What you should know about Christmas tree testing


What you should know about Christmas tree testing

Christmas, a very special holiday celebrated all around the world, a sacred time spent with family and friends, houses adorned with traditional decorations and illuminated in a splendor of colors, all leading up to the childlike anticipation of Christmas day, the gifts, the food and the wine!

While it may still be quite a few months off for most people, it is now that time of year when suppliers and retailers the world over begin their arduous preparations for the very busy festive season ahead, starting with none other than the hallowed Christmas tree.

In 2015, 12.5 million artificial Christmas trees were purchased in the US alone at a Christmas tree testingpurchase price of $69.38 each, resulting in revenues totaling $854 million for manufacturers in that short period. As a holiday that approximately 2 billion people around the world celebrate, the market for Christmas and these trees is undeniably massive, not to mention the powerful potential for profits it promises.

But, what happens when things go wrong on the production line?

Between 2010 and 2014 fire fighters responded to an annual average of 200 homes that were reported to be on fire or burnt down in the US alone due to fires started by Christmas trees with a total damage of $16.2 million. Fires started by malfunctions in artificial trees highlight the critical importance of strict quality control measures needed in place during and after production, from the lighting within the tree, the temperatures they produce to the types of plastic that is used to manufacture the tree.

Can your company stand to lose millions because of negligence in the QC process? What about the implications brought about from families that lose their homes or worse?

Preventing unnecessary damages and losses before they happen should be at the top your Christmas wish list. In this blog post we talk to Francois Deudon, CEO of Asia Pacific Inspection, as we seek to understand the technicalities that go into the making of Christmas trees and the essential QC procedures/tests involved in the production of these products, helping to ensure a safer, happier and more ‘festive’ festive season for us all…

Q: What are some of the challenges involved in the manufacturing of Christmas trees in terms of quality?

Christmas tree branch bending procedureA: One of greatest challenges is ensuring that each branch is able to comply with the NFS 54200 / Decree 2003-1123 without any accessible sharp points. In order to comply with this requirement, an industrial practice of bending the end wire of each branch to prevent any accessible sharp points. Many Christmas trees contain hundreds of branches, so the quality control of suppliers plays a significant role so as to manage the potential risks.

Q: One of the biggest concerns that consumers have is the PVC content of an artificial tree – How do quality procedures overcome this kind of challenge?

A: The quality control involved from the design stage to the mass production stage is needed to manage this concern. In the design stage, a client will instruct the supplier that only qualified raw materials should be used to create this product. In the pre-production stage, raw materials or products should be submitted for testing to ensure that these qualified materials are used. Suppliers should not only use these qualified materials; but they should also be able to avoid contamination during the production process. The clients should then assess the chemical management system of the factory, when they choose a supplier. After the production is completed, the client could then appoint a third party company to pick a sample from the mass production for chemical testing to ensure only qualified materials are being used for production and that there is no chemical contamination.

Q: Are suppliers more aware of the raw material and construction of trees that need to comply to strict Christmas tree testing processinternational regulation?

A: The more experienced a supplier is the better he will understand the regulations of any given country. Here it will be the retailer or the importer’s responsibility to choose an appropriate supplier. This can be done through a technical audit, which could help measure the capability and capacity of suppliers, providing valuable information when choosing suppliers.

Q: Do you think stricter quality control or inspection measures can help reduce the amount of fires that are started each year due to artificial Christmas trees? How so?

A: Yes, the testing on mass production products will assess the flammability of artificial Christmas trees. It could also avoid unauthorized change of the materials during this mass production process.

Q: What quality tests are absolutely essential before shipping Christmas trees off to various distributors?

A: The flammability test, the sharp point sharp edge test and the REACH test are absolutely essential before shipping to any distributors.


While retailers and importers across the globe are preparing for all the holiday joys, what we have learnt is that it will be important to select the correct supplier, based on previous testing records or it may even be important to consider an audit that will help identify any procedural risks early on, as the scope of the festive season is too big to cut any corners as any faults of failure will have the potential to lose you millions. The various Christmas tree testing procedures will be important to ensuring that the festive season will be a safe and happy one all round.





10 things you will learn from a third party quality provider

Do you feel that no matter how much you plan, the maze of complex logistics is always catching up with you? Successfully running your quality systems is key to the success of your entire operation. As you try to stay on top of your logistics, resources, planning and strategies within your supply chain, you may have never considered the hiring of a third party quality provider. In this blog post, we endeavor to look at how you can benefit from hiring a third party quality provider:

1. Expertise – A third party quality provider has a wide array of clients creating an extensive network and a wealth of knowledge that will all be put into providing you Third party quality provider - expertise.jpgwith efficient quality procedures. They are also up to date with the latest developments in the industry along with the best practices to follow. As a result, you have all the expertise and knowledge about your quality procedures at your disposal; this can be invaluable to your quality and logistics procedures.

2. Efficiency – A third party quality provider has the infrastructure to manage all the logistics you require from all the certifications and documentation to the technology that is needed to ensure you receive a delivery on time as well as a product of a high quality. Apart from just managing the logistics, they also come with all the technical experience from having local product inspectors and an extensive network to create that efficiency in the logistics that you require.

3. Technology –  The use of appropriate technology and software to optimize your supply chain may be too expensive to have in-house, therefore leveraging the technology that a third party quality company can provide may be the way to go. They can save you time and minimize your risks through inventory tracking, warehouse management and can furnish you with quality compliance certification according to your specification.

4. Accountability – Upon meeting with your provider, it will be important for you to agree upon a set of expectations that will need to be achieved, a document like this will help to hold you both accountable to the operating procedures and their successes. It will also be important for your quality provider to show whether or not they can deliver on these set expectations.

5. Innovation – With their expertise, they are able to meet and fit your needs in the way they see best fitting allowing them room to innovate to achieve the best possible results for you and your operating procedures.

6. Optimization – Along with the technology and software that they use, they are able to identify potential risks before they happen and are able to continuously make improvements along the way. Continuous optimization is key to the success of any quality and supply chain procedures.

7. Network – The network an outsourced organization has can be extensive, providing your company with the best value for your money as well as a tried and tested networks to conduct your operation effectively and efficiently.

8. Risk reduction – Through the resources and technology they have, they are able to minimize the risks you would normally experience. They will have the ability to identify potential risks early on, allowing enough room to mitigate if needs be.

9. Flexibility – Outsourcing has the flexibility to adjust to the rapid changes, movements, and complexities that are experienced within the supply chain. To manage those kinds of changes internally may even be the cause of risks within the supply chain.

10 things you will learn from a third party quality provider - International Logistics

10. International Logistics – International export and import require a fair amount of logistics and management to make sure your product gets to you safely and in good condition. An outsourced company is capable of managing all of your international logistics from factory inspections and compliances to the testing of your product internationally.

Outsourcing your quality and logistics procedures will have effects for your bottom line but can also create the opportunity to enhance your brand’s quality, credibility and efficiency helping you to maintain a competitive advantage within the market. As you consider your current logistics and quality processes you may look at the benefits of outsourcing this next time round.

Ready to begin optimizing your quality procedures today?


QA Procedures To Optimize Your Supply Chain Efficiency

Do you need to optimize your current quality assurance procedures? Are you unsure of how to get started? Determining the current position of your quality systems may be a difficult one to get your head around with complex procedures to analyze and the newest technology that is just too expensive to get your hands on…In this eBook we look at how you can optimize your current systems through strategy and thorough analysis and planning, that will put your brand in a position for opportunity and growth. Download our FREE guide on optimizing your quality assurance systems. Doing this will not only increase your brand’s product quality, but it will also enhance the credibility of your brand increasing your competitive advantage.

Check out our comprehensive guide on optimizing your quality assurance systems.

In this guide you will be able to:
  • Clearly define the quality challenges that you are currently facing
  • Clearly define solutions that you can apply to your current systems for improvement
  • How can you implement the solutions into your quality systems
  • We also take a dive into how global brands are adopting different quality solutions and what things we can learn from them
You don’t have to spend a fortune trying to get the latest and greatest technology to plug into your supply chain. It’s all about being strategic and analyzing the unique challenges and needs within your supply chain and then adopting a technology to suit exactly that. quality assurance procedures
IKEA, for example, needed a way to reduce their supply chain costs, so they did, through analysis and planning they came up with a concept called Cost-per-touch, this method is based on the number of “touches” a product receives throughout the entire supply chain process right up until a customer buys the product. This concept allowed them to reduce their costs, but also helped them achieve a better inventory management strategy. This concept through strategic planning and analysis was also innovative in its application. It will be important to keep an eye on what global brands are doing so that you may make continuous improvements to your supply chain to maintain that competitive advantage through a fully optimized QA procedures.

Are you ready to begin optimizing your quality assurance procedures?

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Where Regional Brands Fail and Global Brands Succeed

Over the years there have been shifts in the supply chain, where gaining a competitive advantage through your entire supply chain can be essential to your success. It has become virtually impossible for a company on its own to reach this position. Today we see the power of the market in the customer’s hands, therefore without an agile, flexible supply chain, you may not be able to keep up with the demands of the market. It is an ever-changing landscape, that is defined no longer by the designer. In this blog post, we take a look at where regional household goods brands fail and what successes they can take from global brands.

Regional Failures

There are many reasons that can cause a regional retailer to experience supply chain failures, here we dive into a few of these reasons:

1.Risk Management strategies – Risk is a part of any and every supply chain. Regional retailers often put out fires all along the supply chain instead of preventing fires thr ough risk prediction. Many companies do not understand the value of having a risk management strategy, there is often the misconception that it is a costly strategy to have in place, while there is a cost to implementing this. Take into consideration what risk can cost you, more or less than having a strategy in place? This is multi-faceted and requires a strategic approach.

2.Delivery delays – With customers defining market trends and the speed at whichRegional household goods brand - delivery delays.jpgthey need products. You may find yourself at a loss with a delivery delay. Contingency plans are essential to ensuring your product gets to market. A contingency plan allows you to manage this without causing your brand any damage. These kinds of delays cause customer dissatisfaction pushing them to buy your product elsewhere.

3.Inventory Management – Inventory management is a complex procedure from ensuring you have enough inventory on hand to ensure you don’t run out of inventory in your warehouse. Both sides of this coin can have detrimental effects for your brand. Regional brands do not often know how to manage this balance effectively rendering the product either unwanted or leaving customers unsatisfied. Regionally inventory management is often done manually; this causes inconsistency with too much room for human error. This kind of procedure can often be costly and time-consuming.

Check out our comprehensive guide on optimizing your quality assurance systems

Global Success

Global brands, have much larger and more complex supply chains to navigate and therefore face the same potential failures regional brands do, but this larger, more complex web of intricacies requires an efficient, well communicated operating procedure for every step of the process.

Regional household goods brand risk management.jpg1.Risk Management – Global brands take every procedure into account when understanding possible areas of risk. From sourcing to logistics to inventory management, each of these areas affects one another. If there is a problem with sourcing, it inadvertently affects the logistics of the entire operation. Therefore a brand such as Amazon needs to have a Risk Mitigation strategy that spans the entire operation.

An example of a risk strategy would be the adopting visibility tools that are used to keep track of various shipments in real-time that also enable you to take action in the case of a delay.

2.Delivery Delays – Global brands use software with real-time updates on their shipments. This technology helps to identify any problems or deficiencies in a timely manner. While this may not be preventative, it does make sure there are no surprises. To prevent these kind of mishaps, using a Transport Management System which promotes cross network communications.

 3.Inventory Management – When it comes to managing inventory on a global scale it is safe to say that softwareRegional Household goods brand - inventory management.jpg should be used. Automating this processes allows for transparency and an up to date inventory procedure.

Zoho Inventory is software that enables you to manage and keep track of your orders and inventory with real-time updates, keeping you ahead of your supply chain.

The above challenges don’t have to mean the end for your brand. Begin assessing which of these strategies will provide the biggest benefit to your supply chain, while some of them may cost you to put in place, ask yourself whether or not it may be worth it in the long run. We cannot predict the future or the way in which supply chains function under pressure, but you may want to find yourself in a position where you have the best possible strategies to deal with whatever challenges may come up, minimizing the potential risks your entire operation may face. The above-mentioned failures are to enlighten the perception around these specific strategies, with clear communication, an effective strategy and a plan of action you are likely to begin addressing those pressing supply chain challenges that you face. “Are you a brand that has struggled with the above mentioned?” “Were you able to address your challenges successfully?”

Need more help?

Check out our comprehensive guide to learn more about implementing a global quality assurance system here.


4 Supply Chain Solutions For Global Brands

Supply chain managers often read supply chain news and yearly trends in order to remain competitive and to determine how they can implement best practices. As we analyze these trends we often look towards global brands and to the way in which they manage their supply chains to achieve their goals. It can be hard and expensive for larger companies and organizations to quickly implement new strategies and adopt new processes in order to stay on top. To remain globally competitive there are particular strategies that are implemented to achieve those successes. In this blog post, we look at what supply chain solutions can be used to create more transparency, collaboration, and efficiency.

Supply Chain Management Challenges

Supply chain managers face a host of challenges and pressures to constantly keep up with all the moving and evolving parts. Here we list three of the biggest challenges that brands currently face that without being able to manage these effectively can have detrimental effects for you and your brand.
  • Managing Suppliers – As a supply chain manager you are responsible for knowing all there is to know about your suppliers, from how many suppliers you have to how many are needed specific to your brand. As with any supplier-related problems you need to be able to handle delays, this goes with the territory. Every interaction you have with the supplier needs to be effectively planned thought out in order to create consistency and a smooth running procedure.Supply Chain Solutions Supply Management .jpg
This can be done through clear communication, a set of agreed upon objectives to work towards, ensure that regular meetings are held in order to address any complications and progresses that are being made. Following these steps may seem obvious, but this can also be a time consuming until you are able to integrate this effectively into your strategy. This helps to build a stronger supplier relationship and will have long-term benefits for all involved.

Check out our comprehensive guide to learn more about implementing a global quality assurance system.

  • Risk Mitigation – Adopting a supply chain risk mitigation strategy may be the way to go to avoid the risks that arise. Risk mitigation strategies can include anything from supply chain flexibility to requesting internal supplier related processes to ensure all systems, procedures, and potential risks may be flagged with ample time to rectify if needs are.

Supply Chain Solutions Risk Mitigation .jpgIf we take a look at Targets mistake of launching the toddler sized Barbie SUV country-wide, the problem they faced was that their distribution centers were receiving inventory faster than they were distributing it to stores across the country. This meant that there were Target stores that had empty shelves with none of the promised items in store. They attributed this to inconsistencies between actual inventory and the computer records. A mistake like this will have cost millions in revenue loss, but also detrimental to both Target and Barbie. As a supply chain manager, it is up to you to ensure you suppliers and distribution centers operate on the same system to mitigate risks like this occurring.

  • Supplier relationship management– (SRM) works on a set of processes that drive consistent, clear interactions between the supplier and buyer, SRM programs build new capabilities that enable strategic sourcing and procurement to make the most of the supplier relationships. Effectively applying SRM as a part of your strategy can help achieve greater quality in your product, faster time to market and results for your bottom line, this owing to the successful implementation of an SRM system.
  • Management Inventory – Managing inventory is all about balance, always ensuring you have enough inventory on hand to be able to account for any unforeseen delays so that you do not go “out of stock”. On the other hand, you also do not want to have too much inventory, whether your product is perishable or your product goes out of style, a mismanaged inventory can have vast implications for both brand and supplier. Therefore an efficient inventory control system is crucial.Supply Chain Solutions managing inventory .jpg
If we take a look at Walmart, despite the precision and technologically advanced supply chain management system, they are continuously failing to restock popular products creating a disruption between the customer and their brand, also resulting in revenue loss. They have attributed this to a shortage of staff within their distribution centers, with not enough people to manage the vast amounts of inventory coming and needing to go. Implementing these supply chain solutions effectively will assist in alleviating some of the challenges and pressures that are experienced on a daily basis. These solutions should enable you to keep up with global trends and remain a strong competitor within the industry. Do you have any thoughts or experience on specific supply chain solutions that have had impact on your supplier relationships?

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Build Stronger Supplier Relationships 

As a quality assurance professional, you are likely to have noted some of the major changes in the industry and how they have related to your job specifically. The move from a simple transactional approach that did not require any amount of fostering to a more supplier-oriented relationship that requires commitment, buy-in, and collaboration between you and your buying office. It also can not go unnoted that there are also much more stringent guidelines and compliance criteria to adhere to.  With this in mind, it is important to note these changes and make adjustments where necessary. As this will keep you at the forefront of global trends and keep you competing in a global market. In this blog post, we will explore some of the historic global sourcing trends and what the changes in these trends can mean for you and your supplier relationships. Through the years the technological revolution has optimized every sector on the planet, the shift from a transactional approach to procurement to a more strategic, holistic approach to the entire supply chain, with an emphasis on stronger supplier relationships to fully optimize the entire supply chain.  

The Evolution of Global Sourcing

how to build long term supplier relationships .jpgLet’s take a dive into some of the historical trends with regards to global sourcing. A brief overview will provide us with why we keep up with these trends and what these trends mean for today. They underpin the way in which we currently view and conduct sourcing, so it is important to understand how sourcing has evolved. In the early 60’s there was a great focus on purchasing although this was still a clerical based position, as we moved through to the 70’s there was an acknowledgement of the enormity of the task so it became its own department, a department solely focused on purchasing and all the procedures that go into that. As history goes, politics, the environment, and government affect every element of the economy and the manner in which it functions, shifts and changes. The oil embargo in the late 70’s pushed the agenda of purchasing into the hands of businesses, this made purchasing in the 80’s take a more strategic look into quality, quantity, timing, reliability, and strategy. As I am sure you are aware, the 90’s was all about reducing costs, sometimes at the expense of quality. Although there was also a greater emphasis on developing long-term supplier relationships, with long-term contracts. This era also birthed good supplier relationship management. The progression of technology felt its way through each decade making the systems of sourcing that much easier and a more efficient procedure, not to say that the complexities of sourcing did not grow alongside that. Today we see technology at the forefront of our sourcing strategies, allowing room for efficiency, transparency, accountability in order to work towards a more unified,  productive and strategic approach to sourcing.

Check out our comprehensive guide to learn more about implementing a global quality assurance system.

What do these changes in sourcing mean for you?

Global Sourcing Long term supplier relationship.jpgGlobal sourcing as a whole has made it essential for companies to improve their internal processes in order to continue being successful and at the forefront of global trends. This is not always possible with the speed at which technology evolves. You might find that it may be beneficial for you to adopt specific strategies to become more adaptable and dedicate time to continuously research changes that occur in order to keep on top of this ever-changing industry. Below is a list of sourcing strategy patterns that may resonate with you:
  • Technology oriented sourcing: Technology can have a transformational impact on your supply chain and your management systems, allowing for technical innovations to your sourcing strategy, will assist in keeping you ahead of global trends.
  • Cost oriented global sourcing: The goal here is to save costs. This strategy can be useful for standardized products with easily accessible suppliers.
  • Competition oriented global sourcing: A strategic competitive strategy with the goal being to gain new product ideas by looking for a broad range of good suppliers to increase competition.
  • Partnership oriented global sourcing: This approach highlights the collaborative approach of engaging suppliers in long-term partnerships allowing room for information sharing, there is also investment in the end product or outcome this ensures full client satisfaction. This, in turn, leads to constant improvements along your supply chain.
The above-mentioned strategy patterns to global sourcing assist in defining a clear vision for you and your sourcing strategies. IKEA faced a local supplier ban, which meant that local suppliers were unable to supply to them which forced them to source product outside of their country of origin, Sweden. The key thing to note here is how they fostered and took advantage of creating long term, strong supplier relationships during this time which allowed them to sustain their low-cost home furnishing position in the market. There is now more of a collaborative approach between suppliers and buying offices, there are mutual benefits, thus the emphasis on creating long-term sustainable and stronger supplier relationships to increase productivity and alleviate some of the supplier related pressures. How have these changes affected you specifically? How have you adjusted the way in which you operate to adopt these kinds of strategies?  

Check out our comprehensive guide to learn more about implementing a global quality assurance system.

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Supply Chain Management Best Practices To Implement

Quality practices are essential to the success of your entire supply chain operation, knowing exactly what these practices are will help inform the steps you need to take in order to ensure success in your buying office. There are a number of factors that affect the successful implementation of quality practices in buying offices. In this blog post, we list seven supply chain management best practices that are critical success factors in ensuring successful operational efficiency.

1. A committed organization, from the board down

Organizations that actively encourage the involvement of buying offices in decision making and welcomes input from suppliers to identify areas for potential productivity improvements have the best chance of successful implementation. IKEA as a world renown furniture retailer is a great example of involving buying offices in the decision-making process. They have tried to create an integrated system where there is clear communication through the entire operation. We know that this method of organizational commitment has had incredible amounts of success and to always keep this in mind as you conduct your organizational operations. Supply Chain Management Decision Making.jpg There is evidence that supply chains are often managed functionally with metrics, systems, and behaviors geared to managing the performance of a specific area. Whilst detailed functional knowledge and understanding are essential to delivering a quality product, a narrow view can lead to a potential misalignment of the different elements of the chain towards the end goal. Senior management needs to ensure that decisions which are taken at the top are not sub-optimised in the operational execution. In practical terms, this means a real transformation in how measurement systems are designed and implemented to ensure that there is a full understanding of how the business interlinks. Individual incentives and success need to be aligned for the achievement of overarching goals, not purely functional excellence.

2. Effective program management

In order to successfully implement a quality management system there are three key lessons to keep in mind:
  1. Do not be too ambitious with the timing and expectations of rapid results. New process and systems need time to mature and the flexibility to adapt and change in order to achieve the required results.
  2. It becomes easy to set lofty targets but in order to see results, it is important to align the strategic requirements with the quality system functionality.
  3. Data accuracy is critically important. It is impossible to improve what isn’t measured so understanding which measures are helping improve quality and which aren’t are essential to helping buying office achieve the standards required.
Let’s take a look at LEGO, they underwent a full restructuring of their supply chain in order to begin optimizing their functions to remain a strong global competitor. They experienced excessive supply chain challenges that resulted in millions in revenue loss. They were aware that something needed to be done. With rapid globalization, adopting a flexible and integrated supply chain and network is essential to remain a strong competitor.

Check out our comprehensive guide to learn more about implementing a global quality assurance system.

3. Consistent, pre-emptive communications.

We have already discussed the importance of data and effectively communicating it with buying offices. Below are factors to consider:
  • Supply Chain Management .jpgBe clear – This may sound like an obvious basic principle, but it’s vital to make sure the ‘narrative’ of the information comes across so that it is understood easier and its relevance and context are clear. Use a brief headline, to sum up, the information being communicated and focus on the key aspects of the data as well as why it is important and how it can be used.
  • Tailor it – When getting across the key benefits of the project, don’t just focus on general benefits and costs. Consider the context of the buying office you are addressing and tailor it to show how to address their concerns.
  • Be personal and pragmatic – It’s often more beneficial to convey information or communicate through direct channels, either in person or via the phone as opposed to less direct communication such as emails. A personal and pragmatic approach will get faster and better results when aiming to implement change.
The above factors create transparency throughout the supply chain, more and more retailers are are beginning to harness the true power of effective and strong communication throughout the entire supply chain, from communication with material suppliers to actual manufacturers. Transparency and effective, clear communication creates a sense of trust through the supply chain which will essentially have effects throughout the entire operation.

4. Take positive action to identify and manage key risks before they become issues.

Supply chain risk management .jpgRetailers can protect themselves from potential supply chain interruptions or delays associated with suppliers’ human rights, labor, environmental, and governance practices by ensuring buying offices have effective compliance programs and robust management systems. Here are steps to manage risk:
  • Align the buying office – Ensure that there is visibility and alignment of the value chain towards the ultimate goal of supplying the customer;
  • Creating ownership beyond silos – There needs to be ownership of the whole chain, not just the buying office, in such a way which allows the risks along the chain to be tackled;
  • Skills and capabilities to execute – The skills and competencies in each buying office must be secured. This starts with the functional skills in each area to provide the depth of executing a process.
Supply chains have become increasingly stretched not leaving much room for fault, therefore a successful risk management strategy can increase the effectiveness of your operation and minimize any identified or perceived risks.

5. Develop a framework with baseline targets, adapted as necessary.

Supply Chain Management in Buying Office.jpgInaccurate data, existing systems infrastructure, and entrenched business practices are common barriers to the implementation of quality management systems. The importance of getting existing processes in line with new technologies and methodologies serves to highlight the role of planning, as well as supporting the use of standardized frameworks for implementation. SCOR – The supply chain operations reference model, is a management tool that is used to address, improve, and communicate supply chain management decisions within a company and with suppliers and customers of a company. This model also helps to explain the processes along the entire supply chain and provides a basis for how to improve those processes. Let’s look at an example from Apple: The technology producer developed a set of standards which is implemented across its supply chain. The result was a supply chain more in tune with its organizational goals to reduce waste and create more sustainable products which in turn create value for its customers. In the end, they diverted more than 73,000 metric tons of waste from landfills, saved more than 3.8 billion gallons of freshwater and prevented more than 13,800 metric tons of carbon emissions.

6. Create a succession of manageable delivery milestones to maintain momentum and build confidence.

Realistic expectations are important to ensure the successful implementation of quality initiatives. Overreaching in time or scope could mean failing to implement measures that otherwise would have worked. It is important to be SMART:
  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Achievable,
  • Realistic,
  • Timely.
Well defined goals, with consistent and measurable outputs, that are agreed to and attainable, that have the required resources to be successfully completed, and have specified timelines are a way to ensure the implementation plan has manageable deliverables. This process ensures that expectations are managed and that buying offices have a clear understanding of how to achieve success. Every individual needs to be made aware of the overall goals, but also the goals that relate specifically to his/her involvement in the process.

7. An actionable, owned, manageable and measurable set of business benefits

Before the WHAT comes to the WHY. It is important for buying offices to understand WHY the quality initiatives are being put in place. Getting their buy-in helps to ensure that everyone is “pulling the cart in the same direction”.  Working for a specific cause creates a banner under which the value chain can unite. Once buying offices know WHY they are doing something they are more likely to support WHAT needs to be done. It is also important to ensure that the benefits are tangible. Buying offices should be able to quantify the benefits so that they stay motivated and focused on the initiatives they are implementing. These quality practices are essential to the success of your entire supply chain operation, begin by analyzing whether any of these are currently being implemented. Analyze to what extent they are being integrated and begin optimizing these practices to ensure successful implementation of best practices. Have you implemented any of these? How have the been of benefit to you?

Need more help?

Check out our comprehensive guide to learn more about implementing a global quality assurance system.

Simply click here to download your FREE copy.


5 Reasons Why Your QA Procedures Are Not Implemented- Part 2

Acknowledging that quality assurance is an integrated process; here we endevour to delve into some more best practices to help empower you and your company with the ability to achieve its goals and objectives.

3. There is often no accountability

Quality assurance best practicesOnce you have done your best to involve all relevant parties in the quality assurance procedures, your next task is to keep your finger on the pulse. Management needs to make sure that the QA staff are accountable for success and failure. The deeds of the QA staff need to be monitored and made known. A report of the activities and outcomes of the QA staff’s work is a good way to make sure that they are made responsible for poor performance, or given the due credit for functioning well. With that said, do not fall into the trap of merely documenting success and failure. With accountability there need to be consequences for whatever results the QA team produces. Be sure to actively intervene if QA is consistently not meeting desired standards, and reward good performance to highlight the value of QA to the company. If QA staff are doing their job properly that might go unnoticed, do not make the mistake of undervaluing their role! Once again, it is important to maintain open transfer of information, so that the effectiveness of QA practices can be monitored, and adjustments made as they are needed. On that note, do not be too quick to blame personnel. When people are blamed they may become more likely to conceal problems, rather than attend to them by bringing them to light. First be sure that the details of the procedure are not at fault, and that clear communication channels are open to rectify mistakes. Only with constant feedback can future mistakes be mitigated. This is an area where assumptions are dangerous. Don’t assume that processes are being followed, or that the current way of doing things is always fine. Check in.

4. Not looking around you

Quality_Assurance_Management.jpgEven if your quality assurance procedures seem to be working fine, and you have integrated QA and open channels of communication, you may still be falling behind. Best practices are called that for a reason. They are tried and tested and shown to improve the success of companies. However, they are always progressing, and so should you. Do get complacent with what you have, or let hubris stand in the way of taking note of what works for others. Seeing what works for those in a similar field may greatly improve your business, through incorporating useful ideas, tools, or technologies they have that you would not necessarily have come up with. This is particularly pertinent in terms of technological advances and environmentally friendly practices, both of which are seeing rapid, astonishing developments around the world. Naturally, success is contextual – no best practice will fit perfectly for everyone. This creates space for molding best practices to suit your specific objectives. However, be wary that excessive experimentation, and both blindly following and completely ignoring outside advice, may be detrimental. Stay competitive by making sure that you have at least what your competitors have, and then add more and improve on existing ideas to give yourself the edge. To remain competitive you must remain vigilant of opportunities for innovation.

5. How often do we fail to pick our battles wisely? 

Team_Effort.jpgAll along I have emphasized that QA procedures are a team effort. You do not have the time to meet with everyone, answer all emails, and be everywhere at once. You also desire time off. The good news… You do not need to do everything on your own! You can pick your battles to optimize expenditure of time and money. When you do not have the requisite expertise, hiring a 3rd party company may be the way to go. This could free up time and some responsibility, allowing you to focus more on what you can manage. This will allow for all-round improvement in QA, generated by including more hands and minds to focus on doing and assessing the quality of specialized work. For QA, picking your battles may also mean critically assessing the whole process and deciding what most needs attention and monetary investment. This brings us back to those important trade-offs… Determining the priority level of each part of the quality assurance process will allow the optimum allocation of time and resources. This will rely on clear objectives for QA, and the standards set for each step of the process;
  • Carefully consider which parts of the QA process are the most vital, and label them.
  • Generate feedback from the differential investment, and tweak the investment as needed.
  • Be flexible, and cut your losses.
  • Meet acceptable, achievable standards – you do not need to be perfect in every minor detail if the product is still successful.

Closing Tips

shutterstock_590654183-2.jpgWith these five (See part one) potential shortcomings of your buying office’s approach to QA in mind, you will hopefully be able to improve your quality assurance procedures to meet higher standards. As a final note; Remember that QA is not quality control. QA is a multi-tier concept, which needs involvement from the beginning: from management defining the desired outcomes of the product to the production team streamlining the production process, to assessing the final product is acceptable and distributed efficiently. QA is not just testing the product works, which would be the objective of quality control. Buying offices need to be concerned with more than just the final product. Build quality into the product up front by involving representatives from all vital levels of the product (design teams, funding agencies, production managers, and consumers), so that QA is preventative, not an afterthought. Do not make QA about putting out fires, make it a process that means that you can focus on solving problems before they arise. This is not only easier but more cost and time effective. We have spent some time delving into some of the basic quality assurance procedures and how applying these to your operations will help alleviate some of the internal challenges that you currently experience. What do you think? Have you applied any of these QA steps? Are there any more that we should add to this, if so what are they?

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5 Reasons Why Your QA Procedures Are Not Implemented

Is your retail buying office falling behind with quality assurance procedures that should be taken on as best practice?

In this part one blog post, we delve into the reasons why your retail buying office could be falling behind, and not adopting the best practice quality assurance procedures that will keep your brand competing in the global market place. 

The goal of quality assurance (QA) used to be simple; make sure that a product performs the way it is supposed to.

Over time the goal has evolved, from simple post production judgments to a multi-step process that begins with management defining outcomes all the way to distribution. This evolution is ongoing, and it has seen the adoption of QA within modern companies become almost ubiquitous – from mortgage lenders to software developers, to engineering firms.

The reason, you ask?

QA is vital to success!

To keep your business competitive in a fast-paced world, you need to make sure that you’re keeping up with the best practices for QA. Best practices are clear processes integrated into every facet of product design, development, and implementation, which ensure the highest chance of achieving your objectives.

Now you know about QA, and you want the best practices. We’re here to help.

But first…

Acknowledge your weaknesses. While this may be difficult to do, there is immense value in spending the time analysing this.

Here are five reasons why your buying office could be falling behind, and not adopting the best practices for QA that will keep you competing in the global market: 


1. Forgetting that it’s a team effort


With QA being an increasingly integrative process, as opposed to final product inspection, it has become important to realize that QA has become a team effort.

The responsibility here begins with senior management

The staff that management chooses to carry out QA reflects how seriously management considers that role. This choice is important because QA staff need to have relevant experience to meet the objectives and closely follow the processes required by management.

This part may seem obvious, but what is critical is that the staff need to be able to work with senior management. 

Mutual respect is key

A fully functioning QA team needs an open, responsive channel with senior management in order to perform their jobs properly. You do not want to be put in a position where there is a lack of communication from management, and subsequently, have the QA team blamed for not having the perspective of what they are required to do.

Alternatively, you also do not want the QA team struggling to resolve an issue because they cannot communicate with senior management about it. The role of a QA team is critical for the product success, so make sure that it is staffed with respected people that can be approached and worked with.

Other than QA staff choice, it is also key to have early involvement of the suppliers, designers, developers, consumers, and any other party involved in the process. 

The more interaction there is with suppliers, the more close monitoring there can be of the quality of the material and products.

Involvement of designers and developers will minimize later conflict on what is expected and what is possible. And the involvement of potential consumers is critical to assess the projected profitability of the product.

This will all allow an efficient QA process, which minimizes the need for final-stage inspections/testing that could be costly or find issues that are difficult to rectify at that late stage. It also allows for early termination of unprofitable enterprises, without the massive financial losses that would come from realizing that post production/purchase. 


Figure 1. Involving all relevant parties in the process early on will allow for inspections of the design, production protocol, and consumer interest before the product is actually manufactured. This will allow for integrated QA, reducing the need for post-production and final stage inspection/testing, and in some cases for the timely shutdown of unprofitable projects (Adapted from Hinckley 1997).

2. Inadequately defining your QA objectives can create misaligned goals


Involving more people in the QA process from conceptualisation to purchase raises the next important step toward improving QA.

For QA to function properly it is critical to clearly define the objectives.

Remember that with any product there will be trade-offs between the target quality, release date, budget, and consumer satisfaction. The relative importance of each of these factors is situational and needs to be decided on and formalized in detail.

An overarching, vague goal for QA such as “Achieve greater QA” can be difficult to attain if the QA personnel are not provided with clear objectives that deal with trade-offs. If you’re prepared to sacrifice time for higher quality, make this clear in the objectives so that the QA inspectors know what to prioritize.

Clarity is paramount.

When defining objectives, remember not to assume. The more detailed the objectives are, the easier they are to follow. With that said, beware of removing all autonomy from the QA process, because this will undermine the role of those carrying it out. Strike a balance that is clearly understood, but leaves maneuverability for the staff to know that their experience and skill is valued. In the same vein, make sure that everyone is on the same page as far as your set standards/benchmarks for quality go.

Keep the quality checks consistent, with well-defined checklists for each team unit in the process, which are not open to differential interpretation by the QA staff, the producers, and the buyers.

QA as a procedure has changed over the years to ensure there is success from production to distribution.

This is part one of a two part series on QA best practices and how they can empower you to help your company achieve the goals and objectives you set out to achieve. 

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Do You Know The Purposes of Your Factory Quality Audit?

The state of retail has recently seen an increase in supply chain pressure from retail giants like Amazon that are increasing the pace at which supply chains need to operate. This increase in pressure and pace mean that your product needs to be on the shelves faster which puts large amounts of strain on your quality procedures, which can result in lower quality products hitting the market. This is risky. Quality is complex at the best of times, and as you juggle this increase in pace, it can be difficult to stay on top of the smaller cogs of the quality machine. So what are retailers doing to avoid potential low quality products? They have begun outsourcing their quality systems to qualified third-party providers to help alleviate some of that supply chain pressure. One of the primary solutions retailers opt for, is a quality audit – to highlight those weak spots within your supply chain and create a plan of action for how you can address them. In this blog post, we take a look at the purposes of a quality audit for your household goods brand; we take a brief look at what the benefits of outsourcing your quality procedures are and what these benefits can mean for your organization.

Three Ways To Do conduct an Audit

Auditing has become a crucial tool for managing and monitoring the implementation of the quality systems of many factories. Let’s take a look at the three ways that these audits can be performed;
  • In-house audit – This is performed internally by an in-house team. They measure the strengths and weakness of quality and production systems against any international/external standards and regulation. This form of auditing is unable to provide your organization with any form of certification.
  • Second-party audit – This is when an organization performs an audit of their potential supplier, to ensure that they can meet your production requirements. Often these audits can be completed onsite to review the internal technical processes of the supplier, but this audit can also be performed off-site in the form of documentation reviews. It will be up to your organization to define what exactly you want to audit to help you make a well-informed decision about your supplier. This type of audit has nothing to do with QMS certification, as only a registered third-party auditing organization can provide this.
  • Third-party audit – This is conducted by a qualified audit organization, that is not connected to the supplier or brand by any nature. MThird party Quality Audit.jpgany organizations consider third-party audits for many reasons, mainly they have come to the decision to create a quality management system (QMS) such as ISO 9001. A third-party auditor would come in and assess whether or not this organization meets the requirements as laid out by the above QMS. A third-party auditor will then provide your organization with a certification stipulating that you meet the requirements as laid out. This is often a preferred audit option as the results are unbiased and certification has become a competitive differentiator.
In defining the above, if we have not left you pondering which one is better then we have not done our job… The great old In-house Vs. Third Party debate; You may be thinking that you are capable of maintaining high levels of product quality through your in-house quality teams, and while this may be true for now, but you do need to ask whether or not you can maintain and meet the demands of that ever-increasing consumer nature. I think it may be worth re-looking at the debate with your bottom line, your resources and time in mind…

The Purposes Of A Quality Audit For Your Brand

In defining the purpose of an audit for your brand, you will be able to understand who should be conducting your audit. The main objectives are as follows;
  • Certification – Many household goods retailers that produce a product that contains high levels of risk, such as toys and electrical appliances, etc. and are wanting to do business in Europe will need to comply with the CE directive as laid out the European Commission. The management system of your supplier will need to be assessed according to any one of the ISO standards and the certified accordingly. Bear in mind that the auditing company you choose to use will need to be certified by a regulatory body to certify you.
  • Performance versus compliance/conformance audits – Many audits have different purposes. It will be important to try and make sure that if you are performing an internal audit, that you keep it as holistic as you possibly can. Your audit will need to assess compliance and performance. The audit report will need to identify the suppliers standing according to both of these categories.
  • Follow-up audit – An audit will often present findings that will need time to rectify, in which a follow-up will be needed to ensure that corrective actions have taken place.
With your purpose in mind, are you able to come to know who should be conducting your factory quality audits?

The five benefits of using a third-party quality auditor

If you are unsure of the benefits that a third-party quality provider can provide you take a quick look here;
  • Expertise – Third-party auditors undergo formal auditing training and experience to notice noncompliance and unethical situations. This wealth of knowledge and experience will be of benefit to your organization. Innovation - Third party Quality Audit.jpg
  • Efficiency –  A third-party auditor has the infrastructure to ensure they meet your organization’s auditing needs.
  • Technology – They have the appropriate tools and technology to ensure a successful audit of your supplier.
  • Accountability – A third-party auditor will have pledged to uphold a certain code of ethical conduct and are held accountable to the greater company policies, rules, and regulations.
  • Risk Reduction – A third-party auditor is trained to identify mishappenings within the quality systems of a potential supplier. This insight allows you to manage risk early on.

Key Takeaways

Producing high-quality products, with no defects that could result in recalls, is likely a top priority for you and your brand. Are you able to invest your time and more resource to ensure that your internal audits are of the highest quality, unbiased and according to the requirements of a QMS like ISO 9001? You may need to consider outsourcing your audits to certified third-party auditors. They will be able to provide you with QMS certification, performance and conformance evaluation, they can offer follow-up audits and also provide insight into improvement strategies that would be of benefit to a successful supplier relationship. All of the above are things that your consumers highly value, which will positively impact your bottom line and strategically place your brand in the marketplace.