Under the “fake it ‘til you make it” heading is a common complaint about quality control. It takes too long. It’s unnecessary. The products are good – they don’t need to take some out of a box for testing or inspection. Move the product! This is the wrong approach for a lot of reasons whether a company does business in e-commerce or aerospace – but let’s look at just two. In the first place, it’s ethically wrong to sell a product that might be defective. In the second place, it’s costing money – and potentially a lawsuit.
Let’s look at a case in point.
E-cigarettes are a popular alternative to cigarettes and have become widespread everywhere given the broad societal condemnation against smoking. Vaping is a whole subculture all its own and millions of participants. However, since e-cigarettes were introduced in the early 2000s, there have been widely reported problems with the lithium-ion batteries experiencing a process called thermal runaway. This type of event is a known hazard of lithium-ion cells whether they are in an e-cigarette, a mobile phone or laptop, a car or a passenger jetliner.
Granted, batteries produced by the millions in no-name factories are produced under less rigorous conditions than mobile phone or car batteries. They have an excessive rate of contaminants such as dirt, dust, metal filings, and condensation. Clean rooms never met these products; they’re fast money makers to feed the world’s want for vaping pens. Likewise, the batteries may have manufacturing defects in their electrodes that can damage the separator and lead to the circuit being closed and leaving the battery perpetually on. In turn, this battery is enclosed in a metal container.
So instead of a pleasurable vaping experience, the odds are that someone, somewhere, has just purchased what is effectively a tiny pipe bomb.
Now, if this explodes and causes an injury or a fire, the matter could easily be the subject of a lawsuit. Is the injured party going to sue the vape shop? It could be argued that the shop failed due diligence if they did not perform quality control, but by walking back that purchase, they stand more of a chance of a settlement by targeting the importer and distributor of the item.
Quality control is not grabbing a widget out of the newly received box to see if the item works. It’s a process that needs to be implemented over a period to ascertain how the product works when it arrives, and after it’s been in inventory. Testing the item, whatever it is, should be a regular occurrence. The test should make sure that the item is undamaged and in working order, tested against items from the same manufacturer and similar items from another manufacturer.
Having your warehouse pickers select items from bins highlighted from pick-to-light devices ensures that the items being pulled are the correct ones. Shipments can be further broken down into bins with pick-to-light devices by batch or lot number so that there’s no mixing.
It may seem like a lot of fuss. However, having to process an order, pick, pack, ship, deal with an angry customer who is dealing with an angry customer, bring the item back, and then reship another item is like burning money along with customer goodwill. Further, if you think that lawsuits are unlikely, know that the expense of lawsuits has sunk companies before a settlement or judgment was ever in the gate. Putting in place quality control along with inventory control takes time and money, but a lot less time than court cases and legal fees.