Lots of companies talk in their sales and marketing campaigns about ‘quality’ and ‘continual improvement’ but we all know that those claims are meaningless unless they have real substance behind them.
Mila, however, states that ‘Quality and Service are in our DNA’, and I am really proud of what we do to justify our claims and convince even the most sceptical of customers that they are much more than marketing boasts.
Ours of course is very much a global process because so much of the hardware which Mila supplies into the UK market is sourced from the Far East – both under our own brand and from third parties. Far from being a distant relationship though, I think lots of customers would be surprised at just how closely we manage the quality and performance of our suppliers.
In recent months, we have appointed well known industry figure Steve Johnston as our new Head of Global Sourcing and he is actually based in the Ningbo region of China, right in the heart of our biggest manufacturing area.
Steve works within a team of 16-18 in China who work directly for Mila. Their primary role is to ensure that our suppliers deliver products exactly to our specifications on time and in the quantities we require.
Our market leading On Time In Full scores are very precious to us so we understandably put our suppliers under intense scrutiny to ensure that they can deliver. However, a key part of the China team’s role is also to monitor quality and we have our own testing facilities there to check everything from material specification to plating finishes.
Our quality management set up in China is entirely transparent and, as I’ve said already, it is something I’m incredibly proud of. In fact, several of our biggest customers have been invited to China to see the process in action.
Lots of our relationships with our Far East suppliers stretch back more than 10 years and we have a truly in-depth understanding of their whole process. This means we know, for example, how long it takes them to change a tool, where they are sourcing their materials from and crucially how our input can best help them to improve. This level of understanding can only be achieved by being right there on the ground and is over and above the regular supplier audits we carry out.
Both our teams based in China and the staff from the UK who travel there regularly are tasked with drilling right down to the minutiae of how suppliers operate, and we have just established a joint Quality Improvement Task Force so that we can better share this knowledge and reduce still further the costs and incidence of non- compliance. It is very much continual improvement in action.
Of course, the quality process starts in China but it continues into the UK and it is over here where we do all of our cycle testing and third party analysis of our materials and plating.
Once products arrive at Mila, they are checked by Mila’s quality team, headed up by our Quality Manager Alan Peel, in accordance with British Standards sampling procedure BS 6001 -1 1999 and in line with the relevant Goods Inwards Quality Instruction.
There are 15 separate QC checks carried out on all Mila branded products and it is testament of course to the excellent work done in China that, over the past year, we have achieved a product conformance rate of 99.9% so our rejection rate with customers has been just 0.1%.
Our comprehensive product traceability programme ties into the work of the new Quality Improvement Task Force, and our 8D quality assurance system ensures that we can identify, correct and eliminate any problems which do arise quickly and effectively.
I believe that Mila’s quality assurance procedures match those of many Blue Chip businesses and our systems and processes can stand the most intense scrutiny. Certainly, part of the reason we are able to work so successfully supplying the likes of Safestyle and B&Q for year after year is that we can demonstrate that we are continually improving.