Suppliers paying closer attention to quality control

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2007, 12:00am

Chinese suppliers are responding to buyers' increased concerns about quality following recent recalls of China-made products from the United States, according to a Global Sources survey.

More than 60 per cent of mainland suppliers are increasing their spending on quality control, according to the survey which polled more than 200 manufacturers last month.

Global Sources chairman and chief executive Merle Hinrichs said that although the legal responsibility mostly rested with the importer, which should ensure products met the standard of the country where it was being sold, mainland suppliers were investing heavily to help buyers meet those requirements.

Ten per cent of the respondents in the survey said they were spending 20 per cent more on quality control this year. Twenty-six per cent said they were increasing it by 10 to 20 per cent. Another 26 per cent said they were going to increase it by up to 10 percent.

Also, 20 per cent of suppliers thought that working closely with quality-focused buyers led to overall product quality improvement.

The survey covered suppliers in 11 provinces across the mainland, with 53 per cent of respondents from Guangdong, where the recalled products were manufactured.

Jeric Ma, vice-president and general manager of Circuit City in China, said investing more in quality control mutually benefited consumers, suppliers and companies and brands.

Circuit City is one of the leading providers of consumer electronics in the US. 'We fully understand that the safety of the products we sell is vital and we work closely with all our suppliers in China and elsewhere to ensure they meet the appropriate regulatory approval standards,' Mr Ma said.

'We invest heavily in quality control and quality assurance processes and are confident that the suppliers we choose to work with make high-quality products that are safe for our customers.'

Derick Chong Kin-ma, managing director of underwear manufacturer Grandland, said the company followed every step of the manufacturing process closely, from material sourcing, product design and production, to packaging and shipping, especially for underwear because it involved close contact with the skin. Large international brands such as H&M and Zara, for example,

inspected their factories at least once a year.

'This was a troublesome practice in the past but it has become normal practice now,' Mr Chong said. 'We do the same things even if the order is a small one.'

Quality control for some companies extends beyond the factory lines. Headwear manufacturer Hatquarter almost lost an Australian client because the client found leaves on the floor of the container with its shipment inside.

Luckily it turned out that the container the client saw was not Hatquarter's. Nonetheless, Hatquarter administration manager Joanne Tam Wai-yin said the episode was a valuable lesson.

'Our contracts are now detailed to the level of the condition of the container,' Ms Tam said. 'Everything in the process has to be perfectly transparent.'

Fai Kee Handbag manager Helen So Ching-man said it was important to make sure the standard and expectations of both sides - supplier and buyer - were perfectly understood.

She said it was not just the quality of the product that clients had much higher expectations for than before, but the services and the post-sales follow-up.

'Sometimes, even if it is not really our problem we allow the clients to refund their purchases just to keep the business relationship,' she said. 'Business is much harder than before.'