Essentials of your Quality Control and Assurance team

Understanding the importance of your internal and external Quality Control (QC) and Quality Assurance (QA) teams. Looking at some essentials, an action plan, and addressing issues. How do oversee your operations:

  • Do you depend on your vendor to provide QC/QA for your products? 
  • Have staff that travels to the country of manufacturing to oversee inline and final inspections?  
  • Have stationed staff on the ground where you are manufacturing
  • Hire 3rd parties to provide inspection services?  

Essentials of QA/QC

How does your QC/QA affect your TCO (True Cost of Operations)?  Are you being transparent with the costs associated with the individual style and tracking the expenses. 

Furthermore, do you recognize the value of having trained and experienced staff on the factory floor during production?

Anybody managing the product will have challenges. They must deal with people who have a higher status, who are inclined to dictate what is to be done.

In a perfect world, it is essential that you have staff who can stand up to factory owners, managers, and sewers.  Your staff must be prepared to deal with conflict and disruption, also many at the company you are reporting on will not be happy with your decisions. In every instance, you must take into consideration culturally differences and local business practices.

It is a complex situation to diffuse: different levels of power must take into consideration the safety and well being of all involved. Often private arrangements are a means of circumventing these problems. In the case of differing cultures, issues can be solved more directly.

Influence and power must be taken into consideration, well-maintaining integrity. However, the ultimate goal is to deliver the best product to the end consumer.

Action Plan

Some key steps are: 

  1. Establish standards, expectations, and requirements before the production starts
  2. Oversee the arrival and inspection of materials and trims to ensure they meet pre-approved standards
    1. If you are concerned with overages and excess product, it is important to pay attention to the receiving quantities to ensure they meet the mass production quantities.
    2. You can check the shipped order quantities and locations with the vendor(s).
  3. Be present at the factory for the 1st inline inspection at the start of the production with staff who are responsible for this production:
    1. Review policies, procedures, systems, and performance measures
    2. Ensure that the factory has the workbook and required products for this production
    3. Provide education and training as needed
    4. Walk the sewing line, review the steps, and ensure the product flow is properly structured
    5. Make recommendations of required changes to ensure the product is made as per the pre-approved sample and technical specification 
  4. When you arrive at the factory for inspection, it is ideal that you start on the sewing floor, evaluating each stage, monitoring how the product is being manufactured; making recommendations to solve issues, improve efficiencies, and ensure the product is being made as specified. 
  5. When reviewing the finished products during inline inspection, it is important to have the QC/QA inspector and the merchandiser for that product present
    1. Set aside batches of products with the same or similar issues for further review
    2. With the factory manager; and the sewing line manager review techniques, processes, issues and/or problems
    3. If necessary bring in other sewing line managers and possibly even the sewers for further discussions.  This is called “Proactive over Reactive” management.

When problems do arise it is good to get everyone involved, even the factory owner. Above we are looking at the hip measurement before the waistband is attached, to ensure it is within tolerance.

Addressing Issues

Since the factory manager is involved, there is a problem with the hip, crotch, or thigh measurement.   Once you discover the problem, you need to determine where is it coming from?  Is it the cutting, seam allowance, fabric, sewing, or other unforeseen issues? You need a quick resolution to solve the problem to ensure you can get your products back to the desired standard and meet the bulk product delivery requirements.  

During the inline inspection, it is recommended you engage the vendor staff; the merchandiser and QA staff, allowing them to first review the quality of the products and finish.  I create multiple piles for products with issues:

  • Sewing
  • Decorative
  • Pressing
  • Finishing 
  • Measurement

During the inline inspection, I first let the vendor staff review all products and allocate to the quality issue piles or approve the products.  I then review the products they passed to ensure they are doing their job properly and did not miss anything.  

The vendor staff has different quality standards based on different vendors and the product price point so it is important you constantly review your requirements.

Conclusion

It’s common to find issues on products that your vendors QC/QA have approved, as we all have different standards of what is acceptable and what is not.   On products where we find defaults, you should mark these issues with stickers and put in a pile to review with the merchandiser and QA staff, so they can review with their QC and sewing line staff. 

On products with issues, it is good to review the issues one by one to see if it is a common repetitive issue or if it is a one-of-kind?  If it is a common problem, it is recommended to take a bigger sampling of production, to determine what is the percentage of production with that issue.  

The QA can determine who was responsible for that stage of manufacturing and review with their staff to ensure the problem is resolved on production. 

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