Managing Quality When Sourcing From China: Tips & Best Practices

Managing Quality when sourcing from China
Are you looking at the best ways in managing quality when sourcing from China? Read some of our tips and best practices...

Are you looking at the best ways in managing quality when sourcing from China? Read some of our tips and best practices...

Can high-quality affordable goods be “Made in China”?

We have all heard horror stories regarding made in China products and their quality control problems. While “Made in China” may have a bad reputation to some, there are many misconceptions about what can actually be accomplished with the right Chinese factory.  Yes, China pumps out a lot of junk, but we also have to acknowledge that, in fact, there are plenty of high quality products also being made in China today.  Like iPhones for example.

If you want to know what can be done to manage the quality issues and ensure your product doesn’t fall into the “junk import” list, then this blog post is for you.  Here you will find ways to limit your exposure to quality issues both major and minor. 

What you can do to minimize your exposure to quality issues in China:

  1. It can’t hurt to have a mutually agreed reference sample. But it is even better to have a well written QC check list that details every important aspect of what is important.
  2. Your inbound QC should be the same as factory’s outbound QC.  Share as much information as possible so they know exactly what you want.  Since a QC check list is a written standard, you should absolutely make his check list part of the actual contract or PO. Be careful with your wording! Even better than saying “production much match the golden sample” is saying “production must match the golden sample and confirm to the agreed QC check list”.
  3. You are also wise to use a 3rd party to check the QC to confirm the factory actual made what you asked for as agreed in the contract.
  4. Structure your payment terms so that payment and QC are linked. You may need to give a deposit to start production, but don’t make the remaining payments until after the inspector reports come back positive from an independent 3rd Check out if you need introductions to inspection agents as that service is outside the scope of what we do hear at

Tip:  If you are on a tight budget and don’t hire a 3rd party to check the QC on your behalf there may be some way to limit your exposure to defects, but they are much harder to implement than hiring a QC agent.  But here they are, just for your reference:

Your contractual agreement with your Chinese factories could provide you with a system that allows you, with supplier’s consent, to monitor the production and quality control of your products. Supplier may be receptive to such an arrangement if they have limited experience with your particular production method or materials and you are willing to essentially train them on how to make your product.  This boils down to a technology transfer under the cover of a purchase contract.

Are you looking at the best ways in managing quality when sourcing from China?

Best practices to ensure quality when buying from China

As buyers we need to be professional in our ability to create a written standard for our expected quality.

The ultimate goal is NOT to have defects and the best way to avoid defects is for the factory to have a crystal clear understanding in terms of what is your standard and how to inspect for that standard (including what tools and tech for example, if you are buying red umbrellas, it is not sufficient to say “my standard is a red umbrella”.

Set the standard:

A professional buyer would state the PMS or Pantone # of red they want and also offer counter samples of 3 things:

  1. The darkest acceptable red.
  2. The ideal red.
  3. The lightest acceptable red.


Set the method to inspect for that standard:

The inspection protocol should also be well defined. For example, “umbrellas are to be pulled from the line at random per AQL level 2, inspected against agreed counter samples, held at arm’s length (no less than X cm from the eye of the inspector) under natural light.”

Any China sourcing veteran will agree- if you don’t put down in writing a scientific and repeatable inspection process for the key aspects of your product, there is a high likelihood you will get exactly what you didn’t want.”

As a general rule, the buyer should write the product specifications pretending that the supplier is new to the industry. Really “spell it out”.

Related content: QC, Inspections & Contracts when China sourcing:

Bench marking:  New to manufacturing and quality control systems? How to know if a contract manufacturer or supplier will understand your specs and has implemented your suggested procedures for inspecting against those agreed specs?

  1. If you want to see how a professional contract manufacturer lays out the internal inspection standards for inspectors and workers on the production line, visit PassageMaker’s Product Quality Manual.
  2. Watch this video on QC and Contracts:

Title: China Supplier Contracts & Negotiations: Building QC into the contract

Video link:

China Sourcing: 10 Common Mistakes




ABL Blog: Sr. Editor and Primary Content Creator:  Michael J. Bellamy

About the Author: Michael J. Bellamy

Originally from Upstate New York, Mike moved to Asia in 1993 and is a China business advisor to both Fortune 500 companies and small businesses.  Recognized as an expert on doing business in China, he has been interviewed by WSJ, CNBC, FT & Bloomberg.

A featured presenter on China issues at seminars, trade shows and corporate events across the globe.

Learn more about Mike and AsiaBridge Law at

Mike is the author of “The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing
(available on Amazon).

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