8 best practices to increase quality control in manufacturing

8 best practices to increase quality control in manufacturing

Learn the key steps your brand should take to ensure world-class product quality.

Product manufacturing is a constant balance between minimizing production costs and creating the highest quality product. For brands outsourcing production overseas, ensuring top-tier quality alongside lower expenses isn’t always guaranteed. Breaking the process down into a series of simpler quality control steps can make a significant difference.

Dedicated QC ensures that your products turn out exactly as you imagine them. By understanding and implementing these best practices, QC will become a crucial part of your company so your customers always receive a top-quality product.

The importance of quality control in manufacturing

Quality control is a cornerstone of manufacturing excellence, assuring the delivery of world-class products while avoiding potential production issues. Proper QC processes meticulously inspect and test raw materials, intermediate components, and final products for consistent quality. This commitment drives repeat customers and overall brand reputation.

QC bolsters brand compliance by verifying that production follows the specifications throughout manufacturing. Doing so upholds quality standards and mitigates liability risk from defects reaching the market. Knowing that your products are always compliant goes a long way to support sustainable brand success.

Reining in product issues with effective quality control inevitably leads to significant financial savings. Fewer manufacturing errors minimize unnecessary costs, from the production line to handling returns and refunds. The dual impact of enhancing quality and optimizing costs positions QC as a vital force for your brand.

8 proven tips for improving quality in manufacturing

The road to an effective QC strategy starts with focused tips that elevate your commitment to quality. These proven practices ensure that your products meet the highest standards and enhance the overall efficiency of your manufacturing processes.

1. Understand customer expectations

Customer reviews and word of mouth can make or break a product. Integrating customer feedback into your design process aligns your products with evolving expectations. This includes:

  • Analyzing feedback to identify patterns, preferences, and pain points
  • Regularly monitoring and gathering customer reviews
  • Translating customer insights into actionable design adjustments

By incorporating a more tactical approach with customer feedback, your brand can better ensure products match what customers are willing to pay for. This strategy enhances QC in manufacturing while minimizing errors, which leads to cultivating a positive customer experience.

2. Create specific and measurable requirements

Successful products need intent-driven QC standards to guarantee their excellence. By outlining these fundamental aspects, you ensure a product that fits your definition of quality and cost considerations.

To do this, your brand must take a critical look at every design component before sending them to manufacturing factories:

  • Essential elements: Identify any components indispensable for production, including how they functionally contribute to the product’s intended purpose.
  • Nice-to-haves: Call out details that enhance the product but are subject to potential cost-cutting or simplification without impacting the core functionality.
  • Testing benchmarks: Ensure you are comparing your final product to a pre-set benchmark that aligns with your expectations.

3. Partner with the right manufacturers and suppliers

Only some manufacturers will have the right tools and processes for your particular product. Manufacturing intricacies and product-specific requirements vary widely, making it essential to recognize that not all production facilities are equipped to meet the unique demands of every item.

The cornerstone of an effective quality control strategy is accounting for these differences between manufacturers. That’s why it’s crucial to select the right partners to support your QC efforts by:

  1. Evaluating suppliers: Assess every supplier based on their experience, capabilities with similar products, and total manufacturing cost.
  2. Comparing potential candidates: Delve deep into every candidate’s processes, capabilities, and adherence to your quality control standards.
  3. Using audits to improve standards: Supplier audits spot potential issues and provide invaluable insights for optimizing the processes of existing suppliers. By addressing deficiencies, manufacturers enhance their supply chain's overall efficiency and quality.

Properly informing every partner involved in the production process can be a hurdle for brands. However, selecting the right manufacturers and suppliers is an investment in quality that leads to greater effectiveness down the line — with fewer issues and stronger final products.

4. Choose the right quality control strategy

Setting up an appropriate QC strategy for your brand is pivotal to addressing your products' unique requirements and challenges. A robust strategy creates a plan that will ensure top-tier product quality by considering:

  • Continuous improvement of the QC process: Implement rapid improvement events to address specific challenges and boost efficiency.
  • Customer feedback: Monitor customer service interactions to identify areas for improvement, fostering customer loyalty.
  • Evidence-based decision-making: Collect and use accurate data to get a complete picture of the problem before deciding what to do.
  • Realistic, attainable goals: Unify employees and teams with SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely — to ensure everyone knows what’s expected of them.
  • Routine process auditing: Use audit results to suggest improvements in current processes, boosting the overall quality of services and products.

The most crucial part of your quality control strategy is the unique aspects that differentiate your brand and product. Let these distinctive characteristics guide your QC processes. This ensures that the chosen strategy meets general industry standards and aligns with the specific attributes that set your product apart.

Take Emulait: the unique nature of their baby bottle products requires strict compliance measures to be appropriately met. By incorporating a quality expert into their QC strategy, they easily navigated bureaucratic processes and alleviated their administrative burden. That approach informed their QC process and likely saved tens of thousands on testing — all while validating customer trust.

5. Train partners and employees on quality control

Embedding a culture of quality within a brand goes beyond a cliché; it’s a pivotal strategy in ensuring consistent, high-quality products in the manufacturing process. The foundation of QC-driven standards lies in setting clear expectations for what defines quality. Companies need to make these expectations clear, ensuring every employee understands the benchmarks and standards defining product excellence.

Build a quality-driven organization through structured training programs for employees and external partners. These sessions simulate real-world scenarios — such as production errors and defects — to better identify, assess, and solve potential issues in a controlled environment. Offering hands-on experiences helps your employees understand exactly what to do when faced with a quality control issue because they've done it before in the training.

Another valuable way to invest in QC across your brand is by empowering employees with certifications, such as:

These credentials provide specialized training in statistical quality control, auditing, and quality management systems. A workforce equipped with knowledge and certifications becomes a valuable asset for maintaining and continuously improving QC processes over time.

6. Inspect products regularly throughout the manufacturing process

Quality control needs rigorous testing of prototypes and end products to be most effective. This is a preemptive measure, allowing manufacturers to identify potential flaws and weaknesses before mass production. This proactive approach saves resources and ensures the final product meets stringent quality standards.

Inspections shouldn’t occur only with the final product, where issues might have already affected a large batch. Instead, implementing regular inspections at every stage of the manufacturing process significantly enhances the chances of detecting problems early on, resulting in substantial savings on labor and supply costs.

Regular inspections throughout the manufacturing process offer manufacturers a holistic view of the product's evolution. Each one should be designed to provide the best possible result, no matter your product or industry.

7. Incorporate traceability

Traceability requires products to be labeled with identifying information such as:

  • Manufacturing date
  • Factory location
  • Technicians who worked on them

This information helps narrow down where a product error may have occurred in the process.

Incorporating proper traceability measures does more than simply track the product; it also serves as a powerful tool for isolating and rectifying errors within the manufacturing process.

Pharmaceutical companies embrace traceability in the manufacturing of medications. Each product is labeled with detailed information, such as the date of production or the product's authenticity and originality. If a quality issue arises, these details allow the company to pinpoint precisely when and where in the manufacturing process the error occurred. Such precision enables swift corrective action to maintain product integrity.

By labeling products with granular information, your brand creates a roadmap of each item's journey through production. In the event of a product error, this detail serves as a diagnostic tool, allowing manufacturers to isolate the issue, correct it promptly, and implement preventive measures for the future.

8. Create a system for reporting defects

Potential issues must be identified, addressed, and resolved promptly to keep them from escalating and landing on store shelves. To do this, your brand must:

  • Define clear defect criteria: A precise understanding of what a defect looks like halts issues from advancing within the manufacturing workflow or, worse, reaching the consumer. Transparent standards help manufacturers create a baseline for quality that maintains consistency and reliability throughout the production process.
  • Implement accessible reporting channels: Simplified reporting ensures full transparency and accountability throughout your business. By providing easy-to-use channels for reporting defects, you foster an environment where issues are acknowledged promptly — motivating employees to actively engage in addressing challenges as they arise.
  • Improve with employee feedback: Routine system reviews, bolstered by employee feedback, create a continuous improvement loop. Routine assessments of reported defects address the root causes that help manufacturers spot patterns, identify recurring issues, and take proactive steps to enhance processes.

Canopy created a single source of truth so everyone in the organization clearly understood what a defect looked like. This helped improve the QC processes and reduce their defect rate to below 5%.

Make manufacturing quality products easier with Factored Quality

Factored Quality gives manufacturers a single source to manage QC, supplier audits, and product compliance, creating a vital time and cost-saving resource for DTC brands. Historical data and current processes unite for more straightforward quality control automation and data-driven insights.

From building our QC processes from scratch and empowering partners to leverage our global network, FQ has you covered. We are your go-to choice for booking QC inspectors who ensure your products are manufactured to your customers’ high standards. No matter where your product is made, our network of 2,000+ certified inspectors in 22+ countries can help reduce unnecessary costs — all while certifying ethical working conditions.

100+ top retail and DTC businesses like Jolie, Canopy, and Halfdays trust us to guarantee world-class product quality. Book a demo to see how we can support your brand.

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