How it all started… An interview with Pro QC’s owner & Managing Director

Nearly 13 years ago, as I started my career with Pro QC International, I met a man with a true passion for quality.  At that time, Ed Sanchez was a man that declared his company would not focus on being the biggest, but it would be the best… and, he has succeeded.  During my recent visit to Pro QC’s China offices, I had opportunity to talk with Mr. Sanchez, Pro QC’s founder and Managing Director, regarding the history of the organization and his vision for the future.

I met up with Ed at the Blue Frog in Shanghai.  Located near our office, I’m told this bar & grill is where the team often enjoys lunch together and discusses work details.  The night before, Mr. Sanchez and I had met with a client for dinner at Lost Heaven (super good stuff, Yunnan fare) and then checked out some live entertainment at Abbey Road where we ran into “China George.” While Ed is generally meeting with clients and networking across the globe, each opportunity I’ve had to personally meet with him has been motivating… and, of course fun.  Pro QC’s clients can attest to this!

Originally from Colombia, Ed’s early roots also include Cuba, Florida, New York and even Oregon.  Later, he would find engineering work in Spain where he was involved in the design and construction of nuclear power plants.  It wasn’t until 1980 that this work would lead him to Taiwan where he would later identify a need for quality assurance services and four years later formally organize as Pro QC.  I was surprised to find out the origins of the “Pro” was actually “production”, but later was commonly accepted as “professional”.

Pro QC started out as a 3rd party quality control & engineering firm serving industrial industries and soon incorporated expertise in the consumer world.  Ed explained that it “started with lighting, which I liked because it’s so creative, technical… it incorporates art, metals, polarity, UL requirements… pretty cool stuff.”   Through word of mouth, Pro QC’s quality services extended to exercise equipment and various consumer goods for Montgomery Ward.  Today, it’s hard to find a industry that Pro QC hasn’t partnered with to help reduce quality risks and cost.

I asked Ed what his favorite thing about Pro QC is, and he responded that it’s “the people… always learning… always being challenged… it’s always fresh.”  When I asked him what he thought makes Pro QC so special, he explained that “we’re big enough to have the resources, but small enough to actually care about the clients. I’m also very proud of the people we have… their backgrounds, languages, experience, styles… the diversity we have as an organization is impressive.”

When I asked Ed about what his vision for Pro QC’s future is, he told me those same words of wisdom that each of us within the organization live by… to continue to not focus on being the biggest, but rather the best.  This strategy has succeeded in providing for continuous growth, in addition to unparalleled client satisfaction. He wants to “continue looking for new niche markets and adding services that will add value to our clients.  And, he continued to explain that “continuous improvement of knowledge, technical expertise and skill sets is a must.”

Daily dose of social responsibility updates w/ CSR Minute

Sixty seconds is a minimal investment in exchange for an update regarding corporate social responsibility.  Each daily feature through 3BL Media discusses a general topic or highlights specific corporations and their actions.  Creating an account will get you access to free, customizable and easily accessible information.

“The CSR Minute is 3BLMedia’s daily video digest of the most relevant and timely CSR and Sustainability content all in about a minute. 3BL Media’s own correspondent reports on the latest CSR trends, topics, and of course, breaking news every day.”

Additional resources for CSR that we find useful includes:

Pro QC International provides social audits and has recently written a Feature Article discussing the ISO 26000 guidance documentation.

Why quality, why now?

Why quality?

At the end of the day, successfully incorporating quality into corporate-wide practices will cost you less, not more, and reap some fairly distinguishable benefits, like…

  • A decrease in costs due to less reworking, consequently producing less scrap
  • Social responsibility (they go hand-in-hand)
  • An improvement in productivity due to less time spent on reworking
  • An improvement in cycle time due to less time spent on correcting mistakes and more time being spent on value-added activities
  • A competitive advantage that supports a solid brand and positive public perception
  • Increased employee satisfaction and retention (reduction in costs associated with turnover)
  • An overall improvement in service

Pro QC’s first Feature Article in the quarterly newsletter discussed Determining the Costs of Quality in more detail.

Why now?

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan once said “consumers, by seeking quality and value, set the standards of acceptability for products and services by voting with their marketplace dollars.”  This is true… and, we know that consumers tighten that flow of marketplace dollars in times of economic uncertainty.

So, the “bang for the buck” is scrutinized. What better time for introspection… for examining processes and figuring out what’s working and what’s not?  It’s a perfect time to reinvest, develop supplier relationships and forge ahead for growth.  It’s a perfect time to tell consumers what you’re about and why they should cast their vote on you!

Acceptance sampling isn’t scary

As it turns out, a significant number of people find the Pro QC site searching for sampling and sampling related terms such as ANSI Z1.4 or MIL-STD-105E  (no longer in use).  In speaking with organizations, I’ve also detected a certain level of fear regarding how to approach an acceptance sampling strategy.

Fear is unnecessary… In fact, sampling here is nothing more than a tool you’re going to use to provide a realistic (of course statistically relevant) assessment of quality and be able to ultimately determine whether or not product is meeting expectations without having to spend the time and money involved with a 100% inspection.  This is a good thing.

Some advice…

Get your specs straight – Before you even start to think about AQLs and defect classifications, go back and make sure you’ve really evaluated your product and have created detailed product specifications.  Once you have this information, go through each item and determine how you want to classify nonconformance (major, minor or critical).  At Pro QC, we use the following general guideline for defect classifications:

  • Critical – Any condition found which poses the possibility of causing injury or harm to, or otherwise endangering the life or safety of, the end user of the product or others in the immediate vicinity of its use.
  • Major – Any condition found adversely affecting the product’s marketability and sale-ability or adversely affecting its required form, fit or function and which is likely to result in the end user returning it to the source from which is was purchased for refund or replacement.
  • Minor – Any condition found which while possibly less than desirable to the end user of the product, does not adversely affect its marketability, sale-ability, form, fit or function and is unlikely to result in its return to the source from which is was purchased.

Special or General? – The ANSI Z1.4 tables show various sample sizes based on lot (batch)  sizes in relation to Special and General levels. Here, you’ll want to go through your spec and determine what would require higher levels (general) of sampling or lower (special).  For example, if you have an electronic product that requires functional testing (need to make sure it turns on maybe), special levels of testing makes sense because it may be considered destructive.  The same goes for drop-testing to determine the packaging integrity.  Time is an obvious important consideration, as it relates to not only cost but to shipment schedules as well.  An example might look like this:

  • Visual (cosmetic/workmanship) inspection – General Level 1
  • Drop-testing (Package integrity ISTA testing) – Special Level 3
  • Functional Testing – Special Level 1

Single or Double? – Pro QC uses ANSI Z1.4 single normal sampling as a standard, but we have had clients request double.  If you look at the tables, you’ll note the difference is simply the number you look at.  So, it goes back to time and cost, but you’re also considering your level of assurance with the supplier in general.  You can look at less with double if the product meets expectations, but you’ll be taking a 2nd full sample set if not.

Know your AQLs – Acceptable Quality Limits are simply “the worst tolerable process average in percentage or ratio, that is still considered acceptable: that is, it is at an acceptable quality level.” To figure out what works best, play around with the numbers… Plug in your average lot sizes and levels and go through the row of scenarios.  What are you comfortable with?  An example might look like this:

  • Major Defects 1.5
  • Minor Defects, 4.0
  • Critical Defects 0.10

Tweak it – Sampling strategy is something that can grow and evolve with your product. As you develop supplier relationships and analyze inspection feedback, you’ll be able to make adjustments as necessary.

Utilize the experts – Of course, a 3rd party quality assurance provider such as Pro QC, can provide you with expert advice and guidance or even evaluate your product and develop the specs/sampling for you.  That both relieves apprehension and leverages expertise.

Note: International and national equivalents of the ANSI Z1.4 2003 standard exist as ISO 2859, NF06-022, BS 6001 and DIN 40080.

Supply chain management basics

I recently stumbled on a series of videos produced by Arizona State University and the W.P Carey School of Business‘ Department of Supply Chain Management (ASU-WPC-SCM) relating to the basics of SCM.  While basic in nature, the series is well organized and appears to piece together SCM quite well.  As a refresher, I think these videos are excellent idea generators.

There are twelve modules, with topics ranging from social responsibility, manufacturing & operations, logistics and metrics.  Module eleven relates to quality management and is quite succinct.