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All About Pre-Shipment Inspections: Achieving Quality and Avoiding Mistakes

By: QIMA Nov 14, 2023

Most businesses know that it’s vital to ensure that orders are fulfilled correctly before goods are shipped. However, not all businesses take advantage of a powerful measure to verify that your production orders meet all desired and required standards: the pre-shipment inspection (PSI).

The PSI, a comprehensive on-site inspection, is conducted when production is 80-100% complete. It plays an important role in safeguarding businesses against costly mistakes. In this blog, we will explore the significance of PSI, the benefits it offers to businesses, and the key checks conducted during the inspection.

What Is a Pre-Shipment Inspection?

A pre-shipment inspection is a systematic and on-site inspection of randomly selected units from all batches of an order, conducted when production is nearing completion, typically at the 80-100% stage. This inspection serves as a final quality check to ensure that the production order has been executed correctly and that the products meet the specified standards. This is a vital step for newly manufactured products before they are shipped for export or import.

A Brief History of the Pre-Shipment Inspection

The concept of pre-shipment inspections can be traced back to the mid-20th century when international trade began to flourish rapidly. As global commerce expanded, the need for quality assurance became evident to protect buyers and importers from substandard or defective goods. The practice was officially introduced in 1994 under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) when international organizations and trade agreements recognized the importance of standardizing inspection processes. The establishment of PSI standards aimed to ensure unbiased inspections and fair trade practices, reduce risks and delays, and foster mutual trust between trading partners. Over the years, PSIs have evolved into a fundamental aspect of quality control, empowering businesses to deliver high-quality products and maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

Why Perform a Pre-Shipment Inspection?

A PSI is your last chance to make sure production is correct before it goes out into the world. The risks associated with poor quality are high, as consumers now demand products that meet their quality expectations. A PSI offers peace of mind, assuring businesses that their orders have been successfully filled before dispatch, reducing the risk of costly mistakes. Here are four reasons why businesses should perform a PSI.

1. Ensure Adherence to Specifications

A PSI is an indispensable tool for businesses to verify that their suppliers have met all agreed-upon specifications. Through off-the-shelf pre-shipment inspection checklists or customized checks, inspectors meticulously examine the product's dimensions, materials, construction, colors, labeling, and overall appearance. This verification process ensures that the products align with the original specifications, ensuring consistent quality and meeting customer expectations. A PSI also helps you verify product quality even if you cannot access the factory yourself.

2. Reduce Costly Risks and Delays

Conducting a PSI during the final stages of production allows businesses to swiftly rectify any identified issues. By taking proactive measures at this critical juncture, you can avoid costly delays.

3. Avoid Returns and Protect Brand Image

A successful PSI reduces the likelihood of defective products reaching the market and being returned by dissatisfied customers. Avoiding such returns not only saves costs but also protects your brand's image and reputation. In the competitive consumer goods market, maintaining a reputation for delivering high-quality products is crucial for sustaining customer loyalty and gaining a competitive edge.

4. Maintain Supplier Oversight

A pre-shipment inspection empowers businesses to verify the quality of their products directly at the source, mitigating the risk of paying for defective goods. Instead of solely relying on the factory's assurance, conducting an independent inspection provides an objective and thorough assessment of the product's adherence to specifications and quality standards. By checking for yourself, you can make informed decisions and maintain control over the quality of your products.

How Does a Pre-Shipment Inspection Work?

Before beginning a PSI, inspectors follow internationally recognized statistical sampling procedures to randomly select product samples. The inspector will also define an acceptable number of defects in a batch before it’s rejected, or an Acceptable Quality Limit.

Before beginning quality checks, the inspector will also count the shipping cartons to verify that the correct number of products will be sent to the correct destination.

The inspection covers a wide range of crucial checks to ensure product quality:

Workmanship Defects Checks: The overall workmanship of the finished products is thoroughly examined to identify any visible defects. These defects are classified by severity based on predetermined acceptable tolerance levels, which are usually agreed upon between the supplier and manufacturer.

Product Specifications Checks: Inspectors verify product dimensions, weight, colors, style, construction, artwork, labels, and any other specific details against the provided samples and specifications. You can define these checks with a standard pre-shipment inspection checklist, or customize these checks by creating your own checklist.

Function and Safety Test: Functional testing is conducted for garments, apparel, and footwear, ensuring the strength and durability of accessories such as buttons and zippers. Mechanical and electrical safety tests are performed for products with moving parts or electrical components.

Packing and Packaging Checks: Inspectors review unit packing, inner packing, outer packing, export carton dimensions, weights, and shipping marks to ensure compliance with client specifications.

The Pre-Shipment Inspection Report and QIMA Expertise

Through comprehensive checks and verification of specifications, QIMA’s pre-shipment inspection services help businesses deliver consistent, high-quality products to their customers, gaining a competitive advantage in the market. Once the PSI is completed, our clients receive same-day a detailed inspection report, outlining the findings of the inspection and providing a pass/fail outcome.

Our highly trained and experienced inspectors are experts in various product categories, ensuring comprehensive and reliable quality control. QIMA inspectors can be on-site anywhere in the world within 48 hours of booking, providing businesses with real-time insights into their production process.

Learn more about pre-shipment inspections[1] or contact us for a quote.

Other Inspections

While a Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI) is essential for verifying the overall quality of the production lot before shipment, other inspections offer distinct advantages throughout the manufacturing process.

Utilizing a combination of inspections allows businesses to maintain strict quality control at various stages, leading to enhanced product excellence, reduced risks, and strengthened customer confidence.

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