How Focusing on Quality Can Hedge Against Risk


From the US-China trade conflict to the coronavirus that brought the global supply chain to an abrupt halt, we’ve seen how fragile the supply chain can be – and how unpredictable. 


Both large and small brands are now actively looking for ways to hedge their supply chain risk and the level of uncertainty is so high that it leaves many players stuck in the doldrums. 


Taking charge of the factors within our control is a sure fire operational and psychological tool to keep energy and morale positive.  PCC, with 50 Quality Hubs around the world, including newly added Latin America, has local resources, ready and able to support old and help build new factory relationships in the vendor pool.


Most brands right now have a core objective to diversify their sourcing into more countries and in some cases with new vendors.  It’s a simple concept in theory, but a little more difficult when it comes to implementation.


Moving even part of a supply chain is a complex challenge where brands often find that they have simply replaced one risk with another.   Accessing new countries and finding new vendors, establishing relationships and aligning brand culture is a time consuming process and the outcome is not guaranteed.


A New Decade Defined by Quality

“We started to see tremors in the 30 year-old resource base for apparel and textile manufacturing in 2017 when the U.S. withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  Trade conflicts accelerated in 2019 with tariffs on Chinese imports into the U.S. and now the Covid-19 impact is sending seismic shocks throughout the global supply chain,” said Wendy Berloe-Buch, Strategic Development Director at PCC, a quality management solutions service provider owned by Newtimes Group.



  • 23% high quality
  • 17% look good
  • 16% value for dollar
  •  7% sustainably made apparel


Source:  Pulse Score 2019


The cost, in time and money, to establish a less China-focused supply chain can be more daunting than many companies realize.  Everything that was certain in their old supply chain now carries a lot more risk, at least initially.


Still, where there are challenges there are also opportunities.  Making changes to an existing business structure can be very difficult – even if they are needed.  Being ‘forced’ to change a current business model allows companies to set up new teams with new – and better – ways of doing things.


The Perfect Storm for Change

“The impact of the current health scare on the global supply chain is forcing a temporary slow down of the impetus that has been driving us for the past decade.  We have time to think and plan ... a chance to make the proverbial ‘lemonade from lemons’,” said Ms. Berloe-Buch.


“It is often easier to create a fresh mindset than to change an existing one. PCC, with its end-to-end approach, provides a comprehensive toolbox for building a ‘culture of quality,” she added.  We are in a tunnel of change brought by the current trade and health crisis with no clear end yet visible. It is time to focus on what is within our power to affect and effect. impact


The ‘quality component’ is becoming increasingly important.  Quality doesn’t get the same level of attention from the media that Sustainability gets, but it’s one of the key criteria that consumers have when choosing what products to purchase.   In a growing number of cases, quality is the biggest area of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with a product.


The Global Fashion Agenda 2019 Updates Report on the Pulse of the Fashion Industry indicated that among four key consumer expectations for which they are willing to pay a premium, quality had the highest percentage of priority factors measured  - higher than sustainability, looking successful and receiving good value for money. 


That not only impacts immediate sales, it affects brand image as well.


With decades of manufacturing and quality assurance expertise and continued investment in new technologies, PCC is able to support clients’ resettlement of sourcing and work with them to engineer quality into all of their manufacturing processes – from the ground up.


Effective and Actionable Programs

“When we add in the consumer shift to demanding higher quality in their purchases, we have an opportunity that reflects a basic Pillar of Quality Assurance: i.e. “ Quality must be engineered into a product and service”, “Built Right” and “Right First Time”.  This is where PCC brings tremendous value to the supply chain with its full range of quality management solutions and services ,” said Ms. Berloe-Buch.


Another opportunity to enhance both quality and efficiency is ‘vendor empowerment programs’.


These are a cluster of opportunities that PCC brings to help a factory identify key performance areas, including how to set up a lean manufacturing operation, how to self-audit and do its own Corrective Action Plans, training in communication and team building, and training in Pivot88 quality software to facilitate real-time data tracking.


Working with Brands to Build Quality Management Systems

For example, Australian fashion labels Witchery and Country Road didn’t have a structured Quality Management System (QMS) Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for its suppliers to reference.  PCC supported Witchery by co-writing the QMS SOP.  PCC will roll out this QMS SOP with all Witchery suppliers and guide them on the implementation.  The roll out is set for April-May 2020.


Active sports brand Intersport wanted to work on upstream quality control but did not have a dedicated quality assurance (QA) on the ground in Bangladesh to monitor production and quality.


PCC assigned a full time field QA to handle Intersport’s production quality control for two months, working closely with the Intersport team to guide factories toward achieving ‘Right First Time’ quality.


The monitoring process proved to be successful, with all key quality issues detected at an early stage and improved, reducing the final defect rate.


Building a Quality Bridge Between Vendors and Clients

As global risk is more difficult to predict now, there’s a growing need from brands for Vendor Empowerment (self-inspection). With limited or no access to factories, brands require vendors to perform their own inline and final inspections. This requires vendor communities to build professional internal Quality Assurance teams that can, when needed, handle pre-shipment inspection on behalf of brands.  PCC is able to leverage its expertise to provide this kind of training – that’s purpose built for the apparel industry.


PCC also offers Vendor Auditor Certification. This program ensures that vendors and factories are accountable to clients’ standards, expectations and ethics. This becomes a self-managed internal level of excellence - improving lead-times and reducing defects and attendant costs.


It is applicable to all categories, including apparel, home, footwear and accessories.


Understanding Appare

A key benefit of being under the Newtimes umbrella, is that PCC and their clients leverage  60 years of experience in apparel sourcing and product development as well as in Quality Management.  PCC’s operations and tactical planning team, based in Hong Kong is comprised of highly skilled and experienced staff with team leaders having more than 25 years of industry experience, including Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing expertise, as well as hands on, practical experience in Quality Solutions and Services.  Newtimes and PCC have teams in Asia, South Asia, Europe, Turkey, The Middle East, and Latin America.  Providing top drawer services are in locale and not limited by travel concerns.


Saving Time and Money

A good quality assurance program is becoming more than a ‘nice to have’ part of product development and production.  At the factory lean manufacturing and robust quality management reduces rework, defects, and costs of time and money. Verifying quality is an enormous risk and cost to the brand. Poor quality products result in greater merchandise returns and tarnished brand reputations, which can be far more expensive than the cost of building quality into the brand through a well planned, actionable, QMS program.


PCC is the go-to solution.


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