Thinking

The Importance of Quality in Meeting Consumer Expectations: Interview with an Apparel Sourcing Expert (Part 2) 2/2

Q: Is quality not top of mind for factory leaders even when deciding about the purchase of trims, components, or machinery? Do they choose what will allow them to deliver superior quality, or is price always the prevailing factor?

 

A: While there are exceptions, I’ve found that quality is usually not among the top priorities when making these purchasing decisions.

For instance, consider machine buying, which is viewed primarily as a capital expenditure. When management needs to convince the owners or financial team to buy a machine, they will generate a report on ROI, including increased daily output, increased line efficiency percentage, and manpower reduction. Quality is not normally a significant part of an ROI report.

This is same criteria used when making most large investments.

Thinking

Q: What are the most frequent quality defects?

 

A: There are a wide range of defects, but I’ve found that the most common reasons for customers rejecting shipments include:

  • Poor packing issues
  • Stains
  • Holes
  • Missing and broken stitching
  • Shading

Shading

Given the accuracy of Pareto analysis, I’d estimate that 70 to 80 percent of defects and claims are created by these defect types. It is a shame, because this list has stayed the same year after year. And, until quality begins being top of mind for factory leaders, it will continue to stay the same.

shoe quality control

Loose studs – Case #633

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Practical solutions to problems encountered in the manufacturing process that demonstrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce Right from the Start TM.

Problem: the counter stud fixing is loose because the stud shaft is too long.

shoe quality control

shoe quality control

Impactiva solution: we got the factory to add a 2mm thick PU reinforcement in order to fix the stud tightly to the upper.

shoe quality control

shoe quality control

shoe quality control

Stay tuned for more Impactiva technical solutions to every day production problems.

Impactiva Apparel Quality Control

Fast fashion calls for increasingly short lead-times

From what we read lately in fashion specialized media we get the impression that “fast” is never fast enough! All studies show that consumers want to instantly wear what they see and like. Brands and retailers work to shorten their conception-to-consumer lead-times in every possible way.

Today we want to address one of those possible ways: optimizing the link of the manufacturing supply chain that connects your Tier-2 with your Tier-1 suppliers, specifically the mills that supply fabric to your apparel factories.

A substantial part of the apparel found defective at final QC inspection is attributable to out-of-spec fabrics. Garments that get rejected at some point in production or when they are ready to be shipped, due to fabric stains, holes, knots, etc. If the mills fail to mark defects properly, the apparel factory can inadvertently cut the fabric into apparel. We know the consequences: reworks, rejections, replacements… in a word: delays… And of course: waste.

Inspecting fabric at the mill to ensure correct color, hand-feel and marking of defects can save the brand and its factories up to 20% of the fabric cost. And a lot of time.

Processes and procedures in place to prevent defects as early as possible.

These are some pictures of unmarked defects found in different clients and fabrics inspections, that can help illustrate this blog. Some are extremely noticeable and one can expect they won’t be cut into apparel, but it is best to mark all defects.

 

Stains

Fabric defect - stain 6Fabric defect - stain 1Fabric defect - stain 2  Fabric defect - stain 4  Fabric defect - stain 3Fabric defect - stain 7

 

Holes

Fabric defect - hole 1 Fabric defect - hole 2 Fabric defect - hole 3

 

Broken yarns

Fabric defect - broken yarn 1 Fabric defect - broken yarn 2

 

Foreign yarns

Impactiva Apparel Quality Control  Fabric defect - foreign yarn 3Fabric defect - foreign yarn 2

 

Pulled yarns

Impactiva Apparel Quality Control

 

Knots

Impactiva Apparel Quality Control Fabric defect - knot 2 Fabric defect - knot 3

 

Fabric joints

Impactiva Apparel Quality Control

Front

Impactiva Apparel Quality Control

Back

Businessman taking oath.

Here’s How to Curb Bribery in Quality Control

by Jose R. Suarez, founder & CEO, Impactiva

 

For a brand to invest all the money it does in quality control and compliance, corruption in the supply chain shouldn’t render it all for naught.

Unfortunately, in the QC business, corruption is endemic and bribery is common. But with the right procedures in place, curbing both is possible.

Businessman taking oath.

For one, brands, just like quality assurance companies, should have anti-corruption policies in place that do things like forbid quality control technicians from accepting gifts from vendors or invitations to lunch or even free transportation from the airport to the hotel—there should be nothing that functions as a favor to a quality control technician.

Sometimes factories are far out from where a technician lives, and the only possibilities for eating or getting transportation is with the help of a factory. In cases like this, quality control companies should pay the factories market price for the meal and the transport they help provide to the technicians.

The lack of reasonable pay for quality control techs is a major part of what poses the above problem, but bribery can be so rampant that major testing companies have admitted to not raising their inspectors’ salaries because they know the benefits from the factory’s kickbacks can be substantial.

In one case the GM of a major Chinese factory had an agreement with a brand’s QC to give the inspector 2 percent of the shoes produced to sell online, and they would divvy up the profit. Another retailer got fed up and rid itself of all of its quality control inspectors because some were taking 2,000 to 3,000 yuan ($300 to $450) per container from the factories to perform the inspection and create a favorable “pass” report. Instead of maintaining their in-house inspection team, the retailer shifted the ethics controversy upstream to their QC inspection company to be rid of the problem.

In managing the improvement of their factories, it’s easier, some brands have said—however unfortunately—for factories to pay off a brand representative to approve the “right” metrics, because then the factory won’t have to invest in transforming themselves. They’ll just benefit from false metrics.

That’s a testament to how messed up our society is.

Cutting down on ethical issues in quality control begins with the inspector hiring process. Quality control companies need to be firmer on issues of ethical compliance, as should brands. Building a culture in your company that strengthens the sanctity of the quality control process begins with the interview process, with as many questions as possible to suss out who seems honest and who may not be. Once you get dishonest people in the company, the cancer is inside and it spreads from there. Even then, when QC inspectors go out into the world, there is no guarantee that they will be honest and ethical.

That’s where penalties come in. And they have to be harsh to have meaning.

When a factory tries to bribe an inspector from a third-party QC provider, photographic evidence should be taken of the actual bribe, whether a red envelope with cash in it or gifts in other forms. Then the QC can confront the factory with the evidence, have them admit to attempting the bribe, and brands can be notified about their suppliers’ unethical activities.

That sort of public punishment and the risk of potentially losing business after multiple dishonest activities can help keep factory owners in line and rampant corruption out of the supply chain.

The nonsense has to be stopped, especially because bribery and corruption, in general, affects the disadvantaged classes the most as money is siphoned off at higher levels without making it down to those who most need it. In the case of unethical quality control, bribery increases the price consumers pay, and even worse, dramatically diminishes the quality of the products they buy.

Now the question is: are apparel companies willing to support an ethical quality control process and implement a zero tolerance policy, penalizing those factories and QC inspectors who are unethical?

It should be feasible for apparel companies to scale back on factories who repeatedly bribe QC inspectors because of the many alternative sourcing options that exist. A typical brand or retailer may have hundreds of factories, thousands even, so it shouldn’t have a major impact on them to stop using two, three or four of them over compliance concerns.

Rarely do we see companies implement a zero tolerance policy. If we look at society in general, corruption happens everywhere, like in politics. The problem is, people believe they have a right to a company’s or supplier’s money above and beyond what they’re already earning. And in some societies, bribery and corruption is more widely accepted than in others, making it even more difficult to root out this cancer that plagues our society.

 

case 517 pic 1 impactiva footwear qa

Stained ornaments – Case #517

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Practical solutions to problems encountered in the manufacturing process that demonstrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce Right from the Start TM.

Problem: glue stains on ornaments caused by the use of super glue to fix the loose ones.

case 517 pic 1 impactiva footwear qa

case 517 pic 2 impactiva footwear qa

Impactiva solution: we got the factory to use nylon thread to secure the ornaments, and avoided excess glue.

case 517 pic 3 impactiva footwear qa

case 517 pic 4 impactiva footwear qa

Stay tuned for more Impactiva technical solutions to every day production problems.

case 495 pic 1 impactiva footwear qa

Wavy sole – Case #495

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Practical solutions to problems encountered in the manufacturing process that demonstrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce Right from the Start TM.

Problem: wavy sole wall/surface

case 495 pic 1 impactiva footwear qa

Impactiva solution: we got the factory to rough the lasting allowance properly and slightly hammer the folding joints before sole attachment, keeping the sole wall properly overlapped on the folding joints.

case 495 pic 2 impactiva footwear qa

case 495 pic 3 impactiva footwear qa

case 495 pic 4 impactiva footwear qa

Stay tuned for more Impactiva technical solutions to every day production problems.

case 459 pic 2 impactiva footwear qa

Heel clip – Case #459

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Practical solutions to problems encountered in the manufacturing process that demonstrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce Right from the Start TM.

Problem: the heel clip projects on the sock lining what may cause discomfort to the wearer.

case 459 pic 1 impactiva footwear qa

case 459 pic 2 impactiva footwear qa

case 459 pic 3 impactiva footwear qa

Impactiva solution: we got the factory to fix a 2mm foam on insole before heel nailing and then to attach a PU layer over the nail to make the sock surface smooth.

case 459 pic 4 impactiva footwear qa

case 459 pic 5 impactiva footwear qa

case 459 pic 6 impactiva footwear qa

case 459 pic 7 impactiva footwear qa

Stay tuned for more Impactiva technical solutions to every day production problems.

case 443 pic 1 impactiva leather qa

Hair roots on crust leather – Case #443

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Practical solutions to problems encountered in the manufacturing process that demonstrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce Right from the Start TM.

Problem: profuse hair roots. We had to reject the lot.

case 443 pic 1 impactiva leather qa

Impactiva solution: we got the tannery to produce a new lot.

Stay tuned for more Impactiva technical solutions to every day production problems.

case 342 pic 2 impactiva footwear qa

Wrinkles on the thong – Case #342

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Practical solutions to problems encountered in the manufacturing process that demonstrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce Right from the Start TM.

Problem: wrinkles on the lining of the thong.

case 342 pic 1 impactiva footwear qa

case 342 pic 2 impactiva footwear qa

Impactiva solution: we got the factory to use a mold to achieve a good curve when attaching the lining to the upper material.

case 342 pic 3 impactiva footwear qa

case 342 pic 4 impactiva footwear qa

Stay tuned for more Impactiva technical solutions to every day production problems.

case 318 pic 1 impactiva footwear qa

Excess of glue – Case #318

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Practical solutions to problems encountered in the manufacturing process that demonstrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce Right from the Start TM.

Problem: excess of glue on the feather edge.

case 318 pic 1 impactiva footwear qa case 318 pic 2 impactiva footwear qa

Impactiva solution: we got the factory to add a 1.5 mm filler into the marking outsole, so that marking will go down and the glue will remain within the sole wall.

case 318 pic 3 impactiva footwear qa

case 318 pic 4 impactiva footwear qa

Stay tuned for more Impactiva technical solutions to every day production problems.