‘Quality is the best business plan’ said John Alan Lasseter, the famous writer and filmmaker from America. Isn’t it so true irrespective of whatever business one is doing! Nothing precedes quality in wooing any customer, and Melcosa Vietnam is one of those firms which has understood it so well over these years. “Quality is the highest priority for Melcosa Vietnam,” averred Upul Seneviratne, Merchandise Manager – Garment Department, Melcosa Vietnam Ltd. while talking about effective quality practices being followed by the company in its buying operations with Team Apparel Resources.
Melcosa Vietnam, a part of Hermes-OTTO International group, holds the distinction of being the first ever sourcing office in Vietnam. Rich in experience, the quality control team at Melcosa with its best practices has today managed to win the trust and confidence of all its customers – Prada, Marco Polo, BornFree, La Vie En Rose being some of the prominent ones. The company has a centralised quality control department, which is headed by a quality control manager who hails from Singapore. The process of quality management is a journey that begins with product development and ends at final inspection before the product is shipped.
Coherent product development
While many buying agencies consider production as the key area to monitor and control quality, at Melcosa quality starts with product development (PD), sampling and material. Melcosa, like other Hermes Otto offices, also has highly qualified and experienced technicians (in their PD team) who respond to the fitting requirements of their customers’ styles.
Explaining how the PD works, Upul says “the quality control team and the technicians constitute our PD team. They are always present while making the samples. We do not plot or print patterns, but we can modify patterns according to customer requirements and send the modified patterns to the factory. Then the factory can print or plot those patterns. Once the samples are developed, the QC technician monitors them. We have different kinds of fabric in the stock since we are working with clients like Prada since 2009. So any material they want, they can select from our warehouse, which helps us in easily making the samples. These samples are normally prepared by us in 4 days. If we receive any sketch from any customer, we pass it on to our factory. There is a technical meeting which includes our quality team as well as merchandisers. We then develop patterns as discussed in the meeting.”
The PD at Melcosa has been instrumental in helping their customers to improve the quality and variety of fabric, trims and accessories, initiate physical and chemical testing with laboratories, and work constantly with their vendors and factories on maintaining and improving standards of workmanship.
Quality process during production
The focus on quality can be gauged from the fact that there are around 20 quality control teams in the company, all under the quality control manager who is responsible to assign each team to different factories. The teams visit the supplier factories to ensure that the product that is manufactured – to be delivered to specific customer – has quality of highest order and in line with the norms set out by the particular buyer. “It is always easy for the quality manager to assign teams if one factory handles different customers rather than different factories handling a single customer. In case of latter, plan needs to be revisited,” shares Upul.
To ensure that the process of quality is not compromised on, if the volume being produced is high, two quality teams are sent to the same factory so that the production speeds up without any short-cuts on quality. For clients like Prada and Marco Polo, the quality control team monitors the quality in their own joint venture factories. “Some customers need to be handled sensitively; different customers have different requirements and we have different teams to handle this,” said Upul.
These quality teams conduct both in-line inspection and final inspection. The objective is to identify and correct the potential problems at a very early stage and then take an immediate action to rectify the errors. The errors that are detected during the in-line inspection can be corrected easily thereby saving time and cost. “There could also be hidden defects, which can be at times ignored. I, as a merchandising manager, have to decide whether the errors spotted are hidden defects or not, but the key is not to compromise on quality,” explained Upul. Such efforts are made so as to ensure that no errors are found during the final inspection, as making any change at such a late stage can result in money loss, not to speak of the delay. However, the quality process is so infallible that the errors do not even reach the final inspection stage.
In the value-added quality checking, the company provides system tracking of physical and chemical tests of each product prior to shipment under its in-house online system called iSmart/tSmart. This system catches the inspection reports effectively in a paperless process. It is noteworthy that the qualified and trained quality control staff at Melcosa is also supervised by senior quality managers – yet again underlining the prominence the company gives to quality.
Excellence in internal auditing to ensure that factories are compliant
Though it is a pre-requisite for supplier factories to have BSEI standard, yet it is not enough to satiate a quality crusader like Melcosa. The company ensures that all the factories they are associated with also clear the Hermes Otto compliance test in addition to being BSEI certified.
While speaking on the above, Upul says, “Our compliance team headed by a quality inspector fixes appointment with the factory officials for internal auditing on both Social and Quality parameters. Once the factory passes this audit, then only we give orders to the factory. So even if the factory is BSEI certified, they have to get Hermes Otto certification. Once the factory gets our certification, we inform the customers as well.” In addition, Melcosa too has to buy materials from Oeko-Tex passed suppliers. “We are not allowed to use any supplier who is not Oeko-Tex certified. Quality is our business at every end,” reasoned Upul.
In its endeavour to recognise the growing importance of social responsibility in the industry, Melcosa has transferred its social auditor’s team to an independently managed audit company – ASTRA Supply Chain Services Ltd. Their auditors conduct quality and social audits at all the factories who supply to Melcosa.
The company, which is into everything from workwear and underwear to shirts, pants, jackets and blouses, is today counted among the best global sourcing companies in Vietnam mainly because of its continual focus on quality and service – and their endeavour continues…