Quality control in the fashion manufacturing industry is incredibly important. Failing to maintain certain standards can lead to all sorts of problems, especially for a start-up company.
Without a track record for selling your products, buyers who do invest in you will expect perfection.
But what exactly is Quality Control?
Simply put, it is a process implemented in factories, for maintaining the best quality throughout every stage of the manufacturing of products.
There are many different quality control processes, including checking materials for flaws and defects, ensuring that colours are correct, and examining the strength of the final product.
In the apparel, accessories and footwear sectors, seams and/or stitching must be neat and strong, and all products must be produced to the same size and standard.
With so many quality control processes involved in the manufacture of products, factory workers should be trained to maintain standards for their own work. These processes would then be checked by a manager or a Quality Control Specialist before the next process is executed.
When should Quality Control take place?
Checks ideally should be made at three stages of the production process:
- At the beginning, before the actual manufacture begins. As and when the raw materials arrive at the factory, they should be checked for correct delivery, overall quality, faults that may have been missed or overlooked, size, colour, and other specific important points that may vary from material to material as well as clients.
- At the mid-point of the manufacture, spot checks should be performed for overall make quality as the products progress through the production line.
- At the end of the production run, quality control checks ensure that the product looks as expected, whether the colours have changed following washing, are the stitches holding, is the final product as specified in the Spec Sheet, does it pass any required testing, does it match the pre-approved sample, etc. – all the final checks before the product leaves the manufacturer.
All of the above checks are necessary to avoid failing the final inspection and the rejection of shipping the goods.
Without these crucial steps set up in the factory, many things could go wrong. Your products would be returned to you should the materials used are of poor quality or have faults in them.
If the final products are ill-fitting and the seams are poorly stitched, a buyer would not hesitate in rejecting your order.
Top Tips for effective Quality Control:
- Expectations: While the factory you work with should have their own quality control methods in place, it is the designers’/brands’ responsibility to establish in writing, and document clearly, what their particular expectations and acceptable standards are.
- Tech Pack: To avoid unnecessary problems, you must make sure that when you send your specification sheet and Tech Pack to the factory, it contains the standard of make, clear instructions and how to follow them, type of thread and trimmings to be used, how the garment is to be presented and how it is to be delivered. You must show clear instructions for how you want things to be handled, even down to the folding and packaging of the garments.
- Detailed: All of your paperwork must be completed properly and be thoroughly clear. Overstating the obvious is a good idea, as this leaves no room for error.
- Documentation: All comments, amendments and remarks should be documented, especially those on the sealed samples, as the factory will follow this example.
- Upon sending: Once sent, discuss your terms with the factory to ensure everything is clear, as in most cases, the receipt of the order, tech pack quality control requirements, and the start of the production, are a sign of an acceptance of your terms.
- Size set: If you’re producing garments and footwear, ask the factory to produce a size set (a range of the ordered sizes for you to inspect) at the beginning of production. If you’re using a reputable and experienced factory, they will have no problems delivering these.
- Pre-production sampling: When you have checked the pre-production sample size set, you must make comments and quality control remarks on the tech pack and send it all back to the factory.
- Prior to shipping, production should ideally be checked by you or a designated member of your team, before you approve and sign it off and proceed with arranging for shipment.
If you were to undertake quality control inspections yourself, you would need the following attributes:
- A scientific mind that loves dealing with the minutiae.
- An approach that is thorough and practical.
- Good concentration skills with an ability to do repetitive work.
- Last but not least, good communication, literacy and numeracy skills.
If your business is small then you should be able to manage quality control yourself.
Ensure that your paperwork is thorough, as mentioned previously. Build up a good relationship with the factory and make appointments to drop in to oversee the quality control process.
Should there be any problems prior to production, you will be in a great position to block or solve them and to validate quality while on the premises.
It is possible to hire Quality Control Inspectors who can visit the factory, on your behalf, and make the required checks at every stage of the production process or inspect goods prior to shipment.
Inspectors need to keep accurate records of products checked, sometimes carrying out a statistical analysis.
They often produce written reports for the production team and meet with clients to discuss how quality standards can be maintained, or highlight problem areas that require review.
Quality Control Inspectors can be found through word of mouth, so engage with your contacts and ask questions. Another option is to hire QC inspectors through Intertek, a quality service provider.
Whilst you are not legally obliged to carry out quality control checks on your goods, there are benefits to your business if you do.
Why is Quality Control important in a business?
- First and foremost, quality control checks ensure that you are delivering the products to customers that you have promised. By ensuring your products are as they should be, you increase the likelihood of brand loyalty – if customers like what they buy, they are more likely to purchase again.
- Quality control checks also ensure that the retailer is receiving products in line with their own quality standards, which ensures their brand reputation and identity is maintained.
- In the long term, these checks could also save you money.
- If a defective item slips through the net then this can cost a manufacturer a lot to replace the defective products with new ones if it is found that the fault is with them.
Don’t be a lemon like Lululemon. In 2013, the company had to recall approximately 17% of their best-selling “Wunder Under” yoga pants, due to the material being too sheer. It cost them $67 million in revenue, a loss of roughly $2 billion in market value, and a drop in stock price of 5.2 %!
Lastly, in order for quality control procedures to be set and work as they should, you need to ensure you have followed the basics and communicated your idea from the outset in the correct way. Make sure you have nailed the basics.