Outsourced Manufacturing: Maintaining Quality Control
One of the biggest fears of would-be outsourcers of manufacturing is getting stuck with an entire production run of poor quality product that can neither sell nor return to the factory. Many companies have found themselves fed up of consistently poor quality from foreign factories and forced to consider other manufacturing solutions.
This experience can be so much better – and for many companies, it is. After all, places like China produce some of the most premium products in the world (for example, the iPhone) that meet the highest standards of quality.
A little bit of preparation and vigilance goes a long way towards making sure that the product you receive is exactly as you expected it. Just make sure you have a trustworthy on-ground partner and do your due diligence – don’t ever just go with the cheapest option.
Here’s how you can watch your back and maintain quality control on your products.
Quality Cannot be Outsourced…
Back in the day it was enough to have a quality control department in your company to act as the guardian of quality. But this is no longer workable in the modern environment. Today, quality is a culture that must be instilled into your company at every stage of the process. Ensuring quality control on products is only one part (albeit a crucial one) of your overall drive towards quality.
This approach leads to every employee taking responsibility for maintaining quality within their domain and leads to an overall better experience for your operational partners and customers.
… But Quality Control Functions can be Outsourced
Companies often choose to outsource specific quality control functions due to considerations of value for money (vs. having an in-house team) or the need to get an unbiased evaluation from a fresh set of eyes. This can go together with an internal culture focused on quality to take the organization to greater heights.
These functions can be internal audits meant to be used exclusively within the organization to improve operations, or external testing and verification, like supplier and factory audits.
In the case of outsourced manufacturing, these external audits are often the weak link in the chain that cause the entire project to end in failure. However, this is entirely avoidable.
Documentation and Monitoring is Crucial
When working with an overseas contract manufacturer, it is very important to set expectations and quality standards early and clearly through precise documentation of internal QC standards, external regulatory standards and so on.
These should be regarded as unbendable and inability or unwillingness to meet these criteria can be used as a benchmark to eliminate or approve prospective manufacturing partners.
Protect yourself through a process where you are in regular contact with the contract manufacturer and he must get your approval for any major changes, like using a new facility or working with a new contractor. Make sure that required response times are clearly spelled out so that any changes are carried out in a timely manner.
Track the performance of your manufacturing partner and help him to improve his own internal processes and develop new capabilities. This will ensure that you get quality product, while also building a mutually beneficial relationship with your partner that allows him to grow his operations as well.
Choosing the Right Partner
Of course, documentation and vigilance can only establish expectations through clear communication. They are unlikely to protect you from a partner that reneges on the terms of your deal or fails to uphold his end of the bargain.
The best way to protect yourself from such an outcome is to do your due diligence and thoroughly evaluate any potential contract manufacturing partner before signing up. The vast majority of them are honest, scrupulous people trying to operate a business in a very competitive environment. Once you know what you’re doing, it is fairly straightforward to weed out the bad apples.
The MorphoMFG Method
At MorphoMFG, we have years of experience dealing with thousands of factories in China to ensure that our clients receive high quality products delivered in a timely manner. We have learned through experience where corners can be cut and how to avoid the circumstances that lead to unfavourable outcomes.
Over time, our QC specialists have come to be just as beloved by our clients as they are feared on the factory floors. There is no greater endorsement than that!