Routine and Communication is the Key to Correcting Tricky Quality Problems in China

Daily meetings are one of the effective initiatives that Huaxing Clothes Co. has adopted to improve its management, reduce product defects and increase productivity.

Article | 29 August 2018
Qu Yang and the team leaders come together for their daily meeting
Newly ordered fabrics have arrived – 50 rolls of pink satin. Qu Yang unfolded one, his eyes flickering up and down the draping cloth, trying to spot the tiniest defect. After inspecting a few more rolls, he went to his office where four of his colleagues had been waiting. “Let’s get started”.

Qu is the quality manager of Huaxing Clothes Manufacturing Co., Ltd, a small enterprise located in Changshu city of China’s eastern Jiangsu Province. Founded in 2002, Huaxing now employs almost 100 workers and produces around 80,000 garments of women’s clothing per month. Qu’s responsibility is to control the product quality and make sure it meets client demands.

A new procedure Qu has recently added in his work routine, the daily meeting provides a good opportunity for the main production team leaders to discuss quality issues and ways to improve product quality and productivity. Today’s meeting about fabric was held to prepare for the production of women’s blouses, a new order from Orsay, one of its major clients. Holding a sample in one hand, Qu meticulously explained the client’s requirements and the details that workers should pay attention to during the production process. After meeting, the team leaders conveyed the message to their team members.

I think the daily meeting is really a good idea and very useful for our work. In the past all the quality problems would only be discovered by the quality inspector after the production ended. Now the meeting can better prepare us, so many problems can be prevented."

Li Yu, team leader.
Similar to many other enterprises, Huaxing was experiencing weak management, giving rise to low efficiency, high costs and reduced profits. Top management, fully aware of the issues, was hesitant to make any changes because they were concerned that a latent negative reaction from the workforce and financial costs might result. Eventually they made the first move in June 2017 when Orsay encouraged and supported the company to undertake SCORE Training - offered by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) global Programme - Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises.

SCORE Training aims to help small and medium enterprises improve productivity and working conditions through practical classroom training and in-factory consulting. As of May 2018, Huaxing has completed the first two modules: “Workplace Cooperation” and “Quality - Managing Continuous Improvement”. Experts from the ILO and Chinese consulting firms conducted the training with worker and manager representatives, helping them to form an eight-member Enterprise Improvement Team (EIT). Module one has created a better working environment and more efficient cooperation among co-workers and managers, and paved the way for the successful implementation of module two. “Quality means a lot to our company. It affects our reputation,” Qu said. “Good quality can also save our cost.”

Aligned with client demands, training centered on identifying customer needs, developing quality assurance culture and reducing defects systematically. It also introduced the five pillars of quality management including customer focus, quality culture, quality goals, quality control and continuous improvement.
The training also provided hands-on methods including the daily meeting to reduce defects and improve productivity. Qu and his colleagues found these methods very helpful because they can see the changes almost immediately.

The most significant change was the reduction of stains; a serious issue before. “We had three launderers…their job to clean the stains and they work day and night because there were so many,” Qu said. “Now we only need one launderer to handle all the work.” The reason for the reduction? The company placed a trash can at every station so the workers could dispose of litter properly and at the same time, stop eating and drinking at the work station because the company built a new cafeteria.

Many of the methods are very simple and straightforward but can solve big problems. One example Qu likes to mention is the use of photographs in the workplace. His co-worker Zhang Wei found his job, installing zippers on the garments, very daunting. Especially when dealing with soft fabrics. So at the end of the day, he often needs to redo a lot. Qu took a photograph of a perfectly installed zipper as a sample, printed it and stuck it to work station right in front of Zhang. “When I look at the photo, I can immediately see my problem,” Zhang said. “I make fewer errors now and I work faster.”

The overall defect rate decreased.inform 3.5 – 3 per cent between June and July,compared with 5% before the completion of the module two, according to factory statistics. What’s more, workers have been inspired to think of other ways to improve quality. “Some workers came to tell me that there are better ways to fix certain defects,” Qu said. “They would exchange ideas with me.”

During his visit to Huaxing in May, Corporate Social Responsibility and Operation Manger of Orsay China Limited, Derry Lam, was pleased to see positive changes taking place.

I can see the significant reduction in the defective items and the productivity has improved too."

Corporate Social Responsibility and Operation Manger of Orsay China Limited, Derry Lam
Huaxing will complete the remaining three modules on cleaner production, workforce management and safety and health. The General Manager Gu Ye hopes the project will eventually help the company achieve sustainable growth. “At completion of the project, we hope our company will have significantly improved our management,” he said. “And the company can grow more sustainably.”

The ETI-ILO SCORE project is running between February 2017 and February 2019 with funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) via its programme. DevelopPPP helps German and other European companies conduct business activities in a responsible manner in line with the expectations of the Sustainable Development Goals. In the context of the SCORE initiative, ILO and ETI are cooperating with SEQUA, one of DevelopPPP’s designated partners charged with implementing the programme.