While most apparel and footwear suppliers try to comply with requirements from both international regulators and your business, sometimes things slip through the cracks. You don't have an inside view into the production process if you're continents away from your factory, so a lot is left up to trust.
If something doesn't feel right with your factory's production process, there may be an issue that would be found easily with a quality inspection. Beyond the obvious issue of non-compliance, it's hard to tell where the problem lies.
How can you tell, then, when it's time to invest in quality inspections during the production process and the final quality control inspection of your apparel and footwear?
Here are the top indicators that you need to invest in quality inspections in a factory.
- Unexpected expenses. If there are continuous additional expenses from the apparel or footwear factory for vague reasons, this might point to a lack of administrative control or organization at the least and even worse, internal misconduct. Besides a compliance audit, a quality inspection will help you identify where the extra fees are coming from.
- Increased returns. The apparel or footwear products you receive from the factory may look fine when they're shipped, but customers are increasingly returning the products for defects. This could indicate a manufacturing problem or a shipping concern, but a quality inspection at multiple points in the factory's process can pinpoint the areas that need improvement.
- Missed shipping dates. There could be a variety of reasons why your factory is missing shipping dates, most of which can lead to deeper issues. For example, if they're not paying for their raw materials on a timely basis, this could interrupt production. Or if their production management is sub-par, they could be feverishly rushing to get orders filled which could result in corners being cut and declining quality.
- Management churn rate. If your management or point of sales contact is continually changing because of a high churn rate, this could be indicative of not only poor management in the factory, but also payroll issues that cause people to look for better, more stable jobs elsewhere. A high management churn rate leads to inconsistencies that can show up in the quality of your apparel and footwear down the road.
- Ever-changing story. Like a high management churn rate, the story they give for the above issues always changes. If each month, the factory gives a different reason why they're missing shipping dates or why there's an increase in fees, you should be skeptical. While some mishaps are likely to happen that affect shipping dates, the consistency of this happening combined with a new story each time should be a red flag.
- Denial of problems. If your manufacturer denies anything is wrong with the quality of products, you should look a little closer. They may try to shift the blame to your shoulders by stating your data is wrong, that the quality of their apparel and footwear hasn't declined. Or they may try to blame raw materials suppliers. Either way, a quality inspection at points throughout the manufacturing process can identify where the real issues lie.
- Inspection refusal. A supplier may not covertly refuse a quality inspection, but they may find many reasons why one shouldn't happen, or they keep putting it off for one reason or another. This should be your final red flag.
If any of these sound familiar, you need to push for quality inspection of your apparel and footwear products on a regular basis. And if you can't come to an understanding with your current factory, it may be time to look for a new manufacturer with transparent production processes that you can inspect regularly.
It comes down to your brand's image. If your final products aren't up to par—for whatever reason—your reputation takes a hit. And it's hard to bounce back once you've become known for poor quality apparel and footwear.