There’s no two ways about it; quality assurance can be a lot of work. The process starts long before the first unit rolls off of the line with an arduous search for your ideal factory. Only then are the negotiations begun, checklists made, protocols put in place, and then you can start thinking about manufacturing some products

It is understandable, then, if after a few years or even months of steady, profitable manufacturing, you feel tempted to put your feet up – things are going great! And to be sure, you deserve it! It is quite an accomplishment to conduct a profitable overseas business when so many variables and risks are at play.

The only problem is, this feeling you have can lead to disaster and should be diligently avoided. In the words of Michael Jordan’s legendary trainer, Tim Grover, “Champions never exhale.”

Of course, what Grover is referring to is not a person releasing air from their lungs, but rather, that contented, victorious, and relaxed sigh that many of us allow ourselves after a big “win” or success of some sort.

Why? Because that relaxed sigh implies that the work is done and the battle is won. But with sports, business, and overseas manufacturing, that is a sneaky little lie that can come back to bite you. The reason Grover says that champions don’t exhale is because champions know that the minute they relax and act as if they’ve “made it,” something will go wrong. Someone, somewhere, isn’t relaxing and knows that they haven’t made it, and is grinding away to unseat the current champion.

Just like in sports, this attitude of relaxing after a period of success can be deadly in manufacturing. Your competitors aren’t working to sabotage your business (hopefully), but a huge number of inanimate variables are collaborating around the clock to bring disorder to an otherwise orderly system.

In a word, this crippling attitude of apathetic contentment is called “complacency.” Here are some ways to actively fight complacency in your own business.

  1. Stop Looking Only at the Subject Line of Your Inspections Report – Read the Whole Thing!

It’s easy to just glance at your inspection report to see if it passed or not, but that is a textbook case of complacent behavior! Scan the entire report to notice recurring defects and trends that can help you optimize your processes. You may also notice a disturbing downward slope in quality that will eventually lead to failed inspections.

  1. Raise Questions About Recurring Issues

If after you have consistently read through your inspections reports over a period of time, you see recurring issues – dig deeper! Ask questions of your factory to see what can be done about defects that show up time and time again. Ask your inspections team to keep an eye out for specific issues.

  1. Think Outside the Box

After you have become accustomed to the new factory or product, take a look at your processes with a fresh perspective. What can be optimized? Doing things the same way you did them one year ago or two years ago isn’t necessarily wrong, but it begs for optimization and streamlining.

  1. Optimize Your Inspections According to Pass Rates and OQL

Observed Quality Level (OQL) is a metric that speaks to how many defects your QA team is finding during inspections. Simply put, a few minor or major defects don’t make an inspection fail, but they do make a cost difference when you start getting bad reviews and returns. If one of your factories is seeing more defects than the other(s), it may be prudent to increase inspections at that factory while proportionally decreasing inspections at a factory that is keeping defects low.

This approach allows you to spend the same amount of money for inspections while seeing an increase in accountability with a lagging factory and (ideally) some improvement in quality, leading to decreased returns and better reviews.

Stay tuned for an article next month that takes a closer look at OQLs. Until then, fight complacency and don’t exhale!

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