When should you get your 3rd-party QC partner involved? This is a commonly asked question among importers and manufacturers. The answer largely depends on what you expect your QC partner to provide and what you can afford. If you already have a team that can inspect and develop checklists, then it may be fine to involve your QC partner 1-2 weeks in advance. However, getting a QC team involved earlier can help you improve your supply chain. Here are three reasons to involve your QC partner early:
Reason #1: Clarify important order details early – before there’s a delay!
Copy your QC provider when issuing the PO to the supplier and each exchange after that. This way, you now have a partner that can jump in to clarify vague communications from your supplier in the supplier’s native language. This could easily be the difference between your supplier starting production as planned and you finding out 2 weeks later that raw materials still have not been ordered! Are you concerned about sharing sensitive information with your 3rd-party QC provider? Consider having it sign a non-disclosure agreement or sending a redacted copy of the PO. You may find that the benefits of a strong presence from your QC provider early on are quite valuable.
Looking at this another way, last-minute changes to the item or packaging can be complicated. The specifications might seem straightforward to you, but don’t expect your supplier to accurately change things on the fly. You might need someone to visit the factory in person to explain all of the details. That’s easier for your 3rd-party QC partner to do if it already has the relevant communications and project background.
Reason #2: Rest assured that quality expectations are clear and reasonable for all parties.
Get your 3rd-party QC provider involved to confirm quality expectations and develop a comprehensive checklist before you place the PO. You will scare away bad suppliers and quickly identify the ones capable of becoming solid long-term partners.
Reason #3: Avoid last-minute surprises that threaten your business relationships with your clients.
Imagine the shipping container is supposed to leave the factory in 2 days, but your contact isn’t answering the phone or any emails. You’re worried there is a delay and that your order won’t reach your customer in time. You can avoid this situation by having a 3rd-party QC company do a during-production inspection (read “Why Inspect During Production?” to learn more). This lets you check order quality and order status at the same time. If the supplier is behind schedule, then you will know in advance and can pressure them to move up the timeline. Having a 3rd-party QC company perform a final inspection also helps identify last-minute surprises. That’s because the company wants to do everything possible to schedule the requested service. The company doesn’t want to miss out on the inspection and will alert you if the factory is acting shady or seems behind schedule.? Take advantage of the work that is already being done for you behind the scenes!
If you have a 3rd-party QC partner working with you, it’s best to get them involved as soon as you place a PO with your supplier. By giving your QC partner adequate lead time, they can help you by:
- Clarifying details to avoid delays
- Communicating expectations and create a QC checklist; and
- Following-up with your supplier on your behalf and alert you of any issues or concerns leading up to inspection
So the next time you place an order with your supplier, make things easier on yourself. Get your QC partner involved earlier to make sure your order is on-time and up to your quality standards!