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Quality assurance in China

Discussion in 'Other Quality and Business Related Topics' started by Johnnym1, Oct 21, 2019.

  1. Johnnym1

    Johnnym1 Member

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    Hello,

    I am new to the forum so if this is already discussed somewhere else please point me in the right direction.

    My situation is that I am developing a quality management system for a California based hand tool company. The vast majority of the products are manufactured in China. We currently employ 2 people who work in China to visit each vendor regularly to perform product acceptance inspections. Having the 2 people in China has gone a long way to improve the product quality. They currently spend a lot of time traveling to and from each vendor with calibrated measurement equipment and aren't able to perform a very thorough inspection on every product prior to kitting the final product. The inspection plans and subsequent processes are still being developed but will require more in depth product inspection than what is currently being performed.

    My question is how do companies typically handle quality inspections in a foreign country?

    My initial thoughts were to setup an inspection/warehouse office in China that they can work from instead of traveling to and from each vendor for inspections. This seems like the most logical step to me but I am not familiar with what it would take to setup an office in China so I was hoping to hear what other companies do in similar situations.
     
  2. Golfman25

    Golfman25 Well-Known Member

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    Why can't the suppliers do their own quality inspections?
     
  3. Johnnym1

    Johnnym1 Member

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    They can and do (to some level) but they often miss defects and we just don't trust that they are doing it to an acceptable level. The company hired the two people in China to catch the defects in China before they are shipped to the states to help save time and money reacting to nonconformance.

    I was hired into this position about 2 months ago and was tasked with developing the quality assurance program. From what I've learned about the company it is still working through growing pains and isn't up to date on industry best practices. I agree it would be nice if we could rely on the vendors quality inspections (at least until they are shipped to the states); however, none of the typical quality practices have been in place to work with the vendors on quality issues. I'm working on getting them implemented but it is a slow process.

    Just for reference we have about 400 products that we get manufactured in China from 10 different vendors with varying levels of quality. The volumes range from 200K-500K per year for each product.

    Is it common practice to rely on the vendor quality inspections and not perform inspections in the country of origin or once they are received? The only industry that I've experienced a dock to stock program is in automotive where an extensive PPAP was performed. Unfortunately I doubt we will get to that level of qualification any time soon.
     
  4. Golfman25

    Golfman25 Well-Known Member

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    I'll just say this, which is probably above your pay grade. You could avoid all of that nonsense by just buying from vendors who are qualified to produce defect free products, on time. If they are in the states or more "expensive" locations, then so be it. What do they say -- you can't inspect in quality.
     
  5. Johnnym1

    Johnnym1 Member

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    Yes that is above my pay grade and doesn't help my current situation as it's not an option at this time. Even if it was within my sphere of influence I currently don't have any data to backup any rational I might have for switching vendors and I doubt I will anytime soon.

    What would be your recommendation for someone in my position that has to develop the quality assurance program and improve product quality with the current vendors?
     
  6. Johnnym1

    Johnnym1 Member

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    What nonsense are you referring to specifically?
     
  7. Golfman25

    Golfman25 Well-Known Member

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    Running around the country to vendors doing inspections your vendors should be doing anyway.
     
  8. Johnnym1

    Johnnym1 Member

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    Are you recommending that we stop doing inspections all together since the vendor should be doing it and rely on customer complaints/returns to identify defective products?

    I'm not completely new to quality but this is the first time I've held a position like this. Additional information (links, books, or search terms) as to what you are actually recommending would be helpful.
     
  9. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    They pay an agency to do the inspections, at (high) cost. They also make the supplier develop a Quality Plan, so that the agency can point out to the supplier where they aren't doing what was agreed upon.
     
  10. Johnnym1

    Johnnym1 Member

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    Are the inspections typically performed for every lot prior to shipment based on ISO2859 or is it typically based on historical data and customer complaints/returns?

    This would eliminate the need to perform a final inspection at the final destination right?

    Sounds like the main difference is that we employe the inspectors where as other companies pay 3rd party inspectors instead but still achieve the same end results. Is that a fair statement?

    I haven't had a chance to work with the vendors to develop a quality plan yet but that is a great idea to put on the task list.
     
  11. Golfman25

    Golfman25 Well-Known Member

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    What I am suggesting is that you choose vendors who can meet your needs and provide defect free products by doing their own inspections, not by passing off that responsibility to you.
     
  12. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    It's a common practice in certain industries, even when the supplier DOES the inspections.
     
  13. Johnnym1

    Johnnym1 Member

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    Are you referring to having a robust vendor approval and management system or performing in-house quality inspections to verify the quality is consistent with expectations?
     
  14. Johnnym1

    Johnnym1 Member

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    Yes, that is what I am trying to work towards. Either developing the current vendors to the quality level we expect or push for higher quality vendors using analytical data that doesn't exist. Unfortunately I will also need to work on modifying the existing small business culture to achieve that.

    In the mean time I am planning to use the inspections to collect data, improve our designs and specifications, and push the vendors to improve their process. I doubt we'll ever fully eliminate inspections but like you said you can't inspect in quality and I have to start somewhere.
     
  15. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    It's not uncommon for a resident QA person to 'camp out" at suppliers to watch over the attainment of quality.
     

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