By Claire Piccinno – Asia Quality Focus team
During the peak season, which starts in November and finishes right before Chinese New Year, the furniture industry is hectic. You may be one of those businesses trying to produce your next collection in record time while maintaining the quality as per your customers’ expectations. However, the quality risks increase dramatically during this period. What are the reasons? What defects should you pay attention to? How can you adjust your furniture quality controlprocedures for the peak season?This series of two articles will provide answers to those questions.
Main quality risks when performing furniture quality control during the peak season
Robust furniture quality control is the best approach for evaluating quality issues, assessing the quality risks of your orders, and identifying product defects as early as possible. Based on our experience, here are the most common defects found during the peak season:
Inconsistent and higher numbers of furniture defects
Most of the problems found are related to the following defects:
There are three possible root causes for this defect: the substrate is not processed clean or well, the coating temperature does not reach the requirements to ensure the best result, or the paint did not have enough time to dry.
The primary root cause of missing pieces is the lack of attention from the worker on the production line, who may not follow the work instructions properly. The second reason is that the quality control team did not properly control the different parts before packing.
Assembly issues are mainly caused by the worker(s) not following the work instructions properly. Alternatively, the instructions might not be clear because the client’s requirements were not detailed enough.These three defects may sound familiar to you, but during the peak season, they may appear on your regular products as frequently as with new ones. The quality of furniture manufacturing is inconsistent during that period, which is caused primarily by a loss of control throughout the whole manufacturing process. The less time people have to fill an order, the less they can focus on providing the best work they can. This outcome is valid at every level of the supply chain.
Increased furniture manufacturing times
A production lead time estimated before the peak season may not be realistic during this period. In fact, we observe a higher number of production delays across the whole furniture industry during the build-up to Chinese New Year, as well as with most other manufacturing lines.
It is quite common to observe an increase in the number of manufacturers offering the well-known “
red pocket” to quality controllers during the peak season. Their objective is to get an acceptable inspection result to guarantee immediate payment and shipment of the goods, even if the quality of the batch is lower than specified.
Reasons for such high furniture quality risks
Why are those defects regularly found while performing furniture quality control during the peak season?
Previously we explained the root cause of the common defects, but we didn’t mention the reasons why they appear more frequently during the peak season. Let’s try to clarify that here.
Factories know they have very little time to generate maximum business before the traditional Chinese New Year holiday. They, therefore, aim to fill their order book entirely from November until mid-February (CNY starts on February 15th in 2018) without taking into account external factors that may affect their production lead-times or challenge the limits of their production capacity. Consequently, production runs are processed in a rush which is never helpful for guaranteeing consistent quality.
Also, you need to consider that your suppliers may subcontract your orders because they don’t have the necessary production capacity during the peak season. That might involve outsourcing part of your job, or perhaps even the entire process. In case of partial subcontracting, the risk of finding quality inconsistencies between lots is considerable. You can’t expect two manufacturers to produce the same product if their production lines are different. When the supplier outsources the entire lot, the risk is that you won’t get the same quality level that you are accustomed to from your regular supplier.
You also can’t count on your regular supplier to control the subcontractor’s quality. They barely have time to do it on their side! In peak season, suppliers focus mainly on getting goods ready for specific shipment dates to avoid delays in other production runs; ensuring they get paid and guaranteeing their cash flow.
Reasons for higher risks of furniture production delays?
In addition to your supplier subcontracting the manufacturing of your goods to partners, they may still face production delays. Their factory production capacity is limited and the closer we get to Chinese New Year the worst it becomes. Moreover, factories work on a just-in-time basis, running at maximum production capacity during the peak season. If anything goes wrong with one order, it delays all the rest. Unless that is, they sacrifice some production steps by speeding up and providing a lower quality product.
What kind of event can delay the productions?
- Delayed delivery of raw material
- The quality of the raw materials isn’t good enough, so repurchase is required
- The client confirms the final details of the order too late (artwork, packaging instructions, colors, etc.),
- The production machines are not working normally and require repair or maintenance
- The workers resign or leave for holidays
- The government believes the business is not compliant with standards and closes the factory down: a very dramatic situation. (i.e. the environmental protection controls in China have already obliged thousands of factories to close down).
Now that you know the risks and their root causes, how can you avoid or limit them? There are several small actions you can implement to adapt your furniture quality control procedures and minimize problems.
Stay tuned. A new article will be published in the next few days to provide you with useful advice and practical solutions.
The Asia Quality Focus team is an international team of specialists in product inspections, factory audits, lab testing and product certifications for all kinds of consumer goods. To share experience and opinions in how to better and safer source in Asia they created the Quality Control Blog. Feel free to contact them here.