Products bearing the “Made in China” label have long been considered as goods of questionable quality. When China reformed, opening for business to the world, it quickly became a global leader in manufacturing. This was due to a cheap labor force and access to raw materials.
However, substandard manufacturing processes made it difficult to produce refined products of high quality. With the accumulation of decades of experience in manufacturing, processing, supply chain management, and increasing demands for quality improvement from domestic and international consumers, China has greatly improved its manufacturing capabilities. This demand has resulted in the emergence of both high-end manufacturers and third-party quality assurance providers, with a focus on inspections, supplier evaluation, and testing.
Certified quality control providers in China must strictly comply with the requirements of the ISO17025 management system, which is recognized by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS), a member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). Testing and inspection results issued by certified QC providers are recognized internationally. For example, testing lab results are periodically compared with the results from international labs to ensure they comply with ISO17025 requirements.
Understanding the state of the quality control inspection and testing industry is also key to understanding the shift in perception of “Made in China” products.
For example, clothing and textile products. Because they are close-contact articles, standards governing their manufacture have been implemented by quality assurance bodies around the world. Among the most well-known are the U.S. AATCC and ASTM, ISO, Australia AS, British BS, EU EN, Japan JIS and China GB. The testing standards tend to be similar, and primarily cover issues related to component materials, tensile strength, shrinkage, color fastness, hazardous substances, flammability, etc. However, the standards and requirements may differ considerably by retailer, importer, country and region; leading to varying degrees of product quality. Therefore, the quality of “Made in China” products increasingly depends on market requirements, rather than a preconceived notion.
China manufacturers are now able to manufacture products across the all levels of the value chain, from high quality products at a higher cost, to mid-range and cheap inferior products at lower costs. This is a marked change from the past when limitations in technical and quality competencies in China resulted in a reputation for producing inferior products at low cost.
From the standpoint of buyers, importers and exporters, regions and governments, retailers and consumers, requirements for safety, environmental protection, appearance, function, etc. also vary considerably, thus impacting product quality. Different manufacturing and supply chain models are developed to support these requirements, which are then conveyed to Chinese manufacturers. The manufacturers carry out production and quality management as per the requirements to ensure satisfaction of the customer, receipt of payment, complaint and product recall mitigation, and sustainable development. Manufacturers with the best success in satisfying buyers outside of China are usually the enterprises with suitable scale and technical strength, and who can guarantee the level of product quality. To do so, they must be familiar with, and capable of managing, product quality demands across a broad spectrum of requirements.
Therefore, top manufacturers understand the importance of product inspection and testing from material selection through manufacturing. Proper application of quality processes and techniques helps to avoid reworking of finished products, refusal of entry at port, or recall after the products are sold on market. A qualified product inspection and testing report is quite important for guaranteeing the product quality and for increasing the trust among parties.
How do inspection and testing providers guarantee the accuracy of inspection and testing reports and the quality of products made in China?
If an inspection or testing provider finds that a product does not comply with relevant criteria, details and proof of non-compliance are clearly recorded in the final report. Providers should not make any false statements or provide inaccurate information for any non-compliance discovered in products during the quality control process. While there are some exceptions, the quality control provider should generally not be viewed as an advocate for the buyer or seller, but rather as an independent, objective third party. As such, it maintains its own integrity, neutrality, and objectivity while providing reliable quality control reports; allowing it to preserve a professional reputation and sustainable business development.
A provider that violates these standards may come to the attention of the relevant regulatory bodies, by means of a complaint. In this case, an investigation is triggered, and any providers found to be repeat violators of prohibited acts would be barred from working in the industry. CNAS certified providers must report their findings of compliance or non-compliance truthfully and accurately; it comes down to their very survival in the industry.
This underscores the importance of engaging only with a CNAS, or other accreditation body, certified quality control provider. It ensures the integrity of the quality control standards and compliance with customer requirements. This helps to avoid compromising situations as suppliers who seek approval based on a single high-quality sample, bribery, and other games they play to circumvent the requirements.
Another factor in changing the perception of “Made in China” products is the growth of the OEM industry in China, the products of which are typically of very high quality. These include products being manufactured for Apple, Armani, GUCCI, and most other well-known brands.
With the rise of internet and e-commerce in China, as well as improvement in manufacturing processes and technologies, some Chinese enterprises have transformed themselves into design and manufacturing powerhouses. This is also changing the view of “Made in China”. These companies are building globally recognized brands such as HUAWEI, XIAOMI, and many others, and are poised to capture significant global market share in their categories.
These developments fully demonstrate that China manufacturing, supply chain, and quality support capabilities are accelerating quickly, and that China manufacturing no longer represents inferior products of low quality. Taken together, these support a new perspective for products “Made in China”.