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What it’s like to work with small local factories in China

Our recent quality control inspection case at a remote local factory in China

This quality check took place in Xianju County. It is a god-forsaken village in Zhejiang Province, and it was a hell of a problem to get there in the first place. There is no railway in that area, only 2 slowpoke busses a day from Jinhua city 100 km away can take you to the place.

People working with such factories in the middle of nowhere are usually real experts in finding desirable prices. However, the problem is that manufacturing conditions and management are often on par with their low prices, so producing goods of satisfactory quality becomes a real challenge.

After failing first quality check several months before it was decided to perform full inspection of wooden decorative sets – totally 3700 units. This is not a big quantity for a fairly simple product, but we expected numerous problems and sent two inspectors for a 2-day quality check placing them in a hotel nearby.

Finding a hotel for two foreigners in a remote area in the Covid era is a challenge by itself. Authorities in smaller towns are zealous about following local regulations. Foreigners, even with valid Covid tests, green transportation code and residence certificate often fail to meet these regulations, simply because they don’t have Chinese ID and citizenship. Long story short, it took us one full day to find a hotel in the county that would agree to accept our inspectors.

Houston, we have a problem

Just as expected, we found multiple problems right from the start of the inspection. Let’s group them into several categories:

  • Dust and dirt spots.
  • Inaccurate, smudged painting and printing.
  • Uneven color background.
  • Rough, poorly polished wood.

Around 30% of the products had these defects after the first 4 hours of the quality check. So, after consulting with our customer, it was decided to start reworking products right on the spot. Our main goal was to prepare goods for shipping before the Chinese New Year, and we had only 4 days left to do it.

More problems to come

  • Because of the upcoming holidays all the regular factory workers were already sent off.
  • Remaining managers and warehouse workers were finishing their last orders and not eager to perform any extra tasks.

Thanks to our customer’s negotiation skills, 3 bottles of Italian alcohol as a gift of good will and the inspectors’ persuasion – we managed to mobilize all the remaining employees including the executives to correct defects.

The inspection lasted one day longer than expected, but in the end the batch of acceptable quality was fully prepared, packed and ready to be shipped out of China.

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