Sarah was kind enough to buy me a copy of An Introduction to Quality Assurance for the Retailers by Pradip V. Mehta off my wish list (thank you!). No I haven’t read it -it’s not really a book you sit down to read but I’ve looked through it long enough to see that this is an excellent book and an extraordinary value ($26.95). If you’re serious about getting and keeping retail accounts, this book is a must buy. I notice there are 32 used copies of it on Amazon and for the life of me, I don’t know why. Too bad those people’s names aren’t listed so others would know who not to hire. I will be adding this to my sidebar.
I don’t even know where to start in describing it but as the title implies, it’s a book that a retail buyer would use to determine the quality and professionalism of your company and your products. If you are the slightest bit concerned about the standards that will be used to judge your products, this will give you plenty of insight. In the past, I have discussed the quality standards used by JC Penney’s and much of the same stuff is in this book. In other words, if you wanted to be accepted as an approved vendor, this reference will take you a long way towards meeting the requirements. Retailers are just going to love you.
While the book discusses a wide range of products sold by retailers, examples specific to apparel and sewn products are considerable to the extent that other types of manufacturers could justifiably complain their product categories were given short shrift. Likewise, while it is geared towards retailers, you will find endless examples of utility. For example, there are several different kinds of audits -with detailed checklists!- you’ll find useful. One is called a “social audit” and is used to discern a factory’s compliance with social responsibility standards. Note: some of my DEs here, for all their compassion and integrity wouldn’t clear with 100%. The issue of proper lighting in the workplace comes to mind. There’s an extensive factory inspection form -twelve pages long!- which would be a great starting point for you to use in selecting a sewing contractor. That’s not to say it is perfect because it was written by a quality inspector from the outside looking in. Someone like me (inside, looking around) would add other factors not included in the list and weigh certain things more heavily than others. Also, portions aren’t appropriate to the smallest of companies but it’s given me some ideas to develop more appropriate standards. Still, top to bottom, this is a great way to evaluate a supplier or yourself.
One of the things I really really like about this book is that it explains the standards and measures of quality; rather like Quality 101. If you have ever looked at a quality book, you’ll see there is lots and lots of math with confusing charts and little dots and triangles all over the place -and this can mean nothing to a novice. This book provides a tutorial of what those charts mean, what they are called etc. It explains things like statistical analysis in very plain language. It explains the different kinds of sampling and acceptance testing and how to do it yourself. The section on how to manage (implement/teach) quality is very approachable for everyone. Most quality books are written by and for engineers. This quality book was written by an engineer for the motivated novice. This is really a great book. It is not a book that you’ll sit down and read front to back but it’s a reference you’ll reach for again and again. For $26, this is an excellent value. Below is an example of a flow chart from the book (full size pdf). As you can see, this is a lot more information about your process than to which retailers are typically exposed.