A professional pre-shipment inspection gives importers assurance that their goods meet the required standard before they’re dispatched.
Pre-shipment inspections are an important part of the quality control services that Qima provides. This quality control procedure helps businesses to protect against the cost, disruption and damage to brand image caused by sub-standard goods.
For some importers, a pre-shipment inspection will discover serious quality issues and ensure that they do not pay for an order of defective goods.
A pre-shipment inspection is an inspection that is carried out near the completion of the production of an order. Having one done provides a final opportunity for a buyer to take corrective action before an order is completed and shipped.
Accredited inspection agencies perform pre-shipment inspections when production is at least 80% complete.
The pre-shipment inspection covers the functionality, performance, durability, overall appearance and dimensions of goods that have been ordered.
However, there is more to it than just that. The full purposes of a pre-shipment inspection are to:
Give importers peace of mind that they will receive the right quantity of goods
Ensure that an importer’s own specific quality requirements have been met, through customizable checks
Check that packaging is correct
Where appropriate, to issue certificates for import and billing purposes. Notably, some countries require a pre-shipment inspection certificate to allow goods through customs
In some cases, producers request a pre-shipment inspection themselves to give quality assurance to their customers
When Qima inspectors carry out a pre-shipment inspection, they work to a procedure. This procedure can be adapted for different importers, suppliers and types of merchandise.
After an inspection is completed, a detailed report is provided to the client. This report gives importers a chance to decide whether or not they will accept or reject an order. Reports are provided on the same day the inspection is carried out.
First of all, inspectors count products and shipping cartons to verify that the correct quantity of an order has been finished. In order to pass, 80% of an order must be finished and packed.
As well as determining whether the correct number of products have been completed and packed, inspectors can also take note of other details. This is such as what quantity is finished but unpacked or what quantity is semi-finished.
Packaging is inspected to ensure that it meets specifications.
Inner and outer packaging are inspected to ensure that they meet client specifications, with results provided in the report. Alongside this, there is a check of export carton shipping markings and their dimensions and weight.
When appropriate, packaging is checked for the presence of vent holes and mold prevention units.
The most important and lengthy part of a pre-shipment inspection is the review of workmanship quality.
This part usually involves following standardized checkpoints, according to the type of product inspected and the destination market. However, they can also be customized according to your specific quality requirements.
For Qima inspections, there are hundreds of checklists available for a variety of product categories that you can customize.
Using client provided samples and specifications, Qima inspectors ensure that products meet important general issues of conformity.
These basic aspects of conformity to specifications are looked at before more product specific tests and inspections are carried out:
Construction and materials
Artwork and labels
Careful checks are made for all these areas, with detailed results for all different inspected products provided in the report.
Checks will often be detailed. Checks of artwork and labels, for example, include checks of quality, spelling, fonts, boldness, colors, dimensions, positioning and alignment.
This includes a lengthy breakdown by style/category of product if different styles of the same product or different products have been ordered. Pictures and detailed explanations are provided.
Qima checks are highly customizable, allowing for specific checks to be carried out, as per client request.
These can include detailed checks related to specific areas of quality related to a specific product. On top of this, tests of function and some safety tests can be carried out, as well.
It should be pointed out that only certain aspects of safety can be tested in a pre-shipment inspection. In many cases, safety tests will need to be carried out in a laboratory.
Some examples of product specific tests that can be carried out are:
For garments, apparel and footwear, inspectors will usually perform various product specific tests.
For example, buttons, zippers, and other accessories can all be checked with pull tests, fatigue tests, and stretch tests. Alternatively, the weight and composition of fabric can be checked against a client's specifications. As another example, inspectors can check seam strength and notify a client of the number of stitches, per inch, for the main seam.
Qima has extensive experience of working with textile importers, and we offer a comprehensive range of textile-specific tests.
Mechanical safety tests are often required for products with moving parts that could potentially cause injuries, if they are defective, such as bicycles and pushchairs.
Some of these tests can be carried out as part of a pre-shipment inspection. For example, inspectors may be able to check for sharp edges or parts that could pinch or entrap appendages. Alternatively, they may also be able to check safety critical components, such as screws and hinges.
While some mechanical safety tests are available, the tests that can be performed during a pre-shipment inspection cannot replace tests performed in a laboratory. In order to import to certain markets, more thorough laboratory tests will be required.
Electrical and electronic products must be tested to ensure that they comply with a wide range of safety regulations. Evaluating a product for electrical safety is often performed under laboratory conditions, rather than on-site at the factory.
However, some electrical safety tests can be carried out onsite during an inspection. These are:
Dielectric withstand (hi-pot) tests
Earth continuity tests
Critical component (CDF: Construction Data Form) checks
As well as carrying out the checks mentioned so far, inspectors will also provide information on workmanship standards and overall quality levels.
To do this, inspectors look for and report on the presence of defects that are common on certain products. Defects, such as blemishes in finishes, cracks, sharp edges, color inconsistency, stains, chips or holes are all reported. This is along with the frequency of their occurrence across a sampled batch.
Defects are typically classified as minor, major, or critical based on predetermined acceptable tolerance levels. We will explain this in more depth, later.
Inspections are usually carried out at the production facility. Sampling is done according to a specific procedure.
Quality standards are set by the business that has commissioned the inspection.
Pre-shipment inspections are usually (and preferably) carried out on-site at the production facility. Having inspectors on-hand at a factory allows Qima to have full control over the inspection and to directly verify the quality of goods.
While on-site inspections offer the most accurate and thorough check of goods possible, remote guided inspections are also available.
In a guided inspection, an inspector will remotely guide factory staff through step-by-step instructions, collecting evidence via video call. During the inspection, photos are taken to document the procedure. These are then carefully checked against product specifications and other testing requirements.
Guided Inspections are particularly useful if:
There is limited accessibility to a factory
Business continuity is required in the face of disruptions, such as coronavirus
More basic visibility checks of a product are sufficient
They allow for an inspection to take place immediately
Qima uses the internationally recognized statistical sampling procedure ISO 2859-1 or the ANSI equivalent ANSI/ASQC Z1.4.
These standards help clients to determine how rigorous a test will be and how strictly minimum standards of quality will be set.
Specifically, by allowing choice within a banded system, these standards determine:
What percentage of products from an order will be inspected (inspection level)
What percentage is allowed to fall below a certain standard before an entire order is deemed to have failed (acceptable quality limit)
This allows for a good level of adaptation.
You can choose different inspection levels and acceptable quality limits, depending on factors such as your factory’s history, the product type and the tests that will be performed.
As a simple example, an order from a factory with a high record of defective products could be subject to a stricter inspection by inspecting a greater percentage of goods.
While this may seem simple at first, there are actually a wide range of choices to make, and setting the right parameters can be complicated. QIMA have established standards based on industry best practices and can help you refine them to meet your specific quality expectations.
Once a pre-shipment inspection is completed, a report is compiled with a pass/fail result. Along with the result are an overview of key findings, a detailed account of the inspection results and supporting pictures.
This report is released on the same day that the inspection is carried out.
QIMA inspectors are highly trained product experts who can help ensure your products meet your specifications.
QIMA provides independent pre-shipment inspections for a wide range of softlines, hardlines, toys, electronics and food products. Our clients get transparent and instant results, so they can make rapid, cost-saving decisions.
Our inspectors can be on-site anywhere in the world within 48 hours, and QIMA inspection reports are delivered on the same day as the inspection.
Contact us now for an instant quote!