Quality efforts make the difference in a brand
By Howard Baker
Protecting your brand image and reputation is built on the quality of your products. The most creative and brilliant marketing campaign goes to nothing if the quality of your product disappoints your customer. The most innovative product you create
won’t make its place in the market if the product your customer buys isn’t made correctly.
Maintaining top levels of quality for your products is an on-going process that should be an important part of your business operation. There are a few key steps that can be taken to build a quality assurance and quality control function in your company. First, who’s in charge? Whoever it is has to have the power to make it work. If immediate urgencies seem to always turn out to be “We’ll release it this time, but we’ll fix it next time,” then there’s no real point. The releases hurt you in several ways: the product quality itself suffers, and whoever created the problem just learned that you’ll probably release substandard product in the future. Without killing your company, Quality Assurance has to have enough influence over what happens to actually assure quality. Top management has to be behind the quality efforts or it will reduce to being just window dressing.
So once you have someone in your organization that can actually take steps to control and assure quality, you can move onto the next steps. Creating procedures that your own people can follow and that your suppliers follow makes it clear what you expect and how everyone should operate. What samples do you need to get and from whom? Bulk product should be evaluated to make sure it is right before it is filled. Important packaging components should be examined before they are used to make sure they look good and work well. Looking at samples of filled and assembled products will show whether the pieces were put together correctly or not.
Describing what is acceptable or not for each of the parts of your products is done with specifications. For each item, the key characteristics that determine if the particular item is acceptable or not give you a list of specifications along with test result or evaluation characteristics that distinguish the acceptable from the unacceptable. The product pH needs to be between 5.8 and 6.8, for example. The diameter of the cap needs to be between 25.0 and 25.5 millimeters as another. Aesthetic parameters are usually specified by “comparison to standard”, and have to match an approved sample that is used as the standard. Color, fragrance, and appearance are the most common aesthetic characteristics that fall into this category of specifications.
When a supplier gives you a sample of an item that you will use to make your product, that sample can become a ‘standard’ for your specifications. It represents a commitment by the supplier of what they will supply for you to manufacture your product.
This leads to the next important part of a quality operation in your company. You need the understanding and cooperation of your suppliers as well as your own people to make the program work. Your quality program will tell your suppliers what a wonderful job they have done for you, because your company will look at their work. All they have to do is make the things they sell you well. Your quality program will make it clear what that means.
About the Author: Cosmetics and personal care technical consulting expert Howard Baker is Managing Member of Product Integrity Laboratory LLC, which provides Product Development and Quality Control/Quality Assurance services for companies in the fragrance and cosmetic industry that use contract manufacturers. A cosmetic chemist with more than four decades of experience in the beauty industry, Mr. Baker has overseen product development and has provided technical consulting services in the areas of formulation development, product development testing, quality assurance and quality control, and regulatory compliance. Visit: www.prodinteglab.com