5 steps for importing furniture with smoother sourcing

With unprecedented quality issues facing the importing of furniture, how can we avoid lengthy delays, product recalls, and brand reputation damage before it’s too late?

Southeast Asia remains a hub for furniture imports, despite logistics, compliance, and communication barriers posing continuous challenges. Pressures stemming from COVID-19 haven’t helped, leading to brands being unable to visit their factories, shipment delays requiring more flexible and agile manufacturing, and last-minute surprises like raw materials and component shortages.

All these can put product safety and quality at risk, but following a few key steps can ensure your furniture reaches you at its optimum quality to protect your competitive advantage and meet the standards of your market destination:

1. Determine your defect classification list

This step is often an afterthought, but classifying your defects at the outset will help clarify the meaning of your furniture inspection reports.

This is the most widely used defect classification list (DCL):

Critical defect – A defect that judgment and experience indicate is likely to:

  • Result in unsafe conditions for individuals using, maintaining, or depending upon the products; or
  • Prevent performance of the tactical function of a major end item. A critical defective is a unit of product that contains one or more critical defects.

Major defect – A defect that is likely to result in failure or reduce the usability of the product for its intended purpose.

Minor defect – A defect that is not likely to reduce the usability of the product for its intended purpose or is a departure from established standards having little bearing on the effectiveness or operation of the product.

If there is no established DCL, API offers a detailed inspection checklist to proceed with the inspection.

2. Conduct an inspection during production or place a dedicated technician onsite

This is a critical stage in ensuring that your final piece of furniture reaches its expected level of quality. It allows you to identify problems before the end of production and to adopt the required corrective measures to improve results along the production line.

3. Update your furniture specifications based on in-production feedback

Consider critical areas for improvement and the points that need to be addressed, and put a strategy in place to correct them. At this stage, you will need to re-communicate your product specifications to the factory, which may bring language challenges when sourcing in Asia. You can overcome these barriers by using a neutral third-party quality provider with expertise in your sourcing area. This ‘boots on the ground’ approach will ensure that your product specifications are communicated correctly and clearly.

4. Do a root cause analysis as a preventative measure

It is important to have a root cause analysis (RCA) strategy that determines how you will handle any defective products with your supplier. This need not be a time-consuming strategy; it should simply highlight potential problem areas and make room for process optimizations.

Don’t have an RCA strategy? Follow these steps:

  • Recognize and define the problem  Acknowledge and define your furniture’s production issue.
  • Identify the causes  Go through the process of cause identification. The trick here is not to spend too much time brainstorming or mind mapping. This needn’t be a time-consuming part of the root cause analysis.
  • Identify the solutions  Based on your cause identification, you will need to determine the best possible solutions for addressing the problem to avoid it happening again.
  • Implement the solutions  If your furniture quality was compromised during the production line, you would need to begin implementing the solutions you identified to prevent future occurrences. The solution should optimize and improve your operational processes. If it doesn’t, you may need to repeat the above steps.

5. Conduct a final check with a random inspection

A final random inspection is an inspection of a small sample of your furniture prior to shipment. This is used to determine any quality defects that may have come from the production process. Questions to consider include:

  • Does the furniture sample meet all of your product specifications?
  • How many visual defects are there?
  • What onsite tests need to be done?

Key Takeaways

A clear strategy to identify risks upstream is key in producing high-quality furniture that meets customer expectations. Some of the benefits of a well-planned sourcing strategy include:

  • Improved products
  • Faster time-to-market
  • Quality budget optimization
  • Increased customer satisfaction.

The above steps should be planned and strategized for each product category that you source. At API, we support our customers with solutions all along their supply chains. Contact us now to learn more about how our furniture expertise can give your brand the competitive edge it deserves.