Ensuring a standard of quality is one of the greatest concerns for anyone importing furniture from China or any other good. In fact, I’d say any experienced importer it’s the number one consideration! Come to China, you can always find a cheap price, there’s always some factory out there willing to accept a low ball price. But quality, how do we make sure the stuff we are going to buy, spend thousands of $$ on is actually good quality when it arrives?

Simple right, we just do Quality Control! – WRONG!

First of, here’s why Quality Control alone wont work!

Today I’m going to tell you two things.

  • A business associate of mine who thought that Quality Control enough would protect his $82,500 investment.
  • The basic steps you must follow if you want to get quality product, from China, every time.

So, cut the story short Rob is a UK importer of flat packed garden furniture, several years ago when he was fairly new to importing, he order two containers of garden furniture.

This was his biggest import to date and he was keen to make sure he got it right. He took a lot of time talking with the supplier, going over many details. This process lasted a few weeks. He was feeling confident with the factory, they seemed to understand all of Robs requirements.

Rob went ahead with the order, but Rob knew quality control was important, and $82,500 was a lot of money for him. He decided to engage a 3rd party Quality Control company before the goods were shipped to do a Quality Control Inspection. It cost $300 per man day.

The quality control report came back, it was a standard AQL (Acceptable Quality Level) this is where the inspector checks a certain % of the batch and checks for major/minor defects.

The report came back, it was 30 pages long! It had photos of all the dimensions, also photos where the inspector had put a small sticker with an arrow. The inspector had loads of pictures with this ‘arrow sticker’ on. Many on marks so tiny no customer would ever complain about this!

Based on the AQL allowance for major/minor defects, this Quality Control report result showed ‘Pending’

Rob went ahead and let the factory ship the goods, seemed like the only issues were some tiny marks that Rob was not worried about.

Fast forward 5 weeks later

When Rob had the goods and started selling them….

Customers hated Rob’s flat packed garden furniture sets.

  • The instructions were terrible, customers were trying to follow the instructions but several steps had wrong diagrams, the drawings were impossible to interpret, they were written in ‘Chinglish’ as a pose to English!
  • These garden sets had glass tabletops – 25% of the stock arrived to the end customer with smashed glass!
  • The furniture was made with a metal frame with rattan woven around it. Trying to align all of the frames to make the chairs was almost impossible, the customers ended up having to slightly bend steel just to get the bolts in!
  • Finally, if the customer had made it this far, when they finally sat down to enjoy their new garden set, it was the most uncomfortable seat ever! The backs of the seat were at about 92 degrees, meaning when you leant back on the back rest, you were actually leaning slightly forwards!

Rob took a very big hit – after trying to sell though the stock cheap, even with discounted prices, 50% of the stock was being returned to him. Customers hated this stuff! Rob ended up selling the rest of the stock, on the cheap to a clearance company for 10c on the dollar. It was a major blow.

So what common mistakes importers make

In short, these are the steps you need to take to ensure quality, every single time. You can also read this guide on how to find a qualified sourcing company in China.

  • Sourcing – Quality starts here! No amount of Quality Control will ever turn a ‘bad factory’ into a ‘good factory’
  • Quality Assurance – this is the major step Rob missed. The product, assembly, packaging, instructions all need to be agreed up on before production. The reality is this is a LOT OF WORK, (its actually what we send most of our day doing at Easy Imex!) Skip this step at your peril!
  • Documentation – Get your Quality Assurance and final specifications for everything, in writing, into a contract before parting with $82,500!
  • Quality Control – AQL alone is not enough, with your documented Quality Assurance documents, you need to check that the specification agreed on has been adhered to.
  • People – I’m just going to come out and say this one without sugar coating it. Over 16 years in China, a lot of amazing relationships with all sorts of factory owners and personal. I can tell you, what’s common for 3rd part inspection companies is for them to arrive at the factory, light up a cigarette and ask the boss ‘how much would it cost your factory if I fail this batch?’ – Ill let you figure out what goes on after that!

At Easy Imex, we know that the people who carry out our inspections are hugely important to the whole process, we only use full time Quality Control Inspectors for a very good reason!

So there you have it Quality Control alone does not ensure Quality Product!

For more information about importing from China to UK, click here!

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    About the Author: Adam

    Adam Gilbourne is the Founder and Managing Director of Easy Imex. Since 2005, he has helped hundreds of companies worldwide to successfully import from China. He has a large expertise on product sourcing, quality assurance, and supply chain management.

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