Category: Quality Control

Developing Suppliers Using QC Inspection Data

Quality control inspections started out as a relatively primitive process, as a way of catching variance in newly developed production systems. The demand likely evolved as it does with many of Pro QC’s new clients. Someone got product from a supplier that didn’t meet their expectations. And, that meant increased costs, delays, impact on branding, etc. It’s a timeless tale.

Using Statistical Quality Control (SQC) starting in the 30s, the QC inspection introduced a reliable way of evaluating a randomly selected production lot. Inspections were conducted at different stages throughout the production process, with the most common being the pre-shipment inspection.

Historically, inspections were conducted and the result would be a go/no-go on the shipment. Sorting and rework were often the default way of handling issues, and the buyer felt assured of the quality and could rest easy knowing that the risk and cost were reduced for that particular order.

But, quality control has evolved into something bigger, more impactful than a singular check of product at a moment in time. For many companies, it has developed into a program of supplier development.

When Pro QC started, fax machines were the primary way of communicating inspection results and other details. There weren’t any online reports, videos, or digital photos. Imagine that.

Fast forward a few decades, and we now leverage our own supply chain management system that offers an in-depth look at the performance of suppliers using the data we capture while on-site.

What data do our clients find useful?

A product defectives analysis can include various details:

* Appearance attributes
* Functional attributes
* Labels and artwork
* Packaging and labeling
* Manufacturing
* Location
* Suppliers
* Product categories
* 80/20 – Top defects

In addition, product conformance analytics can be evaluated in a number of ways:

* Suppliers
* Location
* Product categories
* Quantity check
* Master packing
* Specifications
* Tests & measurements
* Workmanship
* 80/20 – Top non-conformance issues

As Deming reminds us, “In God we Trust, all others bring data.”

So, what’s the big picture?

Many clients meet regularly (often quarterly) with Pro QC and their suppliers to review performance. It’s an ideal time to discuss improvements, opportunities for cost reduction, etc.

A few actions resulting from this type of data analysis includes:

* Ability to identify when an issue is persistent and requires root cause investigation and corrective actions

* Data to indicate a new supplier or additional suppliers needs to be identified

* Additional support to use during negotiations with suppliers

Contact us for additional information, or to see a demonstration of our system that’s changing the way quality is integrated into business.

(This article originally appeared in the Pro QC International quarterly newsletter, March 2019) 

The Value of Expediting in Supplier Development

It’s not uncommon for us to receive calls and emails related to issues organizations are having with expediting orders, either from new or existing suppliers.

By expediting, the assumption is that a delivery date or other expectation has been provided, but is not being met. Reasons for delays in production might include:

  • New sub supplier
  • Equipment issues
  • Key staff turnover or other lack of resources
  • Packaging issues
  • Larger orders from other clients taking a priority

Whatever the reason(s) might be, communication can quickly become an additional layer of complexity as the supplier continues to assure the buyer that all is well and on schedule.  No fun for anyone involved here.

A quality solutions company, such as Pro QC, can recognize when product quality control might not be the issue.  In some cases, the supplier just needs support to address the root cause issues.

Having a local quality professional assist in expediting adds value:

  • Local follow-up can include regular calls and/or on-site visits as required. Accountability is increased. Any potential language and/or cultural issues are addressed.
  • On-site evaluation of issues noted can be evaluated. Corrective actions are developed and implemented.
  • If the supplier lacks internal resources, a company like Pro QC can allocate internal experts to the team to assist as necessary.
  • Weekly reporting (or other frequency as needed) reports progress and provides advance notice of potential delays or new issues. No more surprises.
  • Regular calls between the supplier, Pro QC and buyer presents opportunity for discussion of various perspectives and options as necessary or required.
  • Professionals on-site are able to evaluate the issues and current situation. A non-biased recommendation can be made to identify new suppliers depending on the conditions or other at the supplier location.

Supplier development solutions are customized depending on needs and the priority of those needs.  Development activities can incorporate a range of services and resources, from product testing to compliance auditing. Whether it’s expediting, inspecting, auditing or testing, an organization with experience and a global presence can find the right mix of resources to address and solve problems. Contact us for additional information.

The Importance of Vision & Values to Quality

Within the body of knowledge of many quality and other industry certifications, such as ASQ’s Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence, there is a focus on strategic planning and the successful creation and integration of a unified vision and values.

Per ASQ:

The vision statement is future focused and paints a vivid picture of where you would like the organization to be or what you would like it to accomplish in the long term. Values reflect core behaviors or guiding principles that guide the actions of employees as they execute plans to achieve the mission and vision.

Benefits: A clear vision helps in aligning everyone towards the same future state or objective, providing a basis for goal congruence. Values make clear behaviors that are expected of everyone.

Forbes Insights issued a report after a global study of more than 2200 senior executives and quality professionals. The report indicates that a “clearly stated quality vision and values, and unequivocal leadership are key components to a successful culture of quality that can help organizations drive results.”

Read the full report here: “Culture of Quality: Accelerating Growth and Performance in the Enterprise

With this, Pro QC has recently completed regular strategic planning activities that resulted in a refresh of the vision and values of the organization.

We are proud to announce our vision:

“To nurture the trust of our customers and our team through dynamic interactions, creative supply chain solutions, and integrated partnership.”

In addition, we have committed to the following defining values:

Excellence 

  • Client satisfaction is our priority.
  • We work as a team.
  • We have pride and ensure quality in everything we do.

Trustworthiness

  • We hold ourselves to a high standard.
  • We are reliable and demonstrate strong ethics.
  • We earn trust by acting with integrity and dependability.

Passion

  • We are proactive.
  • We offer support.

We’re interested in hearing from others. Share your vision and values, or comment regarding ours.

Preventing Product Diversion

Written by: Jean Champlain, Supplier Development Manager

Just when you think you’ve made it through the most difficult challenges in the supply chain, another problem often catches people by surprise.  It’s product diversion.

Product diversion is when an unauthorized party sells a product outside of authorized distribution channels. It is an increasing practice and one that presents a serious hurdle to profits.

The way these unauthorized retailers and e-commerce sites obtain the products often involves reaching out to an authorized seller of the product. For example, many manufacturers have a signed contract with various salons or shops to exclusively sell their products. These salons, in turn, sell the products per their contract. However, there are salons who don’t respect the deal, that work within the “black market.” The salons or shops that are in the “black market” enter into deals with a third party that offers to buy the items in bulk. The third party then sells the item to an unauthorized seller. The unauthorized seller then sells the items on websites such as eBay and Amazon.

Apart from profit lost, the danger of diverted products going through these unauthorized channels is high for both the consumer and manufacturer. For example, products can be tampered with during the process and the quality level on those diverted products can change. It could cause serious health problems or high damage accidents in consumer hands.  In addition, the manufacturer can receive negative reviews from the public. For example, if a consumer, who has used Brand X cosmetic product for years bought from store at $10 per unit, and then suddenly found the same Brand X cosmetic product sold at $8 per unit on Amazon, cheaper than in store, and has a severe allergic reaction to it, he/she may be tempted to post a negative review.  The problem is that the blame is not on Brand X, but on whoever tampered with the product before it was sent to the consumer. Although the blame is on someone else, Brand X will receive the negative review that will discourage other consumers from purchasing the product. Because product diversion. The impact on the brand can be significant in many respects as it relates to product diversion.

How do you prevent product diversion?

Organizations seeking to stop and prevent product diversion should consider adopting zero tolerance policies within the organization and between several authorized sellers. In essence, a zero tolerance policy must be supported by actual financial consequences to mold authorized distributors’ behaviors.

This structure to ensure zero tolerance policies should start by identifying the potential risk of product diversion within its business distribution channel, and by an internal education within personnel to understand the impact or product diversion that will cause to their organization’s profit.

Another option is to use a tracking system on the packaging. That system consists of placing a discreet tracking sticker on the packaging. It will allow the organization to track what channels the product went through and where it ends up. This type of tracking can occur with just a simple connection to the Internet. A tracking sticker can also help to authenticate the product if the organization wants to conduct an investigation.  A more common method is to inform your consumers of the authorized resellers and to be aware of diverted products from unauthorized parties. The organization can do this by putting a list on its official website listing authorized sellers.

Regular one day on-site surveillance is recommended at the manufacturer to evaluate the level of prevention system established both by the manufacture and its various sellers and distributions. Assessment areas of focus include:

  • ANTI-DIVERSION POLICY
  • SELECTION OF SELLER / DISTRIBUTOR
  • NON-DIVERSION AGREEMENT
  • CONTROL OF AUTHORIZED SELLER / DISTRIBUTOR
  • CONTROL OF UNAUTHORIZED SELLER

Pro QC International also provides on-site product diversion evaluations that can be customized to meet your objectives. Contact us for more information.

Environmental Impacts & Solutions Within the Textile & Garment Industry

Written by: Stephen Moglia, Business Development Manager

Sustainability, green fashion, circular economy: we hear and see those words almost everywhere now. They multiply with the growing interest of consumers and companies for the environmental impacts of the industry. In fact, the textile industry has become the second most polluting industry in the world, right after oil, as stated at the sixth edition of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit last May. Globalised, complex, including a wide range of techniques, the textile industry affects the planet on many different levels, including very sensitive areas such as water, air pollution, chemicals, electricity consumption or waste. Being aware of the impacts of production processes has now become essential.

Moreover, damaging the environment also has an impact on humans, whether it is the workers, the consumers or people leaving nearby a factory. Cotton illustrates this in a tragic way. It is a very affordable fabric, widely used to make inexpensive clothes. To boost the production and fight the worms that attack the plants, a lot of farmers worldwide use pesticides. Those pesticides contain extremely toxic substances such as metals (aluminium, nickel, lead), barium or ethion that was banned in Europe. Farmers, in contact with those chemicals can get more cancer, liver and kidney diseases. The chemicals also cause freshwater pollution affecting a wider range of people. Hopefully more and more farmers are turning to organic cotton that is more respectful of the environment and uses no such pesticides. (Article Reference)

Another example is chrome tanning that was also banned from Europe for being too toxic. This tanning is faster, easier than other techniques. However, the leather is weaker and doesn’t last as long, thus creating more waste. Chrome is a heavy metal and damages the environment in the same kind of way pesticides do. It infiltrates the water and in contact with the skin can also have an impact on the consumer’s health. (Article Reference)

Brands, then, have a responsibility: choosing well where they source their materials and where they out-source the production. The consumer, getting information easily on internet is more and more aware of those issues, which reflects in its purchasing choices. Sustainability concerns have only been increasing since the 1990s and in 2015, 66% of global consumers were willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable products. It damages the image of brands to be involved in environmental or social scandals. On the contrary, sustainability can be a real marketing opportunity. Showing concern, sharing the origin of the materials, revealing « who made [the] clothes » attracts customers, reassured that the product they are buying is safe for themselves and the planet. It is part of the « look good, feel good » trend when buyers don’t want to feel guilty wearing their favourite sweater. (Article Reference)

Transparency is trendy, however it is not always easy for brands to control their supply chain. How can a company based in Europe, or North America be sure of the quality of the products they buy in Asia? How can it know in which conditions clothes were made and with which means? The information given by the factories can be altered or fake, a website, mails, phone calls, those are only words and chosen images. It is also tricky for brands to plan a visit of the factories of their suppliers and manufacturers. When knowing someone is coming to check on the working conditions or on quality, it happens often that companies adjust their installations only for a day, adding fake security signs, changing displayed products or hiring more people to show wealth.

This is when audits can be extremely useful. The information obtained is more accurate and real. For environmental responsibilities, audits are made according to the ISO 14000 environmental standard, covering energy usage, renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, materials and waste reduction, life cycle management, supplier’s supply chain activities and more. ISO 14000 audits can be combined with SA8000 for social responsibility for a more thorough inspection, helping brands to have a better control on their supply chain and with time, to select their most reliable partners.

These audits can be applied to various fields such as footwear, garments, accessories, textiles, bags, soft toys, electrical & lighting, gifts, home & garden, hardware, furniture, industrial & construction, sporting equipment & fitness, toys, assemblies & molds, maintenance solutions, automotive parts, and medical devices.

Review an example report ISO 14001 here.

How does your organization ensure sustainability and environmental stewardship?

(Image Source)