Why is Pre-Shipment Inspection Important from a Sourcing Perspective?


First, let’s share a real story: Wills, a UK company who ordered 1*40HQ 65L plastic red bucket from Xingxing Plastic manufacturer which was located in the south of China.

As Wills didn’t have branch office in China and they had no idea how to get local person help them to do pre-shipment inspection, they instead asked the factory to send them 1pc sample selected from cargo shipment.

After one month, cargo is finished per plan, factory sent them a sample for confirmation. Wills received and confirmed it is good to ship, as they checked, and it was the exact same as they confirmed before.

The cargo was shipped and arrived. But Wills were shocked when they opened the door of the container! Why? Half of the buckets were broken and in a mess!

Initially factory passed the buck to shipping company, then to Wills that the packing ways they requested had problem etc. Finally Wills selected a sample to test, and it turns out, the factory changed the material which was supposed to be PE (polyethylene) to PP (polypropylene) because of lowering the cost.  Both PP and PE  are plastic, nobody can tell the difference from the bucket except those who work with plastics professionally.

If Wills arranged to do pre-shipment inspection, this issue would be checked out! But we all know,  there is no IF. So learning from their lesson, we can see how important it is to do pre-shipment inspection!

So, how do we do pre-shipment inspection?

First, it is important to hire a professional QC person to do pre-shipment inspection. It is best to hire a person from a company with a good reputation such as SGS/Intertek/STS etc. it is also good to hire someone who has many year’s QC experience for well known companies or brands.

Second, choose the inspection standard. Nowadays, people like to use AQL as their standard, which is very popular. AQL has many different levels, for daily commodity, 0/2.5/4 (critical/major/minor) is widely used. If your product is high level or high value, it is better for you to choose the strict like 0/1.5(key/major). The professional QC you hired will suggest you the level by your product as they know them very well. Of course, you can use your own standard if you have one, just send it to your QC and ask them to follow it up.

Third, it is important for you to transfer all necessary documents which indicate what you order and what you want, especially when you have special request, you have to inform the QC you hired and asked them to pay more attention on it. For example, if you order a picnic bag and it’s specially made with PU coating, not PVC coating. If you don’t inform them, they will neglect to check that unnoticed coating.

Lastly, in case you need to save time or other reason, you decide not to do pre-shipment inspection, don’t inform the factory you won’t until the last minute. On above instance, if Wills didn’t informed the factory they weren’t going to do a pre-shipment inspection, factory maybe wouldn’t have changed the material.

But comparing the small investment of time and cost, it is best to arrange a pre-shipment inspection!

About the Author
I am a former Amazonian, where I spent 3 years as a sourcing consultant. I have more than ten years of sourcing experience, both at Amazon and sourcing electrical home appliances. As an experienced sourcing consultant, I know how to help clients distinguish between a true factory and a pretender trading company - getting our clients the best possible pricing and long-term relationships with legitimate businesses rather than those who would take advantage of naive entrepreneurs, sadly often found on Alibaba.

2 thoughts on “Why is Pre-Shipment Inspection Important from a Sourcing Perspective?”

  1. At what point do you have your products sent in for lab testing if necessary? Is this something that you have your QC person do for you – collect the sample to test and send to lab?

  2. Here are my thoughts on this:

    Whether lab testing should be done at every production run (versus once a year) depends on the product category. More on that below. But in general, for ANY category, if something is going to be tested, it is ideal to have the sample chosen by an impartial 3rd party inspector or lab representative who uses a specific methodology to select random units from a production run. This way, you can avoid having a “Golden Samples” carefully engineered in the sample room and chosen by the factory as most likely to produce a passing test result, but not represent production. Testing is not cheap, so if you are doing it, you need to make sure what is tested is representative of what is going to end up in your customer’s hands. So yes, having the QC person pull the sample- as long as the QC person doesn’t work for the factory — is the best plan.

    Lab testing is required for toys, juvenile products and durable nursery equipment and baby care products a minimum of once a year, to show that it meets the minimum safety and labeling requirements of the CPSIA legislation in the US, and has the appropriate passing test reports issued, so product safety certificates can be generated.

    Food contact items (dinnerware, drinkware, serveware, flatware and anything else that food makes contact with) should be tested for EVERY production run to meet FDA standards for what is Generally Recognized as Safe.

    For many other categories of items, the frequency of testing depends on the product risks and frequency of production runs (i.e.: is it electric? Could it catch on fire? Short out a home? Blow up an airplane? Or is it a cosmetic with potential for heavy metals contamination or allergens? Or is it a piece of wood or plastic furniture, where variations in the substrate could mean the difference between a chair collapsing or holding a 200 lb weight?) Sometimes, testing every production run makes the most sense from a risk mitigation perspective. Sometimes once a year (or less) makes sense.


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