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How to define an inspection plan to be signed by your China suppliers

Posted: September 19, 2013

Download a free and ready-to-use China inspection plan template (Word document).

Created by QA firm Sofeast, this template can be used to define your inspection plan to your China suppliers. Sofeast uses this very template to help its buyers, especially those that are highly quality-conscious and detail-oriented.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Have you noticed how before the first order is issued, a potential supplier tends to say “yes” to all your terms? And, once production is underway, they tend to be less receptive to your wishes?

This is a consequence of the brutal competition in the China manufacturing sector. Every supplier needs to over-promise to get orders. At the risk of disappointing their new customers once business is engaged.

If you have been buying in China for some time, these examples will sound all too familiar:

  1. Supplier agrees to quality inspections during negotiations. When time comes to send an inspector, the salesperson pushes back, promises to check quality by herself, and discredits third-party QC firms.
  2. An inspection is conducted and shows quality issues. The buyer asks for re-work, followed by a re-inspection. The supplier balks at the cost of the re-inspection, and refuses to pay it, even though this is very standard practice in China.

Getting a written agreement on these issues – before you issue an order – is necessary. This is what I call an inspection plan.

And it should part of your company’s "vendor guide", if there is such a thing, or an exhibit in your contracts.

What does an inspection plan cover?

  1. Timing of inspections: By default, any time.
  2. Place of inspection: In the factory(ies) that produce the goods. Subcontracting must be disclosed.
  3. Communication of the status of production: This allows the customer to plan inspections with enough advance notice.
  4. Standard and settings.
  5. Factory cooperation: What the inspectors will need in order to do their job in good conditions.
  6. In case the date needs to be postponed: How much advance notice to give, and what penalties are charged otherwise.
  7. What to do in case of failure: Who pays for re-inspections, and what is the supplier expected to do?
  8. What inspections do not represent: Clarifications on the role of inspections.

Two notes on this template:

  1. Feel free to adapt this template to your situation.
  2. The inspection plan does not cover your product, labeling, and packing requirements. These should be part of your product specification sheet.

Renaud Anjoran has been managing his quality assurance agency (Sofeast Ltd) since 2006. In addition, a passion for improving the way people work has pushed him to launch a consultancy to improve factories and a web application to manage the purchasing process. He writes advice for importers on

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