Today, when brands look at product quality, they no longer view it from the perspective of what they are paying for the product. Instead, they look at it from the perspective of the end-customers' expectations. With quality benchmarks being the order of the day, how is it that vendors can meet expectations of brands? Rakhi Handa answers.
In November 1994, I remember working with a New York-based womenswear retailer who was sourcing a large quantity of knitted products from India. It was all highly embellished products, with beadwork, hand embroidery and lots of value addition - beautiful product to look at, but coming in one and a half inches short at the chest measurement and another couple of inches short at the length. Our solution to the factory? To re-open all 27,000 units and re-press using body boards so that the product met the required measurements and passed final inspection!
What a long journey of learning it has been for me since then.
No doubt, some part of the industry continues to focus on getting their shipments past the "Buyer QC's" inspection by stretching the garments, using patterns to hit spec, and so on. But times have changed and so too has the awareness of the end-customer or consumer. Today, when brands look at product quality, they no longer view it from the perspective of what they are paying for the product - instead, they look at it from the perspective of the end-customers' expectations.
There is also the growing understanding by brands, with labour rates spiraling, new and increasingly challenging trade agreements (such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP) and with increasing competitiveness on retail pricing, that ultimately, the cost of quality gets added to the final FOB (free or freight on board) price of the garment. It is imperative, on the one hand, to satisfy a discerning customer from the perspective of quality; yet on the other hand, to be able to meeting the increasingly competitive pricing.
So, what exactly is it that brands are looking for?
As a quality professional, I can say there are three things I look for in a factory/vendor:
• A robust manufacturing process: How strong is the factory with their ability to manufacture a product with right-first-time quality, with the appropriate machinery/equipment and what is the level of attention at needle point (as an example, imagine making a pant with a welt pocket, and not having a welt pocket/reece machine to sew the pocket. Or think about a factory without an industrial engineering department). I call this the problem 'prevention aspect' of the manufacturing process - to me, a manufacturing process is strong when the focus is on problem prevention.
• What are the controls in place to ensure that the product meets specifications and expectations - the problem identification piece of the manufacturing process that catches the problem early enough to ensure that corrective measures can be swiftly implemented.