Naturally, you want to know whether your supplier’s QC department is performing to your expectations.
A typical example is what happens after one of their QC inspectors finds a defect.
Ask to speak to a QC inspector and ask them what is done when a defect is found. The inspector should show you that they log the defect in a control book. Ask to see the book. When you look at the book you may find out that the same defect occurs repeatedly and all that happens is they continue to document it without taking corrective action.
A proactive QC management would take immediate actions to find out which person is continually making the same mistake and the reason for it. It could be that the worker has not been trained sufficiently or is unaware of the problem or does not know how to solve it.
Only after the defect’s cause has been eliminated will production flow smoothly. Not only will quality improve but the factory’s costs will go down because they no longer have to rework or scrap parts. Therefore, it is in the factory’s best interest to take immediate action and this can only be achieved with the help of a well-trained and educated QC staff.
Other general observations to look for in the QC staff are their assigned workstations in the factory:
- Working directly beside the conveyor belt overseeing the workers
- Working directly beside the main packing area inspecting the finished goods immediately before final packaging
- In the production areas conducting quality tests at different stages of the production process
- In the QC room performing various quality controls best conducted there
QC inspectors are valuable employees. They need years of working experience to become qualified and cannot be easily replaced.
The QC department is management’s method for constantly monitoring the production quality of the factory. Here is where you really want to find out if you are in good hands or not.
Larger factories have their own QC lab, which may even be certified by an internationally recognized certification organization. This enables them to perform their own tests without using any outside laboratories.
The average factory has a separate room with testing equipment and one or more engineers running it. When you enter this room, take note of how well they have organized themselves. You may find anything. It could be a complete mess, or a well laid out testing room.
If the factory is producing more sophisticated products, they must have an adequate number of testing instruments. These should be in good working condition and must be calibrated on regular basis.
The room should be tidy and well organized. If tests are being conducted, you should find the test samples properly labeled and data sheets for the results nearby.
If the room has not been dusted for months and is cluttered with old test samples, you should assume that the factory does not take their QC duties very seriously.
It’s all about money. Every time goods have to be reworked or remade it costs the factory a substantial amount of money. Only constant monitoring of internal quality standards assures the factory that a major rework or remake will be avoided.
It is also necessary for obtaining ISO 9000 certification.
It is common for customers to send their own inspectors or hire an outside inspection company to perform at least a random final inspection before the goods ship. The factory is expected to provide separate QC rooms for these inspectors. They must be separate from the production area and must have all the equipment for the inspectors to perform their work properly.
If the factory has a lot of orders in work at the same time it is very likely that you will meet several teams of inspectors in these QC rooms when you visit.
This is one of the times it might not be appropriate to take photos. The factory has an obligation to protect their customers’ confidentiality. Sometimes the inspectors may be inspecting OEM products where the design belongs to the customer and cannot be disclosed to third parties.
If the factory does not have a separate QC room for customer inspectors, you have to refrain from working with them because they certainly do not meet the minimum requirements for quality control.
This is an expression that you hear quite often from certification organizations when a product is found to be out of compliance with existing directives.
A noncompliance from existing directives can give your company a big headache, if your supplier does not have the competence to take effective corrective actions.
A noncompliance detected by one of your country’s regulatory agencies can result in a complete sales stop being ordered by authorities. Besides becoming headline news, in this worst-case scenario your customers will return all quantities of that specific product to your company and ask to be compensated. Unfortunately, despite all your efforts to control the quality of your imported products, quality problems do occur. You should ask your supplier how they would execute a corrective action plan in case something goes wrong. Knowing your supplier’s QC department can prove to you that they fully understand how to handle a corrective action plan and lets you know that they can protect your company’s quality requirement even if all other precautions fail.