Category: Uncategorized

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) 

What makes a “good” engineer?

National Engineers Week was observed in February. It’s origins and purpose include:

“Founded by NSPE in 1951, EWeek is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.”

A point of differentiation for Pro QC is the engagement of engineers. Engineers are at the heart of the organization, including a founder whose roots are tied there.

It was noted once during an interview that “engineer is not a word, but rather an identity.” And, Queen Elizabeth II herself was noted as saying “at its heart, engineering is about using science to find creative, practical solutions. It is a noble profession.”

So, what makes up a “good” engineer? At Pro QC, we hire a number of inspectors, auditors, etc. to assist with projects all over the world. Common attributes we look for include:

  • Problem solving ability
  • Enhanced critical thinking, creativity
  • Detail oriented
  • Natural curiosity
  • Effective communication skills

A few questions we ask to assess the attributes noted above include:

  •  To know more about how an engineer approaches problems, ask them to identify which tools they would use to address a particular issue.
  •  To know more about natural curiosity, inquire about projects or hobbies outside of work.
  • Ask for examples of what processes they have developed that have enhanced some example of engineering performance capabilities? What was the impact on the organization?
  • To evaluate critical thinking, we ask applicants to look at a cluttered photo and find a cat. We want to see how the applicant approaches finding it.
  • We ask what people like the most and least about engineering in general.
  • To learn more about someone, we ask them what they get out of engineering that they don’t feel like they would get from another professional.

Learn more about National Engineers Week: [url]https://www.nspe.org/resources/partners-and-state-societies/national-engineers-week[/url]

Breaking up with suppliers is easy?

A recent blog post caught our attention.

Is breaking up with suppliers easier than we think, even if it’s done “with tact, sensitivity and an appropriate level of empathy?”

Our answer is no. It’s not easy at all.

Is it necessary? Sometimes.

According to the article, little value is placed on the supplier relationship and the assumption is that price rules all.  Is it all about price though… or, cost?

With that logic, an alternate idea is suggested…

Prior to breaking up with the supplier, evaluate how much you’re willing to invest in improving their performance vs. the associated switching costs. Identifying a solid supplier is more than a Google search.  Assuming everything they say on the website is true, it’s still recommended to verify if they exist, if they have that capacity you need, what their current on-time delivery is, what equipment is really on-site, how they’re managing in-house QC, etc. And, the qualification process often identifies investments required for the new supplier to meet expectations. Then, there’s the costs associated with updating logistics, etc. It all adds up and takes longer than people think.

Before switching, consider developing.

Many times, a supplier isn’t meeting expectations because they simply don’t have the resources to improve themselves. They need help.

Organizations that partner with suppliers and assist to provide development resources have a win-win situation. They’re investing less than it would cost to switch suppliers (generally speaking) and the suppliers see an overall improvement that results in better products/service for all customers.

Two examples:

You just scored a big deal with Walmart (or Lowe’s, Home Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods, etc.) and now have to make sure you’re working with a compliant supplier.

  1. You immediately start looking for a new supplier that’s already working with Walmart. How long does that process take? And, how long does the transition take? Will it work within Walmart’s schedule? It usually doesn’t.  And, the cost involved is generally much more than investing in compliance with the existing supplier (assuming no other issues are noted).
  2. You need to find out how compliant your existing supplier is. If they haven’t worked with Walmart previously, a gap analysis is helpful. It identifies non-conformaties and estimates the cost involved in obtaining and maintaining what’s required.

You’ve received three late shipments, and your warehouse has identified similar paint issues during the incoming inspections. Rework is required, and you’re facing back orders and returns.

  1. You panic and are tired of emailing the supplier and hearing that everything is being taken care of. You can’t risk another shipment with issues and decide to switch. That process won’t be quick, or cheap. And, you’re not guaranteed to have any less issues.
  2. You leverage a local quality professional and assess the root cause of the paint issue and shipment delays.  The quality professional identifies corrective actions and then assists the supplier with implementation and ongoing management as required.

As a side note, switching suppliers because you want to diversify or expand your supply base isn’t questioned here. Strategic plans generally make sense and are vetted more thoroughly.

Contact us for help with your suppliers, or for additional information. We have more examples throughout our 35 years of experience to share. We provide solutions in 88 countries.

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.

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)