Product quality issues can be a real pain to deal with, but one thing is for sure: quality issues are inevitable, no matter how experienced your supplier is. So knowing how to address such problems is a skill worth learning. Of course, some issues will be more substantial than others, but approaching them with purpose and patience is the best way to go. Read on to gain our insight on tackling quality issues with your supplier, and don't forget to download our free checklist.
Help your supplier help you by providing a detailed and accurate account of quality defects. Key data points to mention include the purchase order number and total count of damaged goods. Assess the situation as best as possible. Does the problem seem production-related or could goods have been damaged in transit? Take photographs for documentation and to send to your supplier. For a complete list of information you need to provide, download a checklist here.
Bonus Tip: Create a form to capture quality issue information to send your supplier. Doing so will standardize the process and ensure all bases are covered for this and future quality problems. Structured data collection will also allow you to more easily identify trends among product categories, lots or specific suppliers.
Upon discovery of a product quality issue, first gather information as mentioned above, and then immediately alert your supplier. This is certainly a no-brainer, but how can your supplier resolve the issue if they're left in the dark? Act quickly, but with patience (this can sometimes be the tough part). Before getting too worked up over the potential fallout of a quality defect, remind yourself that flaws are unavoidable, even when working with an experienced, high-quality manufacturer. Rest assured that the sooner you report the problem, the sooner it will be resolved.
Bonus Tip: Make sure all relevant departments (internally, as well your supplier) are alerted to the issue urgently so it does not spread deeper. For example, if a lot of goods is found to be defective, logistics should be notified to hold all pending shipments of that item from the factory, as well as from your domestic warehouse, until further inspections can be conducted.
While you may not feel it's your responsibility to offer solutions for a problem you see as your supplier's to handle, this can actually have an amazing payoff. You could potentially offer a solution they hadn't yet considered. At the very least, you could offer a different perspective as someone intimate with the product but who sits at the other side of the table. Lending a hand is also more likely to speed up the process and get things back on track.
Bonus Tip: Your and your supplier's engineering teams should collaborate on problem-solving efforts to arrive at the best solution for all parties, keeping in mind that certain limitations may exist. For instance, if you're working with a Chinese supplier with low margins, a less costly solution may be preferred. Keep an open mind and work together to arrive at a solution that works for everyone.
Product quality issues will never go away, but they can become easier to manage if you have a strategy for addressing them the right way. Follow our guidance and download the free checklist below to start off on the right foot. Who knows – with a little practice, you could actually help your supplier wrangle deep-rooted quality issues and improve your product in the long run. Remember to focus on collaboration and partnership. Help each other move toward a strategy of continuous improvement. After all, your goal is shared: quality product at the right price and the right time.