Quality Control Plans: What Do You Need to Include?
If you’re managing product quality for a consumer brand, you know that selling good quality products is key to maintaining your company’s reputation.
You need to guard that reputation carefully.
Several years back, a furniture company had to recall 20,000 children’s bunk beds that had been made in Vietnam. The company received reports that the bed support rails were cracking and breaking — hundreds of these reports came in. Consumers were falling from the bunk beds, and both children and adults were being injured. Their injuries included bruises, lacerations, and even an upper arm fracture.
This was bad news for both the consumers and the brand.
There are, of course, financial costs involved in dealing with a recall. But a recall can also damage your company’s image — which leads to lower confidence in your brand and a loss of future sales. That’s why it is so important to have a quality control plan in place. It helps ensure that your suppliers are shipping well-made products.
Let’s talk about what a quality control plan is and three key sections that every plan should include.
What is a Quality Control Plan?
A quality control plan is a formal document that defines your company’s standard operating procedures for managing product quality.
Documenting these procedures is important because it removes subjectivity — turning product quality into something that you can measure. Doing so leads to more consistency in your quality standards and it enables you to get better results from suppliers.
What Should a Quality Control Plan Include? (3 Key Sections)
Your plan can be simple or it can be complex, but when putting together a QC plan there are three key elements it should always include:
#1 Product Specifications
A product without specifications is like an abstract painting to your factory — open to interpretation.
It’s important that you have every aspect of your product clearly defined — including details such as volume, size, measurements, components, materials, Pantone colors, printing details, and anything else that is relevant.
Otherwise, you are giving your factory leeway to substitute in cheaper materials as they see fit, with the excuse of, “You never specifically defined that.”
First, be sure that you have clear and detailed product specifications.
Next, be sure that they are included in your quality plan and that you hold your factory accountable to them.
#2 Overview of QC Activities
Product specifications tell your suppliers exactly how they should make your products. But then how do you ensure that they’re adhering to those specifications?
That’s where your quality control activities come in — including third-party product inspections and laboratory testing. You need inspection and testing plans to ensure that your products are in compliance with all applicable quality and regulatory standards.
Let’s talk about inspections first, and then we’ll talk about lab tests.
QC Activities ≫ Product Inspection Plan
Third-party quality inspections allow you to get an up-close look at the products in your purchase order.
An inspector in the country of manufacture travels to your factory and conducts various product tests and checks either before, during, or after production.
Then they give the lot a pass, fail, or hold result and you have a chance to deal with any quality issues that have come up, before your order ships.
In your inspection plan, you should define the following:
- Frequency of inspection
- Procedures for inspection
- Equipment required at the factory for inspection
- Procedures for handling failed inspections
With these details defined, you’ll be able to monitor your orders for defective products and ensure that problems don’t get overlooked. You’ll be able to hold the factory accountable to your quality standards and your product specifications.
QC Activities ≫ Testing Plan
Lab testing allows you to verify that your products are safe for consumers and that they contain no hazardous chemicals.
Conducting lab tests is also an important part of ensuring that your products are compliant with all regulations that apply to them — they should not be neglected.
In your testing plan, you should define the following:
- Frequency of testing
- Types of testing to be conducted
- Procedures for handling failed lab tests
By putting your testing plan into place and following through on it, you’ll be in a better position to avoid disastrous product recalls. You’ll have more confidence that the products coming from your factory are safe for consumers.
#3 Production Process & Communication
To keep your quality control activities on track, your supplier must be notifying you about the status of production as it progresses.
They should notify you three days before, and on the day that each of the following key stages begins:
- Materials and/or components are received
- The factory begins working on the purchase order
- The first finished batch of products comes off the production line
- The products in your order have been 100% produced and 80% packaged
There are a number of different types of inspections, including pre-production inspections, during production inspections, and pre-shipment inspections. Depending on the types you conduct, these notifications will allow you to arrange for your inspector to go to the factory at the right time.
The factory should also notify you every time they ship a sample to your laboratory for testing.
Documenting these communication procedures and ensuring that the factory is aware of them is key to the success of your quality control efforts.
Conclusion: Proper Planning Helps You to Avert Disaster
Developing a quality control plan is important because it enables you to achieve consistency in the quality of your products over time.
This way you are better positioned to avoid disastrous product recalls and poor reviews from consumers.
By investing your time into developing a QC plan, you are positioning yourself to achieve the right balance between the price of your products and their quality.
To learn more about other ways to strike this balance, we recommend reading the following white paper.
Price vs. Quality: What You Need to Know
When you’re making products to sell in the marketplace, you have to consider the tradeoffs between price and quality. Sometimes, producing better quality products can lead to paying a higher price for manufacturing.
Download our free white paper, Price vs. Quality, to learn how to produce great quality while keeping your costs low.