China Sourcing How-To: Performing a Good Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI)

China Sourcing How-To: Performing a Good Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI)

The importance of the PSI

All inspections are important, but if there is only one inspection that can or must be made on a shipment, it is this one: the Pre-shipment Inspection or the “PSI”.

The objective of the PSI is to verify that the goods you have ordered have been manufactured in conformity with the specifications you provided to the factory. Since the PSI occurs when the product is completely finished and packed, what you see is what you get, there is no possibility for the factory to claim they were going to make last minute changes etc.  The PSI is the buyer’s last line of defense before the goods are shipped. Any quality issues discovered after the PSI will cause major problems for all parties involved.

Note: “Prevention is better than cure” is the driving philosophy of the Quality Assurance process. Both buyers and sellers should work hand in hand to ensure success. The factories have a vested interest in making sure the PSI is perfect because this means the client is happy, the goods will leave on time and there will be no additional costs to re-work the products.  So, ideally, all shipments pass the PSI because the quality control process has been managed and implemented properly all the way.  

How to perform PSI

By following these steps and by being well-prepared, you can make the PSI process easy to execute.

  1. Review Specifications: Specifications should have been confirmed when the order was placed with the Normally, an experienced importer will make a Product Specification Sheet (PSS) and Inspection Specification Sheet (ISS) based on its needs and product requirements and will make sure the factory signs those in acknowledgement of their agreement and understanding.
  2. Scheduling: Your sourcing associate should coordinate with the factory to secure a date to perform the inspection and ensure the dates conform to the shipping schedule and are convenient for your QC department.

Your QC department should confirm the inspection date with the factory and the QC Inspector should then inform the sourcing team and notify the factory of his estimated time of arrival.

  1. Documents and Tools: To get the best results and a thorough inspection, the QC inspector should be equipped with the following tools and documents.a)Product Specification Sheet
    b)Inspection Specification Sheet
    c)QC Inspection Checklist
    e)PO to factory
    f)Packing labels
    g)Carton labels
    h)Other documents or tools that may be required for the inspection.
  2. The On-site Factory inspection:The QC inspector conducts the inspection on-site after he/she arrives at the factory. The inspection should be done in the following steps (as per the requirements of the ISS):a)Use the QC Inspection Checklist as a step-by-step guide for the inspection
    b)Make sure your selection for sampling is done entirely at random
    c)Record all on-site data obtained from the inspection of the goods in a report form
    d)Take clear photos of the products, being sure to include the details
    e)Keep your sourcing team informed of the progress
    f)Production sample: if required, select production samples at random for quality verification and certification.
  3. Inspection results: The PSI report should be completed and sent to the buyer before the shipment is packed and transported. The report may be accompanied by dimension sheets, photos, material certificates, factory QC pass certificates and other documents, as needed, to make the report clear or as required by the PO or the buyer.

CPG advice 

Most factories in China offer self-inspection services. You should not work with factories that do not have a quality assurance system in place. It make sense to encourage the factory to perform self-inspections based on the PSS and the ISS.  But, even if you have worked with them for a long time and have an established and proven relationship with that factory, you must still do a thorough third-party PSI to ensure the goods conform to your requirements.


By Iris Zhou

Iris graduated from Beijing Jiaotong University with a Master’s degree in Logistics Engineering. She joined CPG in 2010 and has abundant experience in sourcing a broad range of products.


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