product. So it’s important to have packaging as an inspection point.
But if you totally destroy your packaging, you’ll have to replace it. That’s why the inspection should be done before packaging is 100% completed.
Depending on order quantity, it may be feasible to conduct an in-line (during-production) inspection. This way, you can address any observed quality or manufacturing problems early on.
#4 What’s the average cost of an inspection on 500 units?
Inspection service providers generally charge by the man-day. That includes travel to and from the facility. And it includes time at the factory conducting the inspection.
Man-day rates vary by company. And they are influenced by both the coverage area of the provider and inspection volume. The number of samples that can be inspected in a day varies by product type and complexity.
For example, it would be possible to inspect a higher number of notebooks in a day than garments. The typical shirt has half a dozen measurement points that take more time to measure than a hardcover paper notebook.
At Insight Quality, we conduct inspections for companies of all sizes. Contact us to discuss your specific needs and requirements.
#5 Should you send your inspection agent a master sample to compare finished goods to?
At the time of an inspection, the inspector should have both an approval sample and detailed specifications. An approval sample is also often called a “Golden Sample.”
The inspector will use your approval sample to verify function, sizes/measurements, color, etc. And it’s an important tool to ensure that inspections are conducted to your quality expectations.
#6 What happens if the inspection fails? What are the typical outcomes? For example, would it be appropriate to get credit to use on the next order for failed units?
In a way having a failed inspection is a good thing! It means that a poor quality product did not ship and wind up in your customer’s hands.
The first step after a failed inspection is to understand what caused the failure. Was it a number of different minor defects? Or was it one major defect that happened across multiple units?
You should review the inspection report to get a clear understanding of whether the items require sorting and rework by the factory. If they do, it will take time and you may end up with a shipment delay.
On the other hand, maybe you’re willing to accept the results, even if you don’t like them. When an inspection fails because of many minor defects, reworking the product can end up causing more damage than what was found. So, you may want to leave it alone.
Keep in mind the difference between major and minor defects.
A minor defect is one that deviates from your specifications but won’t cause a return. A major defect will cause the item not to function as intended, thus likely resulting in a return.
Typically, with failed inspections, the norm is for the factory to replace (or repair) the defective items. This is not enough – especially for major defects – unless it was a 100% inspection.
In an AQL/sampling inspection, a failed inspection means that a similar percentage of defects would be found in the entire order. So it’s very important that the factory inspect 100% of the order for the defects found. They should then rework or replace the defective units.
Make sure to conduct a re-inspection to ensure the issues have been resolved and the items have been fixed or replaced.
Save Time and Money by Investing in Quality Up Front
The questions above are common, but they are very important to ask. Dealing with quality problems becomes harder and more expensive once your shipment gets sent out.
Remember that AQLs are the industry standard for determining how many units to inspect. Keep in mind that you need to define what qualifies as a defect. Not only that, you need to break defects down into major, minor and critical categories.
Also, remember the importance of having a golden sample (or approval sample) and getting it into your inspector’s hands.
Overall, I hope you understand how important it is to invest in quality up front. Because you don’t want to deal with the headaches you’ll feel and the money you’ll waste after receiving a shipment that’s not satisfactory.
If you have any further questions or are looking for an inspection company, reach out to us at Insight Quality. We’re always happy to help!