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Types of sourcing and QC inspection agencies in China;
list of 11 verified companies

Posted: September 6, 2013

When importers buying products in China need help with their sourcing, there are broadly three types of companies they can choose from:

  1. The commissioned agent
  2. The trading company
  3. The third-party service provider

This article explains the differences among the three types of agents, and offers a list of 11 verified third-party sourcing and QC inspection agencies. Aside from basic information such as product specialization, type of agency, size of company, office locations and contact details, two testimonials from each company's clients are also included.

Types of sourcing companies

In his blog post, The 3 types of sourcing companies in China, renowned blogger and founder of Sofeast Quality Control, Renaud Anjoran explains the differences between the three types of agents. He says about less than 10 percent of agents may be a mix of two categories, or alternate between two categories.

1. The commissioned agent

The commissioned agent usually charges buyers 5 percent to 10 percent of the FOB price for the orders that he follows. The potential risk of using the commissioned agent, however, is that such agents are likely to get more money from the factory than the amount they get from importers, according to Renaud.

He further adds that many of the commissioned agents, therefore, defend suppliers instead of their clients (importers) when things go wrong. Also, importers that employ commissioned agents usually need to keep a tab on their orders because many of these agents are not professional enough to manage production.

2. The trading company

The advantage of using trading companies is that they accept small orders and handle all aspects of the China production and sourcing for buyers. They cooperate with a number of small factories, which are often unable to export directly. A trading company adds its margin on the price provided by a factory.

Sourcing from a trading company can be advantageous, especially for smaller orders. Counting in a trader’s margin, the price provided by a trading company might still be cheaper than that of a larger factory. Moreover, large factories are likely to decline small orders.

Renaud advises buyers to inspect the product quality even if they are sourcing from a trading company — except if the trader pays for a famous third-party QC firm to do it.

3. The third-party service provider

The third-party service provider, also known as a sourcing consultant gets a fee from customers. The fee is usually fixed, not proportioned according to the order size as that charged by the commissioned agent. This ensures each of its customers can get the same service irrespective of company or order size.

Some of these agents sell their services as "project management", "procurement", or "supply chain management".

Using a third-party service provider is especially cost-effective for small and midsize companies.

Sourcing veteran Mike Bellamy notes that except for the largest of buyers, the costs of setting up their own sourcing office or hiring the staff back home to source directly from factories would far outweigh the service fees of a third-party agency.

Renaud adds that if buyers can justify the upfront investment, this is a great way to source new products. Buyers will benefit from a professional identification and screening process, and will have full information over the supply chain.

These companies often adapt their pricing structure to each customer. Some of them act as a trader and take possession of the goods. But, Renaud cautions, not all of these agents are fully transparent about every sub-supplier.

All sides win as long as the agent is professional and transparent, says Mike. Since the agent is compensated by the buyer rather than the seller, the supplier is usually happy to have the agent involved as the agent will help both sides communicate effectively and reduce supply chain problems. This, in turn, will lead to more orders for the supplier from the satisfied customer.

SEE ALSO: Finding buying agents in China: 6 things you should know

How to differentiate sourcing companies

Often, the nature of an agency is not easily apparent. Here are a few ideas from Renaud on how to easily identify the type of an agent.

First, find out if the agent is a trading company by asking:

  • Will you take care of the entire sourcing, development and production process for me, and should we pay the entire amount to your company?
  • Will you and your colleagues be my sole contact?

If the response is yes to both these questions, this IS a trading company. Renaud advises to ask whether the buyer will have permission to visit and approve factories before issuing orders, and conduct QC inspections (either by the buyer themselves or someone appointed by them) during production. Importers might not plan to do it, but it is good to ask these questions at the very beginning of a relationship.

Second, if this IS NOT a trading company, find out if he is a commissioned agent by asking:

  • Do you get a percentage on orders, as a commission? Is this commission paid by the buyer?
  • Will I get the contact of the manufacturer? And will I pay them directly for their products?

If the response is yes to both these questions, this IS a commissioned agent.

Note that, if the agent says he gets paid by the supplier, he is another sort of commissioned agent, and is closer to being a sales agent for the manufacturer, rather than a buyer’s sourcing agent.

Third, if this IS NOT a commissioned agent, find out if the agent is a sourcing consultant by asking:

  • Do you get a fee for your work?
  • Is this commission paid by the buyer?

If the response is yes to both these questions, this IS a sourcing consultant. Make sure to ask how this fee is calculated, and whether it is the same regardless of the size of the orders.

Types of quality inspection agencies

Similar to sourcing agents, there are a number of companies providing quality inspection services in China. When evaluating a QC inspection firm, apart from looking at their size, knowledge and experience of the product, Renaud advises to also find out if the inspection agent is focused on flexibility or reliability.

Large inspection companies aside, which focus more on serving big retailers, and make most of their money from laboratory tests, Renaud distinguishes two types of companies in the industry:

1. The "high flexibility, low touch" agency

This type of agent is suitable for hands-off buyers who:
  • Need to book an inspection fairly quickly
  • Work on simple consumer goods, and are happy to get reports with many photos and little text
  • Want to know the inspection cost in advance, in a predictable way
  • Do not mind booking the inspections by themselves, every time

Such buyers tend to deal with many product categories and many suppliers, says Renaud. Shipments should never be delayed. They use quality control as damage control — they only check goods to avoid disasters.

2. The "high reliability, high touch" agency

This type of agency is suitable for hands-on buyers who:
  • Value quality over speed
  • Work on complex products, or have special requests. They want to work hand-in-hand with a technician who will come up with a suitable solution
  • Want to work with a partner company (who takes over certain activities in their organization) over the long term.

Such buyers tend to work with fewer manufacturers, they often deal with only one product category, and they sell in a channel that will not accept quality problems.

SEE ALSO: Third party quality control and in-house QA

Criteria for selecting service providers

The China Sourcing Information Center white paper, Selecting Service Providers to Support China Sourcing Projects, offers a list of criteria to consider when selecting third-party service providers:

  1. Are they a legitimate company with proper business licensing?
  2. Do they have a clear track record of performance? If they cannot give you client references, run away. That is a big red flag.
  3. Do they have their own infrastructure or do they leverage another company’s staff, skills sets, office space, licensing and/or manufacturing?
  4. Are they focused on a certain set of services or do they try to everything for everybody? Yes, even the third-party service providers have been known to outsource to others just like some factories outsource production without telling the buyer.
  5. Is their pricing structure and service agreement well defined and transparent? It is a major pitfall to do business with a third-party service without a clear contract in place that outlines the service, costs, time frame and other desired attributes of the partnership.

List of sourcing and quality inspection agencies

1. Asia Quality Focus

Type of agency: Third-party QC inspection agency, AQSIQ-licensed, ISO 9001-certified

Services offered: Product inspection, production monitoring, factory audits, environmental and social audits, laboratory testing, product certifications

Product specialization: Consumer goods (hardlines, electrical & electronics, softlines, luxury goods. Product examples: textiles, toys, gifts, home & kitchen products, furniture, electronics, lighting, ceramics), automotive products

Year established: 2007

No. of full-time employees: 150

Contact person: Claire Piccinno, Marketing Manager

Email: marketing [at]

Phone: (852) 3909-8298



Administrative headquarters: Room 1318, 13F, 610 Nathan Road, Hollywood Plaza, Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Branch office: Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

Testimonial 1: "Before we started using AQF, by the time we discovered quality issues with our goods, they had left the factory and the factory acted like it was not their problem. Now our problems are fixed before we receive the stock and the customers will not have to complain to us after receiving their stock. We are very happy with your great service." - Ian Black Smith, CEO, SGA Furniture, Australia

Testimonial 2: "Asia Quality Focus provided us with fast, economical and accurate inspections at two of our new suppliers in China. We gave them the exact criteria and parameters of what we were looking for in the quality of the product we were purchasing. They were able to complete the inspections within 2-3 days and provide us with a complete inspection report including photos. They even directed our supplier to correct some of the problems that they found based upon our inspection criteria. We would definitely use Asia Quality Focus for future inspections!" - P. Zazzara, President of a leading baby product company, US

2. AsiaInspection

Type of agency: Third-party QC inspection agency

Services offered: Inspection services (pre-shipment inspection, production monitoring, during production check, initial production check and container loading check); audits (factory audit, social audit, C-TPAT and environmental audit); laboratory testing (CPSIA – US hazardous materials testing, REACH-EU chemical compliance and RoHS-electrical components testing)

Product specialization: All products

Year established: 1997

No. of full-time employees: 700-800

Contact person: Pierre-Nicolas Disser, Sales Director

Email: marketing [@]

Phone: (86-755) 2223-9086


Blog: None

Administrative headquarters: 5F, Dah Sing Life Building, 99 - 105 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong

Branch offices: Shenzhen, China; Hong Kong; New Delhi, India; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Istanbul, Turkey; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Paris, France; Connecticut, US; Burnaby, Canada; Madrid, Spain; Medellin, Colombia; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Testimonial 1: "In support of its high standards for social responsibility and conduct, the Boy Scouts of America uses AsiaInspection to conduct social compliance audits to ensure that our supplier network abides by the highest health, social and safety standards." - Global Sourcing, Boy Scouts of America, Supply Group

Testimonial 2: "AsiaInspection has truly been our eyes in the factory. Full integration into our business has meant that any inspection performed follows our exact specifications and guidelines. This has allowed us to improve our product quality and safeguard our quality control process. In addition, the online booking and same day reporting provide us with greater flexibility to manage quality control throughout production and shipment." - Account Manager, Urban Leisure, Hard Good Leisure Specialists

3. China Sourcing Service Center by PassageMaker

Type of agency: Clearing house of service providers

Services offered: Sourcing, inspections/factory audits/quality control, engineering & design, due diligence, tool & die shops/tooling stewards, assembly/black box manufacturing, logistics, lawyers, debt collections, business intelligence/investigations/surveillance, company formation & outsourced accounting, dispute resolution

Product specialization: All products

Year established: 2010

No. of full-time employees: Less than 50

Contact person: Sales and service team leader

Email: info [at]

Phone: (86-755) 2540-3811



Administrative headquarters: CSSC Annex, #2 2nd Floor, Building #6, Huimin Huayuan, Luosha Dong Lu, Luohu District, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China 518004

Branch office: Buji, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

Testimonial 1: "I have found nothing but the sort of people who I can trust. They have a palpable level of honesty, integrity and character… three of the attributes I consider crucial to our success in China. I had the expertise at my disposal that I would expect from a top consulting firm." - US-based designer, importer and distributor of medical

Testimonial 2: "I would like to express our deepest gratitude and appreciation for the efforts and assistance provided to us. When our previous China partners left us in a precarious situation, our new partners jumped in on short notice. We have received exemplary service and are more than satisfied with the working relationships that have been facilitated for us among our buyers, sellers, shipping partners, customs brokers and other entities involved in the trade of our specific product. I would like to acknowledge their hard work, extraordinary patience and commitment to assisting us." - Sales and service team leader at US-based investor and manufacturer

4. Chinawhy

Type of agency: Third-party service provider for small and midsize importers

Services offered: Sourcing, verification, QC, shipping

Product specialization: Electronics, home appliances, machinery, apparel, computer, hardware, tools

Year established: 2006

No. of full-time employees: 50

Contact person: Steven Chow, Founder

Email: support [at]

Phone: (86-451) 8333-0781, (86) 136-4457-9179



Administrative headquarters: Room 303, Building D, Longpu City Plaza, Huaihe Road, Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, China 310005

Branch offices: Zhu'ao, Zhejiang, China; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Alexandria, Egypt

Testimonial 1: "I used Chinawhy's supplier verification service, their 26-page report is helpful. I would say it is a bit more than my expectation." - Glen Pratt, Business Development Manager, Red Devil Enterprises, Australia

Testimonial 2: "I have been doing business with China since 1983, have used different sourcing agents, sourcing firms, QC firms, until I found Chinawhy. I am happy with their works." - Frederik Nielsen, CEO, DerkeTek ApS, Denmark

5. Easy Imex Ltd

Type of agency: Third-party sourcing and QC inspection agency

Services offered: Sourcing, negotiating, quality control, shipping, custom/tax/duty, factory tours

Product specialization: Consumer products

Year established: 2006

No. of full-time employees: 10-20

Contact person: Adam Gilbourne, Founder

Email: adam [at]

Phone: (86-21) 3363-2422, (86) 138-1651-5524



Administrative headquarters: International Gateway Plaza, Suite 3001, Building A, 325 Tian Yao Qiao Road, Shanghai, China 200030

Branch office: None

Testimonial 1: “Easy Imex have been a reliable, efficient supplier over the years, sourcing products for our company, working with our required branding, specific labeling and facilitating logistics from within China to ship into Australia. We highly recommend working with Easy Imex and plan to continue our supplier relationship for years to come.” - Kirstienne Enriquez, International Logistics/Compliance Manager, Appco Group Prosales Pty Ltd, Australia

Testimonial 2: “We engaged Easy Imex in 2009 to source a range of consumable products, esky bags and promotional merchandise. The service was fast, efficient and professional. We'd previously worked with another importer and had some major quality issues. Over the 12 containers ordered to date the product quality has been excellent. I'd happily endorse Easy Imex to other importers.” - Matthew Rolfe, Aussie Farmers Direct

6. InTouch Manufacturing Services

Type of agency: Third-party QC inspection agency

Services offered: Factory audits, product inspections, sourcing

Product specialization: Cookware, softlines (raw fabric, garments), consumer

Year established: 2008

No. of full-time employees: 45

Contact person: Andrew Reich, General Manager

Email: areich [@]

Phone: (86-755) 8982-1413, (86) 138-2366-0722



Administrative headquarters: 13T, 13th Floor, Lvhua Building, No. 2 Huanlin Street, Shangmei Lin Area, Futian District, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China 518049

Branch office: None

Testimonial 1: “Your consistent attention to detail and expert recommendations have allowed us to proactively ensure that our manufacturing partners are reputable, reliable and (above all) socially responsible.” - Seth Lapine, VP of Retail Sales, Lapine Inc., US

Testimonial 2: “As a result of our partnership with InTouch, we no longer experience the delivery of defective product in the US, late shipments from our suppliers, or the numerous other problems that had troubled our overseas manufacturing.” - Henry Lodge, President, Lodge Manufacturing, US

7. Maple Sourcing

Company: Maple Sourcing Ltd

Type of agency: Third-party sourcing and QC inspection agency

Services offered: Product sourcing, order follow-up, quality control

Product specialization: Promotional items, gifts & premiums, solar lights, consumer electronics, knitwear & textiles, beauty & personal care, kitchenware & houseware, sports & outdoor, and other hardlines

Year established: 2012

No. of full-time employees: Less than 10

Contact person: Aaron Li, Director

Email: sales [@]

Phone: (86-755) 8621-0071



Administrative headquarters: No. 88-28 Daxin Road, Block 64 Majialong, Nanshan District, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China 518052

Branch office: None

Testimonial 1: “Maple Sourcing's people are extremely knowledgeable about the industry in regards to trading. When we contact them we get the absolute best in industry level thinking. We trust Maple Sourcing. They know the ins and outs of the industry and always know where to find the best products.” - Tanya Cohen, President, Maagal Ltd, Israel

Testimonial 2: “They saved me time. Before I used Maple Sourcing, we used some other guys, but the communication was not so good, and we were troubled for the quality. I feel Maple Sourcing is the best out of the bunch.” - Debbie Perez, Manager, Stokes Inc, Canada

8. PassageMaker

Type of agency: Third-party sourcing, QC and assembly service provider

Services offered: Sourcing, vendor coordination, supply chain management, contract assembly, inspection, packaging

Product specialization: Medical components, home & garden, agriculture, gifts & toys, components & industrial goods, automotive, textiles

Year established: 2001

No. of full-time employees: 112

Contact person: Brian Garvin, Sales Manager

Email: info [at]

Phone: (86-755) 2540-3811



Administrative headquarters: #2, 2nd Floor, Building #6, Huiming Huayuan, Luosha Dong Lu, Luohu District, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China 518004

Branch office: None

Testimonial 1: “PassageMaker bent over backwards, so I didn’t get bent over forwards by my suppliers.” - Paul S., General Manager of a tier 1 manufacturer and importer in the automotive industry, Ohio, US

Testimonial 2: “I wanted to compliment the PassageMaker organization. The folks there made it easy to produce in China and I cannot tell you how fortunate I am to have met them, actions speak louder than words!” - General Manager, Bar Code supplier to major retailers, US

9. procurAsia

Type of agency: Third-party sourcing company specialized in China industrial sourcing assistance

Services offered: Industrial sourcing, supplier management, strategic consulting

Product specialization: Machinery and mechatronics (systems and subassemblies), renewable energy and LED lighting, water treatment systems and parts (MBR, UF, RO, valves, filters, pumps, FRP pipes and pressure vessels), professional electronics (power suppliers, control systems), emergency power (gensets, UPS, EPS), visualization systems (LCD and LED panels, digital signage), material handling (conveyors, cranes, racking and shelving), equipment for retailers

Year established: 2004

No. of full-time employees: Less than 10

Contact person: Etienne Charlier, Founder

Email: e.charlier [at]

Phone: (86-21) 6875-4993, (852) 3015-0833



Administrative headquarters: Malaysia Building, #402, 50 Gloucester Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

Branch office: Shanghai

Testimonial 1: “In 2007, at Cegelec, we wanted to find a reliable supplier of mobile diesel generators for a public sector customer with very detailed requirements. procurAsia and Etienne’s team launched a project, found a few suppliers up to our requirement and managed to get a very detailed RFQ prepared in due time. We could not have managed this without their assistance.” - Mathieu Louis-Sylvestre, Business Manager (Principal) chez LowendalMasai, Groupe Achats/BFR at Lowendalmasai, France

Testimonial 2: “In 2011, Automatic Systems decided to setup an assembly factory in China. One of the key elements to ensure quality production in China is to find the right supplier base. We have strict quality requirements and a project based business with mid size orders. procurAsia was able to assist us effectively in finding suppliers that match our criteria, getting pricing and managing samples. Afterwards, they were able to coach our new China team to take over the suppliers. We are now fully operational.” - Philippe D., Strategic improvement Director at Automatic Systems, Belgium

10. Sofeast Ltd

Type of agency: QA agency that provides personalized services to SMEs in China

Services offered: Factory quality/social audits, manufacturing process improvements

Product specialization: Consumer goods, industrial products

Year established: 2006

No. of full-time employees: 11-50

Contact person: Renaud Anjoran, Founder

Email: info [at]

Phone: (852) 8175-8177, (86) 135-0966-4072



Administrative headquarters: Room. 303, East Ocean Centre, 98 Granville Road, TST East, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Branch office: Foshan, Guangdong, China

Testimonial 1: “We have used Sofeast's services in different parts of China, and they maintained the same level of service. Booking an audit is simple and we receive their findings very fast. We feel much safer with their team on our side.” - American Duchess Co., US

Testimonial 2: “We have been working with Sofeast for 4 years, and so far we are very happy about their level of service and their commitment to adapt to our needs. Their processes are simple and user-friendly, and their reports are easy to understand.” - Gazon d'Avenir, France

11. Sourcing Spectrum

Type of agency: Spanish and English speaking sourcing agency

Services offered: Supplier identification, product development, negotiation, order management, logistics, QC

Product specialization: Homeware, appliances, consumer electronics, glass packaging, auto parts, promotional products

Year established: 2009

No. of full-time employees: 10

Contact person: David Chen, Manager

Email: marketing [@]

Phone: (86-755) 2361-8802



Administrative headquarters: Galaxy Century Tower A Room 3507, Caitian Road, 3069, Futian, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China 518016

Branch office: None

Testimonial 1: “The team at Sourcing Spectrum is a valuable partner and critical in our plans for building cost efficient valuable products in China. They have helped us over the past couple of years in a number of ways and we have great confidence in our ability to be successful with the team at Sourcing Spectrum. From travel plans to sourcing vendors and product development related services, Sourcing Spectrum has been able to deliver.” - Frank Clark (category: plastic, glass)

Testimonial 2: “It's a great pleasure to say hello and to hear from you. You're always so wise in your comments and views, which always confirm what we think and feel firstly. I sincerely appreciate your valuable support and your carefulness in protecting our information properly. I am grateful to know that, with us. You are comfortable expressing your thoughts without hesitation. Although geographically we are far away one from the other, there is a deep trust between us, developed during our stay in China and after knowing each other, we know that we can start working together with mutual trust and professionally.

To conclude, again I'd like to thank you for your professionalism. We appreciate your trust and treating us so friendly. Let's stay in close contact.” - Oscar Ruiz (Category: Construction materials, LED street lights)

Note: Replace "[at]" with "@" in the email IDs given for each company

Disclaimer: The information in the above list does not constitute or imply endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation thereof by Global Sources. Even though we have taken measures to verify and qualify the companies listed here, the accuracy of the information cannot be guaranteed. Global Sources does not make any representation or warranty for the use of, or reliance on, this information.

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