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Solving Inventory Management and Quality Assurance Challenges Amid COVID-19

quality assurance during covid-19

As retail stores and business start to open again across the U.S., supply chain and quality managers may be pressed to creatively solve new and emerging issues as they adjust to getting operations running smoothly again.  

Already, as they are looking towards the future of their operations, inventory management, product integrity and quality issues are expected to be elevated.  As a result, many will increasingly turn to specialized product rework and inspections companies as key supply chain solution partners.  

Randy Burk, Executive Vice President with Quality Corrections & Inspections, has spoken with dozens of sourcing and supply chain management teams in the past 60 days amid the COVID-19 business disruptions.  

“Due to the nature of our business, we are regularly communicating with sourcing managers and quality assurance staff.  In my conversations, I am hearing that there are several opportunities and challenges that leaders are contemplating at this time,” said Burk.

According to Burk, some of the key issues include:

 

  • COVID-19 induced delays or bottlenecks in supply chains resulting in merchandise either being held up or placed in less than favorable storage conditions.  These situations can affect product integrity when it is time to get products into stores or distribution channels.
  • Needs to increase spot checking, or “AQL audits”, on inbound merchandise for product quality.  Many factory audits and product production inspections were often conducted by employees traveling from the U.S. to overseas facilities.  These activities may be minimized or curtailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Many expect to see increased observances of issues such as mold, mildew, or odor on products.  Companies will be looking to remediate these issues proactively as it would be damaging to a brand’s quality image if these types of issues are observed at the retail level in stores. 
  • Dealing with dead inventory.  Measures to deal with dead inventory that missed selling seasons or original sales forecasts is expected.  For overseas factories, merchandise may now be stranded due to order cancellations, requiring rebranding, or relabeling for example in order to sell through another channel.  Product alterations might also be considered, such as hemming pants to shorts for sell-through during the summer season.
  • Redirecting inventory from brick and mortar retail to e-commerce.  Inventory might be pulled back from stores and re-directed to e-commerce channels.  In this case, merchandise may need to be prepped, folded, bagged, and tagged in some way to meet requirements for sales and fulfillment through e-commerce channels.

While some of these issues are handled in-house at distribution centers, many others are outsourced to firms such as Quality Corrections & Inspections.  Retailers, brands, and overseas factories often need to turn to the third-party firms due to the high-volumes or more technical nature of the repairs or corrections required.  

High-volume sortation, grading, and rework of goods, when required, can be arduous and continues to require a hands-on approach.  Complicating the issue is that many company-operated or third-party fulfillment centers are not well-equipped with the space, staff, and equipment to quickly rework and process inventory.  While it may be desirable to rework merchandise in-house it is often not feasible.  Certain technical corrections such as sewing corrections, footwear repairs or remediating mold and odors on product requires experienced staff and specialized equipment,” said Burk. 

Quality Corrections & Inspections is a well-established product inspection and rework provider supporting global brands and factories around the world.  The company has stepped in to solve critical supply chain disruptions and fulfill the needs of apparel and footwear retailers for nearly 35 years.  

 

QCI Featured in 2020 State of the Footwear Industry Report

QCI was recently featured in a report developed by Sourcing Journal on footwear quality challenges and solutions in their 2020 State of the Footwear Industry Report.

Quality Corrections was founded by Ron Burk, Randy’s father, who was originally a shoe manufacturer.  As apparel and footwear manufacturing began transitioning from the U.S. to overseas many years ago, Ron found that importers and retailers needed help when they received merchandise which was subpar and not meeting their quality standards.  

The company’s two U.S. locations, which are fully staffed and equipped to correct most quality problems pertaining to apparel and footwear, provide a national footprint to effectively service companies across the country.  

Amid the supply chain disruptions many are facing today, it will take creativity to solve new problems and address emerging opportunities.  It will also require reliance on specialized supply chain resource partners as well for quick and effective implementation.