Andrew Reich, from In Touch, was the speaker. He touched on some interesting topics, and from there the conversation quickly took a life on its own.
I didn’t get namecards from all participants, so I can’t attribute properly each remark. Anyway, I listed below the insights that I found most interesting.
About sourcing issues:
Some mega-trends are under way. Big retailers are slowly getting rid of their in-house sourcing divisions, and relying instead on large trading companies such as Li&Fung. It seems like it’s a cycle, though, and it might get reversed when the new organization’s drawbacks become clear.
About issues specific to the QC industry:
- I heard again that 80% of shipments from China are not QC’d. Most people in the industry seem to agree on this number, and it seems quite plausible to me. Still, it’s mind boggling…
- Third-party QC firms are not supposed to care whether a particular production run is acceptable (so inspectors won’t do anything to affect the outcome). The decision should be taken by the client’s quality manager. But, on the other hand, the QC company should care about his client’s success, and take steps to improve processes and communication.
- Another difficult balancing act: QC firms had better not advise what tests to run on a given product, because of the huge liability (if some tests are forgotten, and the consequences are expensive). But, on the other hand, importers don’t know much and need support.
- Third-party quality control is often followed by purchasers, rather than quality professionals. They often don’t truly understand the QC reports they receive. They need to be educated (hey, that’s what I’m trying to do here on the Quality inspection blog). The best practice is to involve a QC service provider from the start (designing specifications, qualifying suppliers…).
- Corruption of inspectors is an issue that can’t be ignored. Someone said “it’s easier to keep clean when your company is small, it’s like an apartment”. Motivating and developing inspectors (in other words, making sure they are happy in their job) is probably the best way to keep them straight. It seems like it got lost somewhere in the strong growth of the big QC firms.
- Very large buyers tend to value service, speed and price; the biggest QC firms satisfy their needs. Smaller buyers often get more attention from smaller QC firms. It also seems like booking inspections through the Internet is an attractive proposition to small- and medium-size importers, especially for one-shot jobs.
Now looking forward to next meeting…