Pre Shipment Inspection Procedure Explained

A pre-shipment inspection provides assurance that your products meet your quality standards before they are shipped. Learn about PSI procedure here.

7 Important Steps in a Pre-Shipment Inspection Procedure

A professional pre-shipment inspection gives suppliers the assurance that their products are ready to be sent to their destination market.

This procedure includes seven essential steps - but before delving into them, let's recap the basics of pre-shipment inspections.

What is a Pre-Shipment Inspection?

A pre-shipment inspection is a step taken by trade operators (buyers, suppliers, agencies) to inspect newly manufactured products before they are shipped for export/import.

The purposes of a pre-shipment inspection are to:

  • Check the quantity and quality of the merchandise
  • Check products for any defects
  • Ensure products meet the safety requirements of the destination market
  • Issue report for import and billing

Pre-shipment inspections were officially introduced in 1994 as an agreement to improve international trade standards under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was later replaced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

A number of obligations were included in the “Agreement on Pre-Shipment Inspection,” stating that pre-shipment investigations should be applied according to the following principles:

  • Non-discrimination
  • Transparency
  • Protection of confidential business information
  • Avoidance of delays
  • Price verification based on the price of identical or similar goods in the country of exportation, in which the exporter has the opportunity to explain the price charged
  • Inspection agencies establish appeals procedures, the findings of which are made available to other exporters

Accredited inspection agencies perform pre-shipment inspections when production is at least 80% complete. This is your final opportunity to take corrective action before your production is shipped, making it an effective tool to safeguard your product against costly import risks.

The pre-shipment inspection typically covers: functionality, performance, durability, overall appearance, and dimensions.

Following a successful pre-shipment inspection, the agency issues an inspection report document which accompanies the consignment to its destination.

7 Important Steps in a Pre-Shipment Inspection Procedure

Step 1. Inspection Visit

Pre-shipment inspections are carried out on-site at the factory or production house. If the inspectors suspect that the products could contain restricted chemicals, they may advise further off-site lab testing of those products. An example would be products suspected of containing toxic chemicals such as lead and toxins derived from azo dyes, which are tightly regulated by Europe’s REACH directives and the Federal Trade Commission in the US.

Step 2. Quantity Verification

The inspectors count the shipping cartons to verify the correct quantity. In addition, this step ensures that the correct number of products and boxes will be sent to the correct destination; therefore, the pre-shipment inspection can be agreed upon between a buyer, a supplier, and a bank to initiate payment for a letter of credit.

The packaging is also checked to verify that the correct packing materials are being used to ensure safe transportation, and that correct packaging labels are applied.

Step 3. Random Selection

Professional pre-shipment inspection services use the internationally recognized statistical sampling procedure ANSI/ASQC Z1.4 (ISO 2859-1).

The acceptable number of defects in a batch before it’s rejected is defined with an Acceptance Quality Limit (AQL). The AQL varies depending on the type of product being evaluated, but the objective is to provide a balanced, unbiased view.

Step 4. Cosmetic and Workmanship Check

The first thing an inspector looks at from the random selection is the overall workmanship of the finished products, to check for any immediately visible defects.

Defects are typically classified as minor, major, or critical based on predetermined acceptable tolerance levels, which are usually agreed upon between the manufacturer and supplier during product development.

Step 5. Conformity Verification

Quality control inspectors check product dimensions, material and construction, weight, color, marking, and labeling. If the pre-shipment inspection is for garments, the inspector checks whether correct sizes have been assigned to the shipment and that the sizes correspond with production dimensions and the labels.

For other products, dimensions may be much more important, so this is when the dimensions of the finished product can be measured and compared with your original specifications.

Step 6. Function and Safety Test

Function Testing for Garments

For garment, apparel and footwear inspections, the inspectors perform physical tests on the products to determine the strength of buttons, zippers, and other accessories with pull tests, fatigue tests, and stretch tests.

Fabric density and composition tests determine the density or thickness of fabrics used in garment production. Special tools are used to measure fabric density. The quality control inspectors can also physically count the number of stitches per inch.

A fabric that’s too thin or not dense enough could mean your manufacturer has used an inferior fabric or textile that won’t stand up to normal wearing and washing.

Mechanical Safety Tests

Mechanical safety tests are required for products with moving parts such as bicycles and pushchairs that could potentially cause injuries if they are defective.

The inspection involves testing the product’s shape and design to see whether there are any sharp edges or parts that could pinch or entrap fingers, toes, and other appendages.

Mechanical safety testing includes checking the safety of critical components such as screws and hinges used in a completed product.

Electrical Safety Testing

Electrical and electronic products must be tested to ensure they comply with a wide range of safety regulations before they can be certified and labeled. Evaluating a product for electrical safety is often performed under laboratory conditions rather than on-site at the factory. It includes the following tests:

  • High voltage test (dielectric withstand test) - Measures the ability of an electrical product to withstand a high voltage applied between a product’s electrical circuit and the ground.
  • Leakage current test - Evaluates whether current that flows between an AC source and the ground exceeds a specified limit.
  • Insulation resistance test - Calibrates the quality of the electrical insulation used.
  • Ground continuity test - Ensures that a clear path is available between all exposed metal surfaces and the power system ground.

Country-Specific Labels & Markings for Electrical Products

What are the country-specific labels and markings for electronic products? The type of electrical safety testing required depends on the type of product as well as the destination market.

  • UL Certification Mark - Underwriters' Electrical Bureau for the U.S. federal agency Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • CE Marking - The CE mark is recognized worldwide and indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA).
  • VDE e.V. (Germany) - The VDE Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies (Verband der Elektrotechnik, Elektronik und Informationstechnik) is a standard widely recognized in Germany and internationally for electrical engineering, developing recognized technical regulations as national and international standards as well as testing and certifying electrical and electronic devices and systems.
  • CSA (Canada) - The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) registered mark shows that a product has been independently tested and certified to meet recognized standards for safety or performance required for Canada.
  • BSI (UK) - The British Standards Institution (BSI) is the national standards body of the United Kingdom. BSI produces technical standards on a wide range of products and services, and also supplies certification and standards-related services to businesses.
  • CCC Mark (China) - The China Compulsory Certificate mark (CCC) is a compulsory safety mark for many products imported, sold, or used in the Chinese market.

Step 7. Inspection Report

Once the pre-shipment inspection is completed, a report is compiled with a pass/fail result, an overview of key findings, and a detailed account of the inspection results. Some pre-shipment reports include clear images showing all inspection points, so you can see exactly what was discovered.

Let QIMA Help You With Your Pre-Shipment Inspection

QIMA inspectors are qualified and accredited to perform inspections according to international standards, to help you ensure your products meet specifications. We can also advise you on the tests and certifications required for your destination market.

An essential link in your supply chain

QIMA provides independent pre-shipment inspections for a wide range of softlines and hardlines, as well as food products. You’ll get transparent and instant results so you can make rapid, cost-saving decisions.

Pre-shipment inspections anywhere in the world

Our inspectors can be on-site anywhere in the world within 48 hours. Click here to see QIMA's service coverage in your region.

Transparent Pricing

When you use QIMA for your pre-shipment inspections, we’ll quote you a fixed rate only for the specific services that you require.

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