Product Recalls Put Renewed Focus on Quality Control

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The flurry of product recalls that have occurred over the past several months is certainly scary -- but we'd wager that few folks can honestly say they find them surprising.


In a stark illustration of "you get what you pay for," statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission show an inverse relationship between the prices of consumer goods and product recalls. As the former falls, the latter rises.


There have been 409 product recalls so far in 2007, meaning the number for this year will almost certainly exceed the 476 recalls in 2006. There were 309 recalls in 2000.


In what is surely not a coincidence, outsourcing to other countries by U.S. companies has grown 70 percent over the past decade, says a management professor interviewed in a Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram article. The practice has become so prevalent that it seems unrealistic to expect American companies to return all manufacturing activities to the United States.


As CNNMoney.com reports, the current focus centers on China, a popular manufacturing destination because of its low labor costs and inexpensive materials. Though there is some willful scamming of the system, experts say part of the problem arises from the fact that China's manufacturing processes and technologies simply have not yet caught up to the rigorous standards demanded by some countries and industries.


The managing director of an outsourcing company based in China says companies that outsource any aspects of production to China should have "on-the-ground quality control" there. He tells Purchasing.com: "A lot of U.S. companies have not understood that they cannot simply just get a sample of exactly what they want and expect 10 or 20 containers to arrive within a certain period of time."


While it adds cost, he advises companies that outsource to China to consider proactively establishing their own quality control operations in the country.


The Purchasing.com article also includes a list of four excellent tips: Make sure that product specs and technical drawings are in both English and the native language of the supplier. Outline the quality control process, using illustrations if possible. Require periodic tests of components and ingredients. Ensure that subcontractors meet the same quality control standards as the primary contractor.