As the weather turns warmer and sales of motorcycle gloves pick up, we were reminded of a particular manufacturing problem that we once had to trouble shoot.
For a powersports brand, consumer complaints were running at nearly 1% of sales on one of their best-selling fingerless glove styles. The challenge was to figure out why, and remedy the situation.
By making three simple manufacturing technique improvements, the return rate was reduced by almost 50% in the 2 years that followed.
Since "quality is job one", we thought it would be instructive to share not only what we did, but what we learned.
Troubleshooting the Problem: What We Did
The problem: this particular fingerless motorcycle glove was tearing on a seam where a piece of looped webbing attached to the body of the glove. The loops were tearing off when repeatedly tugged.
The solution: we re-engineered the glove -- in short, we discovered three ways to improve the glove's 'weak' spot: "Hot cutting", "Folding under" and "Backtacking"
By adding these techniques to the manufacturing process, we made the glove stronger, and complaints were cut in half.
But the real lesson here isn't what we did, it's what we learned ...
Improving Glove Quality: What We Learned
It's one thing to fix a problem, it's another to prevent it before it ever becomes a problem.
We'd all probably agree that the real goal is to anticipate and avoid quality problems before products are sent to stores and end up as customer "complaints" or "returns".
The Advantage of Quality Control Systems and Pre-Market Testing
Better planning and testing is one way manufacturers and brands can reduce quality problems. In our experience, there are 3 ways to do testing on the front end:
- Some companies that we work with have extensive internal testing capabilities to insure that materials meet standards and product quality meets expectations under "field" conditions.
- There are also independent labs specializing in testing for colorfastness, color migration, stitchtearing and the like. Bureau Veritas is one example.
- Finally, having users wear test prototypes is another way to identify problems before they occur.
User panels &/or focus groups are not hard or expensive to set up -- we have done this for our own brand, with great results -- and this feedback can be very valuable.
The Advantage of Experience -- It Really is the Best Teacher
When up-front testing is not in the cards, then knowledge born of experience becomes all the more important.
There's no substitute for the judgment of an experienced manufacturing partner to help you meet your quality goals. Here's why ...
- The factory that just replicates designs as presented for production also risks replicating problems. They are "do-ers", not thinkers, and will not help you avoid problems before they occur.
- In contrast, the factory that critically examines your spec can suggest ways to improve quality BEFORE products are made. They can head-off consumer complaints and returns, by applying the benefit of accumulated past experience.
Bottom line: Beware the factory that says 'we'll do whatever you want' ... this mindset will not help you reach your quality goals.
In lieu of actual testing, work with a manufacturing partner who can help you evaluate the design and the manufacturing process BEFORE the first glove is cut and sewn. It will save time and money in the long-run.
Experience You Can Trust
When a glove manufacturing process encounters problems mid-stream, you don't have a lot of time to figure things out. All you really have to go on is your experience.
Fortunately, in this case, we came up with a fix quickly for our private label customer, and customer complaints and returns were cut in half. (Read the full case study here).
If your private label glove returns have increased, or your glove quality has you concerned, give us a shout.