What does it mean when a supplier says that they "don't have time" for product inspection, and what should you do about it?
After you place an order with a supplier the factory will typically provide you with a set of dates, specifying when they will start production and when the order will be complete. Any product inspections will then be scheduled based off of those dates. Maintaining an open line of communication with regular following-up between the supplier contact and you, the buyer, is vital after production has begun. Although delays in production are a fairly common occurrence, you can help prevent delays by checking in with your supplier regularly, or at least anticipate them sooner.
But when it comes time to carry out pre-shipment inspection to make sure your product is up to standards, your supplier might tell you there’s no time for inspection. Here we’ll tell you why your supplier might say this and what you can do to make sure you have adequate time for verifying your order before it ships.
Why “not enough time”?
There are a number of possible excuses a supplier might give you for not being able to allow third-party inspection – not having enough time is just one. The reason that the supplier would claim to not have enough time would most likely be for one or more of the following reasons:
1. Production delays
Production may be delayed for a variety of reasons, some of them might be:
- Late arrival of raw materials, components or other inputs needed for manufacturing.
- Shortage of available workers, especially right after the Chinese New Year or a major holiday (see How Chinese New Year Affects Manufacturing).
- Actual production has started later than originally planned.
2. Quality issues
The factory may have found quality issues with the raw materials or finished goods. This can occur during or after production when finished products are put through internal quality inspection. If product re-work is needed, the factory may neglect to inform you about the delay. Or if they do inform you, they may wait until the last minute to do so, leaving little or no time for third-party inspection.
3. Outsourced orders
The factory may have needed to subcontract part, or all, of the order to another supplier. In this case the supplier you are dealing with is not the actual factory that is manufacturing your product. They may be trying to hide this from you by avoiding inspection. The possible issues that could occur in production would then be further removed from your control. And the subcontracted factory could then have its own issues with production that further delay completion. To learn about the effects subcontracting has on your product, see Subcontract Manufacturing: How Does It Affect You?.
How to ensure adequate time for product inspection?
Now that you can see the possible reasons for the delays that could leave little time for pre-shipment inspection, you’re probably wondering, what’s the solution? The answer is to make it clear to your supplier from the beginning that you require pre-shipment inspection."Only by making expectations clear and firm early on can you really hold your supplier accountable."
This is true not only of your expectation that pre-shipment inspection be performed, but is also true of making sure your supplier adheres to delivery deadlines, quality standards and product specifications. We would recommend writing up a vendor guide or drafting a purchasing agreement that includes specific terms & conditions the supplier is expected to meet. For more about term & conditions see 6 Steps to Maintain Quality Chinese Manufacturers.
Before placing an order, let your supplier know if you require product inspection by a third-party before shipment. If inspection is needed, inform the supplier that you expect them to cooperate fully with the inspection company. Cooperation includes arranging the inspection with adequate lead time to allow for any necessary re-work and packaging without delaying the shipment.
Delays in production are common. But your product quality shouldn’t suffer for it. Likewise, there’s no reason why product inspection should delay shipping. We encourage you to take a proactive approach, contacting your suppliers often to make sure you stay in the loop when it comes to order status. And remember to make your expectations for the supplier clear upfront.
One of the best ways to help ensure that the factory is being honest with you is by having a good relationship with that factory. It is of utmost important to be sure that the supplier informs you once there’s anything that they think may cause shipment delay.
What’s the craziest excuse your supplier has ever given you in order to avoid a QC inspection? Share it in the comments below!