Product Safety & Quality Loading...
We have developed quality assurance (QA) protocols across our categories of products to provide our suppliers with detailed information on our expectations regarding product quality, measures of conformance, product testing, inspection and verification. We work together with our suppliers to develop a shared commitment to quality and safety, and require that all of our suppliers abide by our quality performance standards, requirements, processes and procedures.
Going beyond setting standards and expectations, we have QA staff in over 10 countries that perform inspections to ensure private brand products are being produced in accordance with our quality standards. In remote regions, where we do not have our own staff on the ground, we outsource inspections to approved third parties making sure that the products we sell have been verified according to our expectations. In fiscal year 2017, nearly 60,000 QA inspections took place. Inspections can occur in various stages of the production process:
- Factory evaluations assess our supplier factories prior to placing orders to ensure that the factory has the right capacity, equipment and skill for the particular products we are asking them to produce.
- Pre-production Meetings take place before production starts and brings together all parties involved in the production of the product. Each step of the process is reviewed to ensure that the production will respect the product specifications.
- Pilot-run inspections entail an assessment of product quality and compliance with the approved product sample at an early stage in the production process once a defined minimum quantity has been produced.
- In-line inspections take place during product production and allow us to identify quality issues early in the manufacturing process.
- Final inspections assess products after production is complete. This stage compares select, finished products with previously approved samples, checks for accurate sizing and evaluates overall workmanship.
- Post-delivery inspections take place on a random basis at our distribution centers and stores once products have been shipped from our suppliers' factories.
While our QA team works to ensure products are produced according to our design standards, our product testing team works to ensure that products comply with U.S. mandatory requirements and perform and function as intended. Using accredited in-house laboratory testing, as well as independent third-party testing, our product testing team evaluates and assures that products comply with regulatory and industry standards, function safely and as intended, and meet or exceed customer expectations.
As our retail business evolves, we have worked to further strengthen our global value chain and continue to build trust across our diverse and complex supplier base. In 2017, we introduced new product and QA programs:
- Vendor Approval Program (VAP) - factories that demonstrate sound, robust, and consistent quality standards are eligible to participate in this program. The program provides QA training to the factory's technical staff, under the supervision of the Sears Holdings quality team. Once trained, the factory is designated as "VAP qualified" and can implement the quality assurance process on site.
- Vendor Facility Qualification program (VFQ) - audited factories with on-site testing laboratories are eligible for this program. Once the factory is "VFQ certified" they are able to provide testing data for evaluation.