Most experienced Product Developers and Amazon Sellers know that having a product inspection is a critical step in ensuring high-quality, defect-free products. However, just because you know something is necessary doesn’t mean you are actually doing it right. Everyone knows Keanu Reeves is an actor, but that doesn’t make him good at his job.
Here are Five Things even experienced sellers may be doing wrong when using inspectors.
Mistake 1: You’re Using Inspectors with a Vested Interest.
There are two types of people or inspection companies who will offer to perform inspections. One type has a ‘vested interest’ in your product passing; the other type doesn’t. Vested interest is a legal term that means that the agency performing the inspection will lose money or gain money depending on the outcome of the inspection. Naturally, everyone likes to make money, so of course, if the agency will make money by giving your products a passing score, they are more likely to err on the side of leniency and overlook some defects just to add to their wallet. (The worst ones will actively cover-up or ignore defects to give the inspection a passing score.) Never use an inspection agency that has a vested interest in the outcome.
Who makes money by offering an inspection and giving it a passing score? Quite a few people involved.
The supplier, for one. The inspection is (in part) to keep the supplier honest. If they are their own inspector, they may intentionally let defects pass or miss problems that they don’t consider bad but which your customers may complain about.
Your sourcing agent is another. Your sourcing agent doesn’t want you to think they set you up with a supplier that sells crappy products. So, if they do the inspection and find that the products are terrible, they may approve them anyway just so you don’t ask the sourcing agent for their money back. In addition, if they get a commission and, after an inspection, discover half the items are defective and unsellable, that cuts their commission in half, too.
Your shipper or freight forwarder also has a vested interest. They make money only when you ship product. The more items you ship, the more money they make. It may appear at first to be convenient if your freight forwarder does the inspection (and hundreds of freight forwarders on Facebook encourage a one-stop shop approach), but simple logic should make you realize that the more products they identify as defective, the more they will lose money by not shipping them.
Always choose a ‘third party’ inspection agency. That means an inspection agency that will not financially gain or lose based on the inspection result. Otherwise, you will let the fox guard the henhouse.
Mistake 2: Skipping Inspections
The Chinese culture loves gambling. If you visit China, take a day or two in Macau and you’ll feel like you are in old-timey Las Vegas filming a James Bond movie. Don’t give your suppliers an opportunity to gamble with your product. If you do an inspection on your first order and your second order, but then skip inspection on your third order, they will know that for every order henceforth there is a likely probability that an inspection won’t occur. They will be lax with the standards because it’s worth the gamble to them.
Also, having good results on the first two inspections does not mean the third will be great. Machinery and equipment may age and fall apart. Plus, machinery requires maintenance. In addition, raw material suppliers may change. Don’t forget that new employees need to be trained and experienced employees may retire. A lot of changes can occur between production runs, so never skip an inspection.
Mistake 3: You Don’t Communicate Expectations Clearly
Communication is critical for good products that are produced consistently and with high-quality standards. Always provide your factory with detailed product specs, a BOM, tech pack, graphic files, 3D files, PRD, samples, illustrations, and so on. You should provide those same files and documents to your inspection company as well. They can use those documents and files to better understand what your product is and how it should function. They can then do a better job evaluating your product and ensuring it meets the standards that you set.
Does your product require EVT (Engineering Validation Testing)? Have your inspection agency come in early during the process and confirm this. They are objective and third party, so you know that the results are quantifiable and accurate.
Do you have specific fabrics that you signed off on? Get a swatch from your supplier and cut it in three pieces. Hold onto one piece. Sign the second and send it back as a reference sample. Send the third to your inspection agency so that they can use it as reference against the finished products.
Mistake 4: Don’t Fully Use Your Inspection Agency as a Certification Resource
Certain products require certified testing – ranging from UL certification to Prop 65. Although your inspection agency may not be able to do all the required testing themselves, they can manage and ‘quarterback’ your certification and testing needs. They can also provide guidance and insight into which certifications are necessary for your product.
Mistake 5: You Only Require A Pre-Shipment Inspection
Inspections do not have to wait until your product is ready to ship. A “During Progress Inspection” (DPI) performed 10-20% through production will identify production problems early enough to make changes. This will prevent an entire production run from failing simply because one element was wrong and going under the QA’s radar.
It also helps to ensure that your production is on time and meeting deadlines. Always invest in doing a DPI whenever you can.
Mistake 6: You Have Suppliers Pay for the Second Inspection
If you need a second inspection, NEVER have the supplier pay for it. I have seen hundreds of well-meaning Amazon FBA “gurus” advise people to have the supplier pay for the second inspection if they fail the first. This is terrible advice. You should always own and control the relationship with your inspection agency.
If your products fail an inspection and you choose to have a second inspection, make an agreement early on that you will pay for the second inspection. The supplier will reimburse you deducting the cost of the second inspection from your remaining balance. At the end, it will still come from their pocket, but you do not relinquish control of your quality to your supplier.
Mistake 7: You Neglect to Ask for a Sample Report
Always research your inspection agency. Look at their site, ask for references, talk to their customers, and look for complaints. But always ask for a sample report, too.
Below is a photo I took of a brochure from an inspection agency promoting itself at the Canton Fair in 2018. They tried to sell me on their services by showing how they tested the strength of the chair. They were clueless about safety evaluation, how to measure carrying weight, and had no idea what criteria are used to test the quality of a product.
Obviously, a legitimate inspection agency would use consistent, accurate, objective, and measurable analysis. Ask to see a sample report. If you see three guys sitting on a chair, choose someone else.