The big clothing brands that are recognized worldwide for consistent quality have endured for years because of the strict garment quality inspection procedures they carry out on the production line, before their clothing is shipped to suppliers and hung on store shelves.
The best practice for garment quality inspection procedures is to have impartial third-party quality control inspectors carry out surveys on the factory floor during and after the production process, before the garments are shipped out to their destination markets.
Garment quality inspection procedures are a preventative measure to spot defects and issues that compromise quality, which could ultimately be detrimental to the brand, and mitigate the risk of costly product recalls and customer complaints.
The secret to successful garment quality control procedure is to arm the quality control inspectors with clear specifications of your requirements. The QC inspectors use checklists specifying acceptable standards or tolerance of any defects required by you the supplier. The more detailed these checklists, the more effective QC inspectors can be in ensuring the high standards of your brand are maintained.
Here are five fundamental steps which QC inspectors should take during their garment inspection procedure:
1. Measuring Garment Dimensions
Ensuring that the dimensions of garments comply with their specified sizes is especially important when a part or all of the garment manufacturing process is done by hand, which can result in large margins of error compared to the precision of machined cutting and sewing.
Nevertheless, no matter how precise the manufacturing process, there will always be discrepancies in dimensions. If these are not spotted before the garments leave the factory, you risk customer complaints or entire batches being recalled, and ultimately a demise in brand loyalty.
Specifying tolerances for garment dimensions
QC inspectors and your supplier should be well informed of acceptable tolerances for garment dimensions, which determine an acceptable margin of error for any defects or discrepancies found to ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ garments.
Tolerances for acceptable margins of error can vary for different parts of the garment, depending on their significance to the entire garment. For example, a sleeve being too long or short by ⅛ inch may be an acceptable margin of error and still pass, but ½ an inch difference would be marked as a fail.
The acceptable tolerances for margins of error should be clearly specified on the QC inspectors’ checklist.
2. Physical tests of buttons, zippers and other accessories
A zip that comes off after little use could indicate that the manufacturer is using inferior accessories, or a button coming loose could identify weak stitching.
These are defects which QC inspectors should look for with physical testing methods such as ‘pull tests’ and ‘fatigue tests’ on garment accessories such as zippers, snaps, ribbons and elastic. The tests are performed on a designated number of garments in each batch.
Predominantly used to test zippers, a QC inspector uses a gauge to pull the accessory with a predetermined amount of force for 10 seconds.
This test determines whether the accessory will last as long as intended under normal use by the consumer. A typical test on a snaps or buttons would be to repeatedly button and unbutton the accessory 50 times and check for any damage to the garment after testing.
Testing elastic bands and straps for proper elasticity and to check whether the elastic or stitching stands up to being pulled or stretched. Stretch tests only need to be carried out on a small selection of finished garments.
3. Fabric Density & Composition Tests
Testing the density or thickness of fabrics used in garment production determines whether the fabric meets the correct quality standards. A fabric that’s too thin or not dense enough could mean your manufacturer isn’t using fabric of the quality you have specified to ensure the garment has a significant lifetime under normal wearing and washing.
There are three fabric density and composition tests which QC inspectors can carry out on site:
Fabric GSM check
QC inspectors use an electronic balance to measure the grams per square meter (GSM) of a sample of the fabric and compare that measurement with the customer’s specifications.
Stitches per inch (SPI) check
QC inspectors simply count the number of stitches in a square inch of sample garments. The higher the SPI, the more durable the fabric and the less likely it will stretch or fall apart during normal wear and washing.
Material composition check
Verifying the composition of fabrics used in garment production is important due to the legal requirements of correctly labeling garments, as well as ensuring that the manufacturer is not using inferior materials. If for example a garment label states that the garment is 100% wool or leather, this must be verified by qualified QC inspectors. If subsequent inspections by authorities reveal that the fabric is not as labeled, you could face fines and other penalties.
An experienced QC inspector can judge the composition of fabrics from a hands-on inspection carried out at the factory. However, most garment importers demand third-party lab tests with proper equipment and controls to ensure transparency.
4. Label Verification
As mentioned above, correct labeling is essential for complying with garment labeling requirements for destination markets in Europe and the US. Incorrect or missing labeling could mean fines for the importer as well as having the product rejected by Customs.
The US Textile Fiber Products Identification Act stipulates that garment labels must include the following information:
There are specific labeling requirements for wool, leather and fur garments, as well as for footwear, for which the materials used in each part of the footwear item must be specified.
5. Packaging inspection
One of the final on-site inspections for garments before shipping from the factory is to ensure the packaging is suitable for the garments so they’ll reach their destination in good condition.
Inadequate storage and packaging can lead to damage from moisture and soiling. One way manufacturers may attempt to mitigate moisture damage is to include a desiccant sachets but there are strict regulations governing the chemicals used in these moisture-absorbing packets.
Testing for DMF is a chemical test which should be carried out in a lab. Silica gels are a safe desiccant sachet ingredient. However, some manufacturers may use Dimethyl Fumarate (DMF) instead, which is banned in most developed destination markets due to its high toxicity and the allergic reactions consumers can suffer from contaminated garments.
Packaging must also comply with destination market regulations such as clear labeling informing the consumer what the product is, what it’s made from and where it came from, among other requirements which may be stipulated by consumer protection laws in different countries.
QIMA can send qualified quality control inspectors to your factory to conduct impartial and transparent third-party testing on site anywhere in the world.
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QIMA labs and inspectors are certified as compliant with ISO Standard 9001:2008, the international standard for quality management best practices. We are also accredited with the International Federation of Inspection Agencies and other prestigious internationally recognized agencies.
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We are armed with the best tools and technology for professional inspections as well as the knowledge you need to ensure your garments are certified for individual destination markets. Our inspectors can send you instant updates from on-site inspections to save you time and money and get your product moving in a timely manner.
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We offer affordable fixed-price packages for on-site inspections. Click here for more information about our pricing and to get an instant quote for your garment inspection needs.
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