“The time when consumers settled for cheap, faulty items is over!”

It is one of the cardinal rules of any market that a product needs to live up to its quality promise. There is no easier way to lose customers than selling them faulty items. However, controlling product quality from inception to launch can be extremely hard when production is an international affair, with several supply chains contributing to the final result. Fortunately, service providers such as QIMA offer to take over the daunting task of supply chain compliance. If you haven’t heard of QIMA yet, the company was known as AsiaInspection until last year and it has 25 offices worldwide, doing business in 85 countries, with more than 2300 employees in total. In our interview, QIMA Chief Sales Officer Pierre-Nicolas Disser, tells us more about the company and the challenges of quality management.

QIMA is a leading provider of supply chain compliance solutions. Before we talk more about what it is you are doing, could you give us a short introduction to the company?
Pierre-Nicolas Disser: Sure: QIMA is a leading provider of supply chain compliance solutions that partners with brands, retailers, and importers to secure and improve the quality of their global supply network. We combine on-the-ground experts in 85 countries for quality inspections, supplier audits, certification, and lab testing, with a digital platform that brings accuracy, visibility, and intelligence for quality and compliance data.

The company was established in Hong Kong about 15 years ago and we now serve clients in 120 countries through our 25 offices.

Of course, every company talks about having high quality products and quality control is an important part of this. But what are the advantages for a company to entrust these tasks to a service provider like QIMA?
Outsourcing quality control offers a lot of upsides: First, our clients usually prefer to keep their in-house focus on their core expertise in the value chain (usually design, product development, sourcing) and leave quality control as an external function. This allows more flexibility, both in terms of costs and operations: If you need qualified inspectors in different and changing geographies, you are usually better off leveraging the network of a vendor like QIMA who can offer greater reactivity. Finally, using third party quality control experts means you will benefit from best practice and benchmark from all the industry when it comes to assessing quality and compliance of your products.

QIMA is working for a lot of different clients from many industries, among them also the erotic industry. Are there aspects that you pay particular attention to in this industry? Or is your work largely the same regardless of the industry?
Each industry – and even each product – has their own quality requirements. So the actual checklist for what needs to be checked and what defects to look after can really be quite specific. That is why we have quality experts in our back-office who carefully review and prepare inspections, considering both the client’s requirements and our own quality guidelines for that specific product type.

Inspections in the production facilities are part of QIMA’s core services

One of QIMA’s most important tasks is the on-site inspection of production in the respective factories. Which aspects can be checked?
A typical on-site inspection will consist of three main parts: a general check of the product’s high-level characteristics (quantity, colour, packaging…), a list of specific tests to be performed on the product (function tests, fatigue tests…) and a detailed workmanship assessment where the inspector samples a good portion of the whole shipment to look after and count visible defects. Based on these, we can determine an inspection result which is communicated in a complete report of 20-30 pages including pictures of the whole process.

Ethical and environmental standards are becoming more and more important for consumers. Can your company help in this regard as well?
Indeed, we’ve seen the rise of consumer concerns on these aspects, which has driven brands and importers to take action in the past years. We do offer supplier audit programmes, through which we assess manufacturing sites by social compliance, environmental footprint or worker safety and the structural integrity of the buildings. The aim of such programmes is to control, spot nonconformities, and more importantly to help improve the capacity of suppliers who are often not well educated on these matters.

Besides inspecting the factories on site, you also offer to lab test products. What exactly can be tested in this context and when does such a test make sense?
Lab testing is essential to ensure your product conforms to the safety and performance standards of your export market. In most export markets, the customs or consumer safety agencies actually expect that the importer ensures the product has gone through required tests – failure to provide evidence of such due diligence can have hefty consequences. In the case of the erotic industry, such tests can for instance involve acoustic tests for vibrating products, EMC/FCC tests for electrical items, flammability tests for fabric, etc.

QIMA works with labs all over the world to conduct tests, for instance analysing the chemical composition of products

Is there a lot of demand from the erotic industry? Have you received more requests recently or is quality control not yet a big issue in this industry?
I believe the erotic industry is getting more and more structured and professional when it comes to ensuring safe and compliant products; we see it in the increasing demand for our services. Consumers are driving this, by being more demanding: As the industry becomes more mature, quality and safe products is what is expected from erotic brands. The time when consumers settled for cheap, faulty items is over!

What sets QIMA apart is the ability to manage the entire control process online. Which settings and options are available to your customers?
Our services are really powered by technology: The idea is to make our clients’ job easier with a platform that lets them manage their quality control needs in full autonomy, receive real-time data and benchmark for their product and supplier quality, manage shipment approval workflows online… but we also know that human support is often needed, so we offer a 24/7 chat to guide and help them with their quality control requirements.

Could you give us some examples of what it costs to use QIMA’s services?
Sure. We try to be straight-forward and transparent – a shipment inspection in a factory will cost for example $309 for one day in China, all inclusive (no hidden costs on inspector’s travel or expenses). For supplier audits, the price goes to $649 per audit day. As for lab testing, it really depends on each individual product – we offer a quotation engine on our clients’ online accounts.