The importance of in-process inspections

I just got back from an apparel inspection in Zhejiang. This was actually a project on behalf of the lady mentioned in my previous blog post. She did end up hiring me and sent me to her FTY in Pan’an which is about 90 minutes by car from Yiwu. Yet what she hired me for was not the problem I outlined in my blog post – the failure of a FTY to do a correct sample for her even after she had gone there to provide them with instructions. She sent me to Pan’an because she has a 21,000 pc order that is due to ship very soon and she was beginning to feel extremely nervous about what the vendor will be putting into the container. 

It is a good thing that she sent me because when I showed up in Pan’an just three or four hundred pcs/21,000 had been completed. The vendor seemed to be focusing on another large order for an Italian customer and my customer’s order – what little of it there was in evidence – just seemed to be sitting there on the workshop floor. Because I was there to do an inspection I pulled out the QC checklist I had prepared and did a random inspection on 80 pcs. I found some significant problems e.g. a mistake on the care label and on the master carton label as well, sewing in places that was off the mark, a good QTY of product that had not been off-pressed etc etc. Most importantly, I overheard a discussion between the vendor and someone in his office about a shipping date that was 2 weeks later than what he had told my customer.  This was a critical piece of info because my customer’s is a seasonal item. If it is not in the stores by a certain date, she will lose signifiicant sales.

I communicated all the problems to both the vendor and my customer and they are now in the process of working out solutions, the most important of which is the shipping date. My customer will be going to China herself  to make sure the vendor ships on time. 

In short, this was a valuable lesson in the importance of doing an in-process inspection ( though I am afraid this inspection came a little late in the game ).  By investing a little time and money to monitor your vendor as they make your order, you will seriously reduce the risk of a complete fiasco in which you will lose both money and customers. In fact, while I was in China this time I met with an old colleague of mine who told me an interesting story about a former boss of ours. He has a new company and bought three containers of ceramics for a major US chain.  He did not inspect them and when they arrived in the US they were not sellable. This person has been doing business in China for 25 years and why he would not inspect an order like that I have no idea.  

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