The higher the use of e-commerce increases, the lower the consumers decrease.
Fashion shoppers have the world at hand, and when they order something, they expect it to arrive quickly and in perfect condition. Tolerance level for poor quality: Zero.
The “Quality at a Crossroads” panel examined how brands should apply the same zero-tolerance attitude to their own suppliers to achieve “zero defect” in merchandise. The answer comes in digitizing operations up the supply chain, which helps brands and retailers proactively capture and correct problems early instead of reactively detecting defective goods at the finish line.
Panelists included: Guido Schlossmann, President and CEO, Synergies Worldwide; Lukasz Pólchlopek, Director, Europe, Qima; and Anil Mishra, Country Manager, Asmara-Vietnam. The panel was moderated by Edward Hertzman, President and Founder of the Sourcing Journal, and Executive Vice President of Fairchild Media Group.
Quality issues are nothing new, but they are now amplified. In Qima’s survey of more than 700 brands around the world regarding communication and quality issues before the pandemic, Pólchlopek noted that 59 percent of clients said they had some serious communication issues with their supplier, but while they would normally go to the factory to discuss quality claims, the pandemic stopped it. Meanwhile, 41 percent of their suppliers reported that quality issues were increasing compared to previous years, and suppliers with a low digitized supply chain reported twice as many problems than those working with some digital platforms.
“With digitized platforms, you have an overview of the entire supply chain, not just a specific part of it,” Pólchlopek said. “[Plus], the information is not spread among different people involved in the quality process of the company or with partners you use to monitor the process. ”
Gaining real-time visibility of quality issues is especially important today as brands and retailers reassess their suppliers in the wake of the pandemic. They may switch to cheaper factories in the same region, switch completely to a new country or renegotiate terms with existing partners – all options that have quality implications.
“If you stick with your existing supplier but negotiate lower prices, you’re hardly leaving him any margin,” said Scholossmann of Synergies Worldwide. “So if he is not a strategic supplier, he can try to shortcut on fabric, outsource or use fewer people on the finishing floor. There can be many different quality issues, so you need to either have a physical presence or [digital] view of what is really going on. ”
He also advised brands to not only focus on their manufacturers for quality, but to look at suppliers in second and third class, as many issues are related to dyes, fabrics and accessories.
At the end of the day, fashion brands and retailers are blaming subpar merchandise, resulting in high return rates and customer complaints, the latter a potential death blow in today’s age of social media.
“A Qualtrics survey showed that 93 percent of customers read reviews before they buy, of which four out of five do not buy a product if they see a negative review,” says Pólchlopek. “That’s why the zero-defect policy is very important.”
The COVID-19 pandemic stopped corporate travel and factory visits, and it is not clear if companies will ever return to previous levels of visitation. For things that cannot be digitized, such as a fabric hand touch or a down jacket, brands and retailers need to allow suppliers to take ownership of quality.
“There is a deeper need for further empowerment of suppliers and entering into truly meaningful partnerships,” said Mishra of Asmara-Vietnam. And platforms like APIs [application programming interface] and SaaS applications [web-based software] remove physical barriers and help our factories with accurate decision making. ”
It also helps to find problems earlier. “Product compliance comes from the initial phase of product development. You do not want to wait for the goods to be finished to find out what is right or wrong with them. “When it comes to analyzing their supplier’s performance, brands have two choices: AQL (acceptable quality limit) sampling or 100 percent inspection.
“Regardless of your method, you not only have to track the error rate, but go deeper into certain points,” says Pólchlopek. “In addition to visual aberrations, you need to compare and compare suppliers with each other. Maybe there are solutions you can cut and paste into another factory. ”