How a Factory Can Improve Quality

I bet you are tired of hearing your Chinese suppliers say “this is made by hand, so avoiding defects is impossible”.

So am I, because it’s so wrong.

Some small factories have decreased their defect rate below 50 parts per million (that’s 0.005%). Some of them, in Japan, employs housewives in the countryside, and their operations are all manual!

So, how do they get so close to zero defects? The answer is by applying a set of principles.

1. Faster production cycles help improve quality

Many factories have managed to reduce their cycle time (the time between starting a production run and getting some finished products) by 80% to 90%.

To simplify what happens, they get from this…

Manufacturing with processes in islands

To this…

Line organization

This is the best way to avoid widespread quality problems.

Why? Because finished products can be inspected/tested a few hours (maximum) after a production is launched, and the root cause(s) of a defect is much easier to find – the production batch is probably still in work-in-process status and “the trail is still hot”, as they say.

In contrast to that, I have seen many Chinese factories discover a widespread problem with a production batch after thousands of pieces had already passed through the faulty process. The trouble here is that because the production batch would have already been completed it is much more difficult to identify where the root cause of the problem took place — let alone fix the issue right away before it affects the whole batch.

2. Strong discipline improves adherence to standards

Putting a system in place is not the hard part, especially when ISO 9001-compliant quality systems are available on the internet and are (supposedly) ready to be used.

It doesn’t take months of work to place work instructions as well as photos of good and bad samples at each work station.

The hard part is training, coaching, and enforcing. There is no substitute for managers walking the shop floor every day and checking what the production staffs are doing.

What Chinese Managers tend to do however, is stay in their air-conditioned offices or meeting rooms. This lack of presence on the factory floor is quite unfortunate from both the factory’s and the buyer’s point of view.

When I first walk in a factory and I want to assess their quality level, I often carry out this simple 3-point test:

  1. Does the place seem to be in order? Do the operators wear appropriate clothes and protective equipment?
  2. Are there process controls and product checks, and is there a way to see if they have been done? (This could be written QC records or anything else that allows a supervisor to ensure it was checked.)
  3. If I ask them to describe the changes that had been made to one of their controlled documents (procedures, work instructions, forms…) over the last 3 months, do they need to “go and check” first?

If the answers to points 1 and 2 are YES and point 3 can be answered straight away, it tells me that there is some sort of structure and process that is being followed, which is a very positive sign.

3. The necessity for self-inspection

By self-inspection I mean the operators themselves do most of the quality control work. Not dedicated inspectors.

I don’t mean each worker should evaluate their own work – they lack the objectivity necessary for that.

The key is in successive inspection: I grab the part, I check it, I process it, and I put it down.

Here are the 3 basic principles that every worker MUST adhere to:

  • We do not accept bad work
  • We do not do bad work
  • We do not pass on bad work

Does it conflict with the pay scheme so commonly applied in China (paying the operator based solely on the number of pieces he/she makes)? Yes, sure, but compensation structures can be changed.

Does it take more time for the operators to do these checks? Yes it can. And that’s a problem when a tough deadline needs to be met: operators might “exceptionally” choose to suspend self-inspection.

Fortunately, this extra time can be greatly reduced–and sometimes eliminated entirely–if you get creative, as we’ll see in next part.

4. The magic of mistake proofing and usability engineering

On your computer, have you ever inserted a cable (for example the power cord) in a wrong hole? It is impossible because they all have different shapes and sizes.

Some PC manufacturers have even color-coded the cables and the corresponding holes. Strictly speaking, that’s not mistake proofing because it does not always prevent mistakes. That’s usability engineering. But it still brings tremendous value.

Does it cost a lot of money? No. Is it effective? Yes!

Now, have you seen this type of thinking applied by a Chinese manufacturer?

  • Would they think of asking the designer to make the holes different shapes/sizes? Probably not.
  • Would they think of color-coding each hole and each cable? The probability is even lower.

Some manufacturers in Japan and in the West have become masters at mistake-proofing. You can find 240 pages of real examples that were implemented in factory settings here.

Here is a simple example (guide pins of different sizes, in a set of fixtures):

Mistake proofing for improving quality

Could more than 4 principles be listed? Sure. I didn’t mention staff training and barely mentioned process control.

The 4 pieces of advice I listed above are those that generally make a big difference in a manufacturer’s quality level in a short amount of time. And the beauty is… It does not require any capital investment. Forget about automation, keep the same people, and show them how to work smarter!


5 Ways To Have a Chinese Manufacturer Take Responsibility for Quality Issues

Many importers lament that Chinese suppliers don’t take any responsibility when quality issues are found after shipment. Ten years ago, I would have confirmed that it happens less than 0.1% of the time. These days, it seems to become more common.

I talked about this with a client last week, and here is what came out of our discussion. I listed 5 ways to increase your chances, as a buyer.

1. Work with a manufacturer

Again, ten years ago, I would have suggested to work with a trading company — they often try to do everything they can to keep the customer happy. But, as their margins eroded, they can’t play that game as well as in the past.

In contrast, manufacturers value their ‘direct’ customers (those they work with without any intermediary in the middle) more than indirect ones. And they understand more and more that saving a little money in the short term is not in their long-term best interest.

2. Maintain a long-term relationship

Do you show your suppliers that they are constantly at the risk of losing your orders? Do you switch to a competitor to save a few cents? In that case, suppliers might not value your business. They know they are always on the brink of losing it.

If you have purchased from the same source for 5 years, and if you run into quality issues, they will think twice before refusing to give you a rebate or a reimbursement for a mistake they have made.

3. Go and see them face to face often

If all your suppliers see is your emails, they don’t feel they know you, which means they don’t necessarily trust you or value your relationship. This is true in many Asian cultures.

So, go and meet with them face to face 4 times or more every year. Take a little time out of the meeting room. Eat lunch with them and talk about non-business subjects. Have dinner with them (a good tip: tell them you have a call at 9:30pm in your hotel).

On the other hand, don’t let them give you such a nice treatment that you feel obliged to you. They need to keep in mind that, should they make an expensive mistake, you will get back at them immediately.

4. Compare findings to agreed-upon specs

Hopefully you have a solid and detailed specification sheet that includes tolerances for acceptability.

(If you deal with soft goods, it might be an approved sample, along with boundary samples where needed.)

Make the problem obvious. Remind the factory people what standard they promised to comply with, and show them precisely how production is noncompliant.

5. Translate the issue into facts they can understand

Extra points if you understand where the issue comes from and you can point to what exact mistake they have made. Factory salespeople and managers often need to be shown what happened before they start to react.

For example: “you cut this part a bit too small, and now it doesn’t fit that other part”, or “die casting was done at the wrong pressure, and your mold can no longer close properly”.

I hope it’s helpful…

Obviously this is more true in consumer electronics than in footwear, for the simple reason that factories make more margin. Also, if the buyer has invested a lot of time developing a new product, the supplier knows he is captive to a certain extent, and this can be a positive or a negative. Take this as very, very general advice!

4 Ways to Test Battery Capacity on an Electrical Product

As you look at the products you manufacture in China, you need to evaluate the risks that something goes wrong.

When it comes to electrical products, one of the major risks is that the supplier uses substandard components in order to earn more profit.

From experience, the risk is particularly high with batteries. The product might work fine during an open-the-box-and-turn-the-product-on inspection, but might have a very small capacity.

There are basically 4 options to check the battery capacity in a final inspection.

Option 1: off-site test

All electrical testing labs, as well as our Shenzhen office, have a battery capacity tester. It is one of the most basic testing devices.

Typically, the inspector takes a few samples of batteries and sends them to the off-site testing place. After that, the tester needs to be set up, and it needs to be operated (for several cycles). The point of doing several cycles is to check that the batteries can actually be discharged and recharged, and to have a better idea of average capacity over time.

Option 2: accelerated testing

Ideally, all could be done on site, in the factory, without sending any batteries. But it takes a long time, often 8 hours or more. The inspector often needs to go back (catch the last bus, work on reporting, etc.)

So, why not accelerate it? It would be easy, if not for a non-linear relationship because of internal heating (extra energy loss).

If your supplier has a solid expertise about batteries, ask them what result can be expected if the test is expected to last no more than 5 hours. (Their regular tester can certainly do that.)

Option 3: overtime at the factory

Another simple solution is for the inspector to stay for longer in the factory (which incurs an extra fee for overtime).

But how late? You can ask the supplier how long the test will last if not accelerated.

Option 4: aborting the test

The inspector stays until the time he needs to leave, and records the reading on the tester. This is better than nothing.

Can you think of another option?

Obviously, the factory can be asked to keep running that test to the end on their own and to record the result, but it means they need to be trusted… And the point of checking battery capacity is precisely to check if they tried to cheat you…

garment inspection inspection

Quality inspection of sweaters at the end of the production in Guangdong Province.Inspection result not really good

color fastness test with dry cloth / color fastness test with wet cloth

About all finished products had untrimmed tread / Many products have wrinkles / short threads on all products surface

bad weave

left right asymmetry

Thank you very much for your intrested in our service.
Sunchine team make the following proposal to help you control quality of chemical products.

Check product storing condition→Check whole quality→Check packing condition and marking→Randomly measure gross weight→Pick up samples from
finished products→Seal samples with Sunchine stickers and sign→ and send to lab for testing→Paste Sunchine sticker on each package→Send inspection and sampling report within 24 hours→Lab perform testing and send report after finishing→Check quanity again during loading process→Check packaging condition and marking randomly→Check empty container condition→Oversee loading process→Check 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full container→Check container No. and seal No.→Send Container loading check report for confirmation

Read more:

SUNDAY: David Bowie Worship Band to Put on a Blasphemous Sparkly Spectacle


These guys have been stenciling the Mission in anticipation of their big show, and now they’re ready to grace Public Works with a giant, beautifully cultish celebration of all things Bowie:

Experience David Bowie’s love this Sunday, 2/26 at Public Works featuring a special service from the Mission’s own Bowie worship band The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual.  After a year in the making based out of a garage on Florida and 25th, we’re ready to share with our neighborhood a musical, theatrical, sparkly spectacle of a show that tap dances the line between religion and revelry, beatitude and blasphemy, rock show, and revival.

And here’s what they they sound like covering Ziggy Stardust:

If that’s not enough to get you in the door, they’re promising $3 “Stardust shooters” (??? !!!) until 10pm and $3 beers all night.

Tickets are only $5 if you get ’em early, so head over to Eventbrite and slap down your credit card.




Statement: This article is from the network, if you know the auther and source please tell me, because I did not record the source earlier. I did not realize that. I’m sorry about this.

The Church of Man-Love

An outtake from the iconic Ziggy photoshoot
An outtake from the iconic Ziggy photoshoot
Love the pic of David Bowie in his underwear. Where did you get it from? Thought I’d seen just about every Bowie pic ever so this is a new one – can’t miss a potential new bowie hunting ground!!!
The swimsuit picture? I don’t recall. It was quite some time ago that I came upon it. I do not know what the original source is, but it regularly makes the rounds among the fans.
Hi! How are you doing? I was wondering if you have any book suggestions about Bowie? I read one of those 33 1/3 books about Bowie’s Low and I really enjoy studying his work. Do you know of any books along those lines that would give a professional, technical view of Bowie’s records? I really don’t like those bios that are all gossip. Do you have any suggestions? Love your blog! ❤ ❤
No, sorry. I haven not read any Bowie books. Ask around, I know that there are others who have read pretty much everything available.
What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
Possibly my all-time favorite Ziggy-era photo
Possibly my all-time favorite Ziggy-era photo
Statement: This article is from the network, if you know the auther and source please tell me, because I did not record the source earlier. I did not realize that. I’m sorry about this.