The term quality control is often reduced to pre-shipment inspection for most buyers. Of course, performing even one inspection may save lots of money and trouble but if the shipment is actually rejected, the importer cannot deliver on time to their client: it is a loss of time, money and customer satisfaction. To prevent those risks, buyers can opt for a more proactive quality control approach, and even implement an affordable but full-coverage quality assurance program.
Difference between quality control and quality assurance
There is a fundamental difference between quality control and quality assurance:
- Quality assurance tries to prevent defects
- Quality control tries to detect defects
Of course, it's very desirable to prevent defects, however suppliers do not take QA (Quality Assurance) very seriously. Here are three reasons why:
- QA requires profound knowledge of the product, requirements and the production processes. In general, only producers have such profound knowledge.
- Producers may be hesitant to share this knowledge, and welcome external improvement suggestions only to a certain limit.
- Diving into the quality assurance processes costs time and effort. Some vendors (especially small factories and trading companies) think it is easier and cheaper for buyers to "burn" the occasional buyer than implement QA system.
As a result, 3rd parties like inspection agencies have been asked by buyers to fill this QA void.
Limit the risks with a proactive quality control
A proactive quality control solution encompasses inspections at all stage of the production process. Several inspection types have been defined by the quality control industry, tailored to suit the buyer's situation:
- Pre production inspection: to check if everything is ready to start the production
- First article inspection: the earliest time to compare mass produced samples with golden sample, and check of production schedule
- During production inspection: it allows a larger sample size than the first article inspection and checks the production speed is respected
Proactive quality control allows suppliers to meet specifications and deliver acceptable quality control within the deadlines set in the purchase order. For the buyer, it helps prevent bad surprises during the pre-shipment inspection.
And you: how proactive is your quality control strategy?