Wasn’t Peter Drucker, the American Author and Educator, correct when he said “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the customer gets out of it.”
If there is anything that makes a customer satisfied, it is ‘quality’. “We do assessment and re-assessment not just on compliance but also on quality and efficiency. It is always quality that brings money for an organization,” averred Frank Vossen, Director, Seditex Vietnam, an independent quality control & consulting services while speaking to Team Apparel Resources.
Seditex started as an independent quality control organization and gradually expanded to consulting and sourcing. The company has been actively involved in the apparel industry for over 30 years now. So what does Seditex exactly do? It offers services such as inspection, consulting, sourcing in addition to doing factory audits. Though their mastery has been over apparels, yet over the years, they have left behind a trail of footprints in footwear, furniture, food products among several others.
Seditex has been able to do this despite the presence of several other renowned audit and inspection agencies worldwide. While endorsing this thought, Frank mentioned, “We are smaller than many other quality consulting services and therefore are easily compatible to the particular requirement of each customer. Big companies cannot control the knowledge of their inspectors. An inspector who does the inspection of shoes may do it the same way for apparels. So how good is that inspection? A good technical knowledge of the product is a must. Moreover, big agencies don’t know the customers either – so the inspector does not actually know the need of a specific customer. We can educate each inspector about exactly what each customer needs. Therefore, our reports are accurate and dedicated to the needs of the customer.”
Frank further explained, “There is nothing more important than knowing the needs of your customer. Seditex has different ways of inspecting which is in accordance to the needs of a customer. The customers, in general, share their production planning report with Seditex. The company then contacts the factories. We need to tell them that we are not ‘policemen’ and that we share a common interest with the factory and the client to ship all the goods on time.”
Seditex today has branches in Cambodia and Myanmar as well which provide services to various buyers, brands and also manufacturers to establish themselves in these countries. Besides, it has opened an office in Madagascar especially for quality control section. The company’s network of associate service providers is also focused on extending its reach to several countries like India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey and others.
Corroborating further on the inspection process, Frank avers, “We favour starting with a pre-production meeting where our QA will verify if all the components match with what the client approved and if all technical data is available and complete; in addition, we make a risk assessment and require the factory to put additional control measures in place after the critical operations; after that, we do two in-line inspections – one when the client’s first goods come off the lines’ and the other when about 50 per cent are produced. If we see there is risk, we do more inspections. We can provide technical support as and when needed.”
During the in-line inspection stage, the inspectors at Seditex randomly verify the various stages of production as well as finishing and packing based on AQL method and report the findings. In the final stage, the inspectors (based on AQL system) check packed goods and verify all aspects of quality before shipment.
When dealing with new factories or factories that have a ‘poor record’ or those factories whose quality is questionable from the buyer’s point of view, Seditex’s inspection staff performs 100 per cent visual final inspection, wherein each piece is visually inspected by their crew before packing and even 10 per cent measurement check on goods is done before packing.
The inspection staff’s effort is to convince their customers that their interest and Seditex’s interest is the same. Besides the factories which have earned Seditex a vast repertoire of past and present client, include Sears, Next, Auchan, Dimensions, C&A, Aurora amidst a wide list. For a customer who sells online, nothing holds more significance than packaging; It doesn’t matter much to them if the product loses its appeal after washing, but for a customer like a discount shop, it is the value of the product that matters and not looks. Identifying the value of a product and the needs of the customers has made Seditex different from others.
As far as consulting is concerned, Seditex also helps companies to set up a branch in Vietnam by organizing license applications, searching for office location and staff. If needed, it even provides administration and management services – a one-stop destination for all those who want to start anew. “Yes, we help in sourcing factories or raw materials and aim at making the dreams of our customers a reality,” said Frank. The Turkish factory that Seditex helped in establishing in Vietnam is one among their several success stories.
Frank believes that the key to the success of any project is the willingness to learn and the biggest challenge for Seditex has always been to convince the management – tougher than even getting it implemented. He says, “Only two out of 10 may actually open their ears and understand the importance of having a compliant factory (not only to get the customers, but also to run the factory well) and that’s why the success rate is not very good. Even the big brands and buyers should improve their communication and try to make factories understand the reasons for the compliance requirements and how it can benefit the factory owners as much as the workers.”
Instead most of the retailers/fashion brands impose rules on factories for compliance which instills fear among the factories. So, what does this fear do? It forces the factories, at times, to cheat and the documents do not give the real picture of whether the factory is compliant or not. Frank opines that the factories need to be more assertive and if they are right, they should be presenting that vividly to the auditors.
The company today has branches in Cambodia and Myanmar as well which provide services to various buyers, brands and also manufacturers to establish themselves in these countries. Besides, it has opened an office in Madagascar especially for quality control section. The company’s network of associate service providers is also focused on extending its reach to several countries like India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey and others.
Unless the mindset changes and till the retailers take initiatives to convince the factory management to do audits, things will not change drastically. The onus is not on agencies like Seditex alone. “until then, we will continue our endeavour to ensure that customers get quality product at the end of the day,” concluded Frank with a smile on his face.