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How to maintain Quality when Manufacturing in China

By Jesus David Cano Romano
August 13, 2015
Electronic Calipers on a mechanical drawing


In spite of the giant leap that China has experienced when talking about quality in the manufacturing processes, if not taken several measure is still possible to have pitfalls on the manufacturing process.

But before some facts are needed to be mentioned:

According to  The Economist in 1990 it produced less than 3% of global manufacturing output by value; its share now is nearly a quarter. China produces about 80% of the world’s air-conditioners, 70% of its mobile phones and 60% of its shoes.

China became the largest manufacturing economy in the world in 2010 (with a 23.2% share of manufacturing activity) through extremely fast growth in the physical volume of value-added and modest inflation. The U.S. is in second place with a 17.2% share. China has more than four times the population of the United States, and though its manufacturing intensity of $1,978 per capita value-added in 2013 is high for a developing economy, it is well behind advanced countries such as the United States ($6,338).

Global high end brands such as Prada, Coach, Armani, Burberry and Apple products just to name a few are manufactured in China, so this shows that Made in China is also a synonym of High Quality Products.

Now having mentioned this, we’ve settled that Manufacturing in China now is a safe practice for quality products, but how to avoid any quality pitfalls in the manufacturing process?

Pick the Right Supplier

With loads of sourcing pages and internet directories is hard to make sure which of the  suppliers are real , with only a website to look at, it is impossible to know if you are dealing with a state of the art factory or a back street sweat shop.

Although now is easier to contact the potential suppliers and to sort out more about them by searching on internet directories such as Alibaba or Global Sources, the probability of having some quality issues is bigger than if you take a look to the supplier in site,  having a local partner is key for the success of your China manufacturing ventures.

Before placing an order with a new manufacturer it is important to ensure that the supplier has adequate production capability, machinery, staff training, on job supervision, working conditions, management systems and in-house quality control practices and processes.  Pictures from the supplier website or a glossy brochure are often a far cry from the reality of the daily workings of the factory.

Is important that the auditors follow international ISO 9001 defined standards and auditing practices in order to verify the legitimacy, capability and suitability of your selected facility for your specific manufacturing activities before you place your production order.

Terms and Conditions

At this point you’ve had already received and approved samples from your supplier, now before setting your order you must clarify some issues with your new manufacturing partner, by addressing a terms and conditions agreement where you’d normally include

 

• Payment method and terms

• Intellectual property and non disclosure guidelines

• Possible penalties for defective items or production delays

• Make sure you have the right to inspect the production

 

Social Compliance Audit

No matter china has scaled positions when speaking of working conditions and wages, is important to be sure that the manufacturing facility maintain the appropriate social rights.

Social compliance audits are becoming a vital part of almost all global supply chains. Such audits are carried out in a manner that suppliers are made to evaluate in their conformity with local laws. They conduct these audits for ensuring that one’s business partners sincerely abide by their own organization’s commitment to commercial social responsibility. The audits are carried by the professionals who are vastly experienced in social responsibility audits and maintain SA8000 international standard. This includes establishing and continuing in meeting code of conduct, ethical requirements and human rights.

The Social Compliance Audit programs in China focus on the below mentioned areas namely:

• Child labour laws • Forced labour
• Compensation • Disciplinary practices
• Health and safety • Freedom of association
• Management practices • Working hours
• Discrimination • Wages

In Production QC

Either by yourself, your local partner or an specialised 3rd party you ought to conduct QC inspections to make sure everything is going as planned and if any issues arised will be solved.The most popular IPI order verification points are as follow:

• < 5% Produced – Initial Production Check or First Article Inspection

• 10-25% Produced

• 40-50% Produced – Mid-Point QC

• 75% Produced

Before the shipment

Your production is almost completed and at this step you’d normally set the final balance of your payment to your manufacturing partner. By making a Preshipment Inspection you will have the reassurance and necessary safeguards that goods are fit for purpose before you make final payment transfer.  Negotiations on faulty or substandard product become much more difficult once full payment has been made and your goods are 7,000 miles away from the factory where they were produced.   The time delay and direct cost to rectify a product issue in China identified during a PSI inspection will be much less (even if the recommended action is a full remanufacture of goods) than corrective measures in your home country where your options become much more limited.

Final Word

Manufacturing in China has become easier and easier as the years pass by, but if you don’t establish an appropriate Quality Control regime over your production line some pitfalls may occur and delay or even worse make you lose valuable money, by having a local partner as China 2 West you can make sure that your good produced in China will actually be as the samples.