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How to do a Quality Control Inspection (and Why You Need One)

For importers and private labelers, there’s only one thing scarier than hearing the words “poor quality products”: It’s finding out that your shipment has been rejected by Amazon because it wasn’t labeled correctly.

This is why if you’re importing anything from China, you should be familiar with quality control inspections. This might sound intimidating and expensive but they’re both cheap and simple to do. For around $300 for each shipment you can drastically improve the quality of your products and in turn, sell more products. You can almost entirely eliminate your likelihood of being scammed.

How It Works and How Much It Costs

A quality control inspection is almost always undertaken by a third party company. By far the most popular company for inspections is AsiaInspection.com. This isn’t simply because they are our podcast sponsor but also because of their price and reliability.  ProQC.com, and QualityInspection.org are two other inspections company but there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of others.  These companies will dispatch a quality inspector in China to your supplier’s factory or warehouse and perform an inspection either to your specifications or a default set of specifications. Any of the quality inspection companies can send an inspector to anywhere in China.

Sample inspection report from AsiaInspection.com

Sample inspection report from AsiaInspection.com

It’s shocking how cheap a third party inspection is. A typical inspection with Asia Inspection is roughly $300. It’s billed on what they call  man day, i.e. what an inspector can perform in 8 hours. You will almost ever need more than one man day. This $300 includes all transportation and other expenses.

What Amazon Sellers Need to Inspect For

You can do very complicated inspections and testing like testing lead content, doing tensile strength tests, etc. However, for me (and probably the vast majority of other private labelers) I simply book what they call a Pre-Shipment Inspection and make the following requests:

  • See and verify that my shipment actually exists and I am paying for what I ordered.
  • Verify if items are labeled and bar coded correctly (so they don’t get rejected by Amazon).
  • Count my items to ensure I am getting the exact number of pieces I ordered.
  • Do some very basic product quality verification, i.e. make sure the items are visually in perfect condition, make sure that the blue jeans I ordered are blue and not red.

The truth is that most Amazon sellers primarily want to inspect for quantity verification, bar coding and packaging, and to do some very basic visual confirmation that the products they’re ordering look as they would expect. In most cases, you don’t know what else to test for until something goes wrong.

I Completely Trust My Supplier- Do I Still Need an Inspection?

There’s a few reasons to do a third party inspection:

  1. To avoid non-deliberate & careless mistakes from your supplier
  2. To avoid deliberate mistakes from your supplier
  3. Verify your shipment before final payment

The vast majority of issues happen because of non-deliberate mistakes from your supplier. Such mistakes I’ve experienced are things like bar coding items incorrectly, putting Amazon carton labels on the inner cartons (i.e. inside) instead of on the outside, putting items in the wrong box, putting multiple items in one inner box to save space, and the list goes on. These aren’t things your supplier is doing to be malicious – they’re simply careless mistakes which happen for a variety of reasons. A third party inspection removes almost all the risk of these types of things happening.

Deliberate mistakes are harder to test for. You have to know your product inside-out in order to test for it. The most common type of deliberate mistake is substitution for inferior materials. In fact, suppliers don’t view this as malicious as if you didn’t specify 600D polyester fabric in your Purchase Order then they will think it is perfectly acceptable to substitute you for 300D fabric (a fabric roughly half the quality of 600D Polyester).

The last reason to do a third party inspection is to keep your supplier on their toes. If they know a third party inspection is coming, or they know that you have a habit of conducting third party inspections, they’ll be less likely to cut corners and take more care with your products. There’s a lot of companies who never do third party inspections. If your supplier knows that you are a company who does do them, whose order do you think they’re going to be more careful with?

A sample quality inspection report, with photographs.

A sample quality inspection report, with photographs.

Finally, if you’re on 30/70 payment terms (70% due upon shipment completion) having a third party inspector seeing your shipment, live in the flesh, before paying your final payment gives a lot of reassurance that you’re going to get your goods.

How to Do A Pre-Shipment Amazon Inspection – Step by Step Instructions

The following guide is based on the Asia Inspection interface. The principles remain the same whether you use them or not.

Step 1: What You Need

You will need just a couple of things to start:

  • Your purchase order with your supplier (or at least a list of the items on the order)
  • Contact information for your Suppler so Asia Inspection can contact them to make an appointment (i.e. the email address and/or phone number of your supplier)

Step 2: Inform Your Supplier As Soon As Possible That You Will Be Doing a Pre-Shipment Inspection

Once you place your order with your supplier inform them that you will be performing a pre-shipment inspection. If your order is already in production that is fine too but tell them as soon as possible about the inspection. In either case, ask your supplier to email you a few days before the order will be complete. Once they inform you that your order is almost complete then book the inspection through Asia Inspection. Asia Inspection should only need a couple of days to arrange the inspection but by giving everyone as much notice as possible you avoid any delays.

Step 3: Sign Up for An Asia Inspection Account

Go to AsiaInspection and click “Create New Account”.

When you enter your company name add NS- before it, i.e. NS-ABC COMPANY. 

When you add the NS- before your company name you will be given a dedicated account rep who works with us at EcomCrew (either Dory Lanenter or Tracy Balatbat) and who understands the requirements of Amazon/ecommerce sellers.  You can make other specifications as well but this will ensure your order conforms to best practices for individuals selling on Amazon. This inspection will result in the following (along with other default inspection procedures)

  • Verify items are labeled and bar coded correctly (including Amazon Carton Labels if applicable)
  • Count your items to ensure they match your Purchase Order quantity
  • Do some very basic product quality verification
  • Ensure only one day is used and you are not billed for multiple days without your approval

You’ll just need to fill in your name, email, and a couple of other details (no payment is required until you book your inspection).

Step 4: Book A Pre-Shipment Inspection

Once you’re in your account you want to book a Pre-Shipment Inspection. There are many types of testing but this is the one that is most relevant to Amazon  and  ecommerce sellers.

Step 5: Fill in Your Supplier Details & Inspection Date

In the next step fill in the estimated time of your inspection and your supplier details. As long as you provide a working email and/or phone number for your Supplier it is acceptable if the inspection date and/or contact information is incomplete. The inspector and the supplier will arrange a meetup time and directions privately.

Step 6 – Add Your Products

On the next page, simply add the product(s) that you are inspecting (just give the product a brief description or use your SKU) and then select a product category (pick whatever category is closest – you don’t need to be exact). The other items under Product Specifications you can ignore. You should also upload your Purchase Order at the bottom of the page under File Attachment.

Step 7 – Inspection Details

The next page you can more or less ignore. If you had specific tests you wanted done you would describe them here. However, because you signed up following the instructions above, you will have the Amazon specification tests done we mentioned above.

Click next and you’re almost done.

 

Step 8 – Payment and Finalization

On the final page you’ll be brought to the payment page. Once you’ve made payment your account manager will reach out to you within a day or two and get to work on your inspection.

Congratulations – you just spent the best $309 you could ever spend in your importing business.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Chris
    February 7, 2016 at 2:25 am

    Have you had to submit an Alibaba Trade Assurance claim yet? If so, what was your experience?

    • Reply
      David Bryant
      February 9, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Never. Are you having to file a claim or are you asking for curiosity’s sake?

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