Product quality management is a struggle that all importers face. From ensuring that all of your quality systems are up to date to ensuring that your products are of the highest quality when they hit the market.
Are you maintaining these systems?
Maintaining up to date quality systems with a consistency in the production of high quality products for your brand can be rather complex to stay on top.
So what then?
Outsourcing your quality systems to a qualified third party will help to alleviate the supply chain pressures that are felt due to the increase in pace of today’s retail supply chain, whilst also keeping up to date witht the latest in industry best practice.
Maintaining the efficiency of your supply chain and overall product quality may be something that you can handle through an in house quality team, but the questions are;
- Are you able to afford the time and resources that is constantly required to keep up with today’s pace in retail?
- How does this ensure your place in the market?
By understanding the pro’s and con’s of both in house vs a third party quality provider, you will be able to ensure that not only your products pass the minimum compliance requirements, but that they are of the highest possible standard of quality, while also ensuring that you are streamlining your production operations to that of the highest quality.
Sound like something your organisation can benefit from?
Read on to discover the benefits of hiring third party quality inspection services as opposed to using an in-house quality team.
Are you up to date with all of the latest in product regulations?
The supply and demand of our current global retail landscape means that there is always a need to be up to date with the changes in product regulation.
A third party quality provider has access to resources through associations and a network of online cloud-based systems that enable them to keep up to date with the latest in product regulations.
Access to a network like this is a key part of their service offering, this is what will distinguish a good quality external service provider. Capabilities like this are able to streamline your operations which can assist you in getting your product to the market faster, allowing you to stay on top of the supply and demand pressures that are felt in the marketplace.
However, when hiring a third party quality provider, you will need to ensure that they specialize in your specific product category, by doing this you will ensure that they are up to date with the most relevant product and regulation information.
Let’s take the global fidget spinner craze; this children’s toy hit the shelves faster than what the market could blink.
It turns out that over 200 000 of these had to be recalled due to procedural non-compliance as well as the product having critical defects; meaning that this product may cause injury or harm to its end consumer.
A third party quality provider would be able to provide you with an unbiased inspection report, including the above information, thus protecting your brand from damage and product recalls that can become extremely costly.
Reliability is key.
Is your internal staff able to spend the time they need ensuring that they understand all of the relevant product information that you need?
While your organization may have the know-how, you likely do not have the resources or capacity to dedicate someone to ensure they are well researched into the latest regulations that are required.
Many organizations do not have the extensive geographical networks that larger retailers have.
Therefore your internal staff ends up spending a lot of time traveling for quality control inspections, with not enough time spent focusing on the quality of a product. This often slows down production processes, with a longer eventual time to market.
If we take the Fidget Spinner example into consideration, what is the likelihood of your in-house team being aware of that noncompliance before it hit the market?
If we take the above example into consideration, what is the likelihood of your in-house team being aware of that noncompliance and new terms of regulation before it hit the market?
Think about it.
An occurrence such as the above puts your brand at an unnecessary risk, with the potential for bad publicity and a major loss in sales.
Can your organization afford this?
Do you have all of the technical expertise?
Product technical expertise and extensive testing and inspection experience is an undervalued commodity in the retail supply chain, how can you begin to leverage it to your advantage?
An external quality provider can provide you with an extensive network of technical expertise relating to your product and your quality systems, from factory audits to inspection and testing equipment and any specific techniques that may be needed to ensure that you meet your product’s compliance.
Some testing equipment may be unique to a specific product or if there is an update in testing procedures to be inclusive of recent changes in regulation.
Often external providers are able to provide technical solutions based on the above specifications, along with teams that are well versed in new testing procedures.
External providers will often send their inspectors on training to familiarize themselves with new equipment and testing procedures to ensure a high quality service is offered with a minimum product recall rate.
For third party quality providers it is a priority to be up to date with the latest trends and developments in your industry along with the best practices that you should be following.
This kind of knowledge and expertise can be leveraged to your competitive advantage.
While your in-house team may have the knowledge about the inner workings of your product and your ideal quality procedures, the reality is that it may not always be enough.
Keeping up to date and monitoring the latest in standard and regulation requires a lot of resources, whilst there is also the challenge in maintaining and ensuring all documentation is updated properly, which is often not the case.
This limited amount of resources can create unnecessarily complex procedures, that pile up to the sky, but that could have been avoided through a lot of strategic planning and structure.
This is often not a strong suit for many smaller organizations.
The key is to knowing your strengths and focus on them for your organization’s growth.
Appropriate technology for high quality procedures
Using appropriate technology that enables you to track your operational progress and things like your product inspection reports are essential to streamlining your quality operations.
It is essential for third party quality providers to have adequate and appropriate platforms in place to manage their clients quality systems effectively.
These platforms also need to be capable of recording and tracking all data properly as well as manage certain aspects of documentation and communication.
This technology provides thorough data, allowing you insights into your supply chain that would otherwise not have been available.
This data can be leveraged into strategies for your brand, from risk mitigation to inventory management, to the way in which you conduct product tests in your lab and the kinds of inspection reports that are being produced.
It needs to provide valuable and actionable insight so that you can optimize your quality systems for greater efficiency, which should lead you to a higher production rate and a faster time to market for your product.
Add all of this together, and you begin to see higher profit margins and the ability in which you can meet your products supply and demand will also have grown, creating that desired competitive advantage.
Let’s take a brief look at the Technical Compliance File solution;
This is a compliance solution that allows you reliable and accurate insights into your compliance processes.
It is offered through a web-based platform and is a one-stop shop for all of your compliance documents, with real time updates and 24/7 access and insight.
This kind of technology allows your organization more focus, control and insight.
Having up to date technologies or systems might be challenging because in-house quality teams still rely heavily on manual entry spreadsheets, which creates far too much room for human error.
Skewed data can have far reaching implications for your quality systems, which can often build up into product recalls and financial losses for your brand.
There is often the debate about the costliness of software. Now, while this is a valid argument, especially for SME’s trying to keep head above water which is often the only priority, it is suggested to consider slowly integrating technology into your quality systems to begin streamlining your procedures for greater efficiency
One of biggest challenges is to manage all technical documentation systemically. It is important to remember that the authorities have the right to access the technical file which is meant to contain a full set of technical documents.
Some retailers try to collect this technical documentation through in-house team, but often it is a bit of a mess due to various industrial norms such as;
- The manufacturer changes the materials from time to time because they found a cheaper price elsewhere
- The buyer will customize products that are being ordered to make it unique and at a higher market value
- Most test reports expire a year later, so often documentation is either expired or non-existent.
Therefore an in-house team will have to keep chasing suppliers to provide all the valid documentation and at the same time they are under internal pressure from the merchandising team to release the shipment.
streamlining your shipment release process
Navigating the waters of international logistics is nothing short of a small miracle to get through without the domino effect of nightmares that occur along the way.
Your shipments getting stuck in customs due to incorrect documentation creates a series of delays for the rest of your operation.
Working with a third party quality provider that is able to play a key role in the shipment release process can help avoid having to navigate this web of complex logistics by yourself.
Inspection reports are essential in getting shipments released from customs. It will be up to the retailer alongside your quality provider to set up a report rating guideline.
This report rating guideline forms a baseline of automation which reduces the amount of manual changes after the reports review. The manual reviewing of these reports slow down the auto shipment processes immensely and this entire process becomes less meaningful.
An external quality provider will be able to provide you with industry knowledge and best practices relating to rating reports. You will also be able customize your rating reports according to your product needs.
Once this report rating has been created, your quality provider can utilize their technical systems to send daily reports to both the client and your chosen cargo company. This creates a much clearer and faster release process for both you and the cargo company.
The mountain of paperwork from import licenses to full inspection reports, they have it down to a tee, enabling a streamlined, efficient process for your organization.
How often have you had a shipment stuck only to be told that you don't have the correct paperwork?
Traditionally an inhouse team often releases inspection reports as and when they receive them causing major delays, this is often due to in-house QC teams needing to travel extensively, which means they don’t have enough time to make the approvals that are needed for the shipments to be released in a timely manner.
Not to sound repetitive, but to have an in-house team that has the capacity to manage the logistics involved with shipping would be a dream, no doubt, but getting through customs safely stems from being efficient in all the other points I’ve made above.
In-house teams without the right amount of time, resources and technical expertise will struggle to cope with issues that could have otherwise been prevented.
So here’s the deal…
Managing quality is a complex system that needs 100% of your attention and focus.
Are you able to dedicate that kind of time and resource to ensuring just that?
This is a question that many often do not want to answer, but the reality is that you often cannot afford the time and resource that goes into creating fully optimized quality systems that can produce high-quality products for your brand and on time.
So, what then?
It might be worth considering hiring an external third party quality provider that can give you the time and resources that you need to streamline your supply chain operations.
A third party quality provider is able to provide you with;
* The latest in product regulation
* Technical expertise
* They have the appropriate technology to streamline your operations
* They have the know how on how to navigate the waters of international logistics for your brand.
This will give you room to begin focusing on what you are good at; producing those high-quality products and creating a level of trust with your consumer that is globally competitive.
Have experienced working with third party quality inspection services?
Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section below...