What is quality
Quality is the degree of excellence in products or services. It is important to remember that quality is relative, and what one person believes is good quality, may appear as poor quality to someone else. The aim is for the customer to be satisfied, whether it is you or your end consumer. Quality is important in any aspect of your business. Customers expect value for money. It is easy to say that you will have a high-quality brand. But what does it actually mean? You need to think through and describe what quality is to you and your apparel brand. Set standards.
The quality standards of a product are often related to its price point. Every part of the product development should be the best possible for the cost you pay. Even though you will set standards, quality is something that may change from time to time. There will be new suppliers, new manufacturers, new workers, etc. Below are points to know about where things can go wrong. There is no such thing as a smooth production run. You need to know where problems could arise, to be able to prevent them. Once a production run is finished and shipped, it’s too late to do something about it. If the retailers receive faulty goods, it could ruin your reputation and brand. That retailer might not want to do business with you in the future.
Quality control means ensuring, at a minimum cost, that the quality requirements of a product are being achieved at every stage of manufacturing, from raw materials to boxed stock.
Determine your requirements
In the apparel industry, product quality is based on performance, reliability, durability, visual and perceived quality of the garment. In product development and during the manufacturing process, there will always be a certain portion of defective goods. It can be economical for you to allow a small percentage of defective, instead of screening the entire lot. This is referred to as Acceptable Quality Level, or AQL.
You need to determine your quality requirements and communicate them to the manufacturer. The manufacturer will then examine them, refer to past performance, discuss with their Quality Control Department, discuss with their Production Department, and then send their feedback to you. You can then revise your quality requirements, and make a mutual agreement with the manufacturer about the AQL. Maintaining an adequate standard of quality also costs effort.
How to control the quality
Quality control is practiced right from the initial stage of sourcing materials to the stage of the final finished garment. Quality involves fabric, accessories, construction, colorfastness, design, and the finished garment.
Typically, a number of products are picked at random and the quality requirements are checked. To control the quality a number of pre-determined parameters are checked. Below follows a range of standard parameters and defects that are examined before, during, and after the production. No matter how many pieces you produce, 200 or 5000, you should together with the manufacturer decide how to go about the quality control. Either totally by checking every single product or by spot-checking.
Use a Quality Control Specification Sheet. It should include the following:
- Quality control before production – Materials
- Quality control during production – Product making
- Final quality control –Packing & assortments, Fabric defects, Workmanship defects, General defects, Measurement deviations
On top of the parameters above, you need to add extra if you have a sustainable approach, such as formaldehyde levels and pH range.
It is your responsibility to check the manufacturer’s work, while the goods are still in the factory, and specifically before the entire bulk production is made. It’s ideal to be present in the factory before they start sewing the full production run to make sure everything is as intended and if there are any problems they can be corrected at once. Include your quality requirements in your Terms of Agreement (ToA templates are available in the Members’ Club).
The above is only applicable to products but you should have quality standards for all aspects of your business. E.g. customer service, shipping, returns, etc.