Quality in procurement is caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net this week: 29 October 2020

EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #madeinbritainhour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 19,500 followers and the results are fascinating. Previously this information was enjoyed by the audience at the time and then left to drift away in the Twittersphere, rarely read again. So, we have decided to capture some of the best comments and re-present them for a new audience and easy reference. Some of the responses have been edited.

This week we look at procurement. Finally, it seems industry is waking up to the value that we deliver, and that sourcing and procurement are not just ‘shopping’ and placing purchase orders.

Question one: ‘Quality’ is a frequently used and sometimes misused term. What does it actually mean and how can it be measured?

Response from Made in Britain member Addmaster: Achieving ISO accreditation ensures we deliver our products and services against an international quality standard independently set. We measure ourselves against this as a benchmark to ensure we consistently deliver to the satisfaction of our clients

Response: For me quality is how the product/service best serves customer expectations, but it is very subjective and personal to each customer. To measure quality you could use customer satisfaction from surveys and/or customer loyalty from repeat purchases

Response: I agree that measuring it is quite difficult. Customer satisfaction and loyalty is an important measure, as is the rate of returns/fault corrections.

Response: Absolutely right, rate of returns and even complaints can also help you measure quality, it's all about collecting research and using this to improve or keep up quality

Made in Britain: Do purchasers/procurement just want their expectations/spec met or do they want it exceeded? and is this a factor in price they will pay?

Response from Made in Britain member StitchedBoxes: That totally depends on the expectations of the purchaser. A lot of people like myself just want a good quality product that does the job. Throw in great customer service, quick delivery etc and then they've already exceeded. (my expectations remain low!)

Response: Quality is so subjective that it could be both! Some may want to stick to the spec and some may want the spec met with additional features! With this being said, quality and price go hand in hand, those that want extras do usually understand price increases

Made in Britain: Do businesses see the value in getting accredited with industry or international validations? And do they see this value being reflected in the prices they can quote?

Response: They want specs met, and they want that consistently. In their case, quality is a required element to even be considered in the purchasing decisions.

Response: Quality is so subjective that it could be both! Some may want to stick to the spec and some may want the spec met with additional features! With this being said, quality and price go hand in hand, those that want extras do usually understand price increases

Response: Procurement doesn't set the specifications. Their stakeholders in the business do. Engineering should write the spec and procurement should write the tender and run the sourcing event based on the weighted criteria. But what usually happens is that operations or engineering speak to suppliers, get quotes and then involve purchasing at the last minute to negotiate price and contractual terms with a supplier who has, in effect, already been chosen.

Made in Britain: Interesting insight. The concept of quality goes through an entire set of business purchases, everything from components to tables in the canteen. Different levels of detail in the specifications will be given which is where it becomes interesting.

Response from Made in Britain member StitchedBoxes: Quality in my opinion often relies on a mixture of effort and knowledge/skill. A high-quality product will come from more costly materials, skilled workers, and took time to design and perfect.

Made in Britain: Is there a cross-over or even misunderstanding between the terms ‘high quality’ and ‘luxury’?

Response: I'd say so yes. A product can be high-quality without being luxurious and a luxury product could be of low quality. I think 'luxury' is more of a marketing term that appeals to a certain demographic, makes the reader believe it's of higher quality.

Response: I would agree with this - the term luxury is more superficial IMO.

Response from Made in Britain member Easify: Definitely, a lot of companies use the word ‘premium’ as people understand that word to imply ‘better’. I've seen many YouTube reviews where the reviewer resorts to calling something ‘more premium’ in order to convey a sense of high quality without being able to explain why

Response from Made in Britain member StitchedBoxes: I agree, the word 'premium' gets thrown around too much! Sometimes for the right reasons, for example, if a business sold a higher quality product and called it ‘high-quality’, the assumption is that the other product is low quality. The word premium is quite like a safety net!

Response from Made in Britain member Easify: Haha yes, wouldn't sell many entry-level products if you called them ‘low quality’! Premium also makes sense if you get more features, like with subscriptions. You can go basic or premium, in which case the quality is (probably) the same but the premium option has more features.

Response: There are also a lot of terms, premium, bespoke, tailored, etc that people think immediately means quality. This as we know is not necessarily always the case.

Easify: Very true, many words that immediately make Delboy Trotter spring to mind

Made in Britain: How often do you think such words actually mislead? And if having to do this to support a product is this suggesting that the brand and other marketing elements need to be reworked?

Easify: You can probably get away with ‘deluxe’ and ‘luxury’ on mince pies and such like, people probably look for those keywords when shopping. But for other products you'd want your marketing to imply the quality in a more subtle manner. ‘Made in Britain’ for example.

Response: So many times! Which is why seasoned purchasers look for the quality elements, such as the validations and accreditations. These superlatives may work with a new audience, until the market starts reacting through naming and shaming for poor quality and misleading advertising

Response: To my mind, quality is a product/service that is fit for purpose and can be used effortlessly and reliably for a long time. You know you can trust it as soon as you use it. In my experience, if something has to say ‘quality’ on it, then it probably isn't.

Made in Britain: ‘Fit for purpose’ is an excellent definition of quality. Does it therefore mean ‘meeting specification’?

Response: I would say so. Meeting specification in a way that isn't just scraping over the threshold. It's something that does what you need it to do, and does it well - to the extent that it makes you more efficient as a result.

Made in Britain: That means setting a good detailed specification to start with? 

Response: Yes, but it goes beyond just a basic written specification. It's about understanding what the product/service needs to achieve - what the problem being solved is - and making sure it delivers well.

Response: A bit like the word ‘deluxe’

Response: Absolutely - one of my personal favourites.

Response: A reputation for quality is earned and strongest when validated by multiple third parties

Made in Britain: Do you think that means that quality can only be ‘claimed’ after a sustained period of delivery/production?

Response: No, but it becomes a more believable and authentic claim if validated by increasing numbers of customers/others over time

Response from Made in Britain member Linian Clips: Quality is using the best materials and skilled workers for the job and providing a reliable product or service, never cutting corners. For us, it's measured in our extensive safety testing, and the pride we feel in our products, knowing they won't let the users down

Response: I think quality is subjective and very personal to an individual. For me a particular aspect of quality is how long something lasts, how strong it is, whether it does what it is supposed to do.

Response from Made in Britain member Easify: Quality is an interesting word, on its own it's taken as a positive - "A quality product" is understood to mean a good product whereas to make it negative you'd need to prefix it with ‘poor’ or ‘bad’.

Made in Britain: Poor quality makes is negative and it has a clear definition - the product doesn't meet spec. What does high quality mean then?

Easify: I suppose ‘High quality’ is suggesting the item goes beyond fitness for purpose. But like you mentioned that starts to cross-over to ‘luxury’ when the added benefits aren't really tangible.

Response: Quality is such an important value, and a marque like Made in Britain adds so much equity when it is used with your brand.

Made in Britain: Has the word ‘quality’ become a standard go-to word for everyone though?

Response: I think it has, and the word uses value as a result. The concept of quality, on the other hand, is harder to deliver and still sets you apart when you demonstrate it.

Response: It has, and it should not be used as a door opener. Quality must be shown in the product, in the manufacturing process, in any component of the solution sold.

Made in Britain: This then raises the question, "What does quality actually mean?"

Response: A reputation for quality is earned and strongest when validated by multiple third parties

Response: In many products, quality can be felt, seen, experienced, whether it is in the raw material, the cut, the assembly, etc. If the product cannot be seen, then it would be after validation from the marketplace

Response: A lot of people perceive quality in a brand, say Vileda dustpans over a pound shop version. To me it is about meeting tolerances and specifications and making the best possible product within the remit given, not cutting corners to maximise the profit.

Made in Britain: Interesting idea, there is almost an unwritten specification relating to how long something will last. So, a good manufacturer has a portfolio of long-lasting products so the purchaser will buy different products based on the ‘quality’ of their initial purchase?

Response: Exactly, if you want to achieve repeat business, either business-to-business customers, or selling a product or service to the public. That initial experience has to provide everything they are looking for. Even if that sometimes costs a little more.

Response: Hi performance w. low incidence of failure.

Question two: Do businesses compete more on specification than quality? 

Response: This is an interesting question. If replying to tenders, it is a qualifying criterion. If they are looking for information, then quality will surely also be a qualifying element. What have companies here experienced?

Response: Different businesses will compete on different things - such as specification, price, or quality. The important thing is to know which one you are targeting and stick to it and make sure all of your plans and decisions reflect it

Made in Britain: There's a word of caution in there isn't there? Beware of offering more spec but at lower quality, and beware of buying more spec at a lower price?

Response: Absolutely - beware of offering a high-quality/high-cost product to someone who is only interested in the bare minimum at the lowest price, or you'll get trapped between the two strategies.

Response from Made in Britain member Easify: High spec would be less subjective than high quality as you could put a number of a specification. I suppose specifications are a way of attaching a number to the quality level, so if you've got the numbers - flaunt them

Question three: What techniques can a business use to prospectively demonstrate ‘quality’?

Response: Accreditation, validation, quality in supply and value chain, ISO, CSR policies, user case studies, online validation tools such as Trustpilot, etc... it also depends on the industry.

Response: Marketing is key to this. And also, a money-back guarantee shows faith in your product and gives confidence to your customers.

Response: A money-back guarantee is a great idea. If your product/service is genuinely high quality then you want to get it in to the hands of potential customers and let it speak for itself.

Made in Britain: Do you think it shows faith or sometimes the opposite? A lack of confidence?

Response: I don't think so, at least I've never thought of it that way. As a purchaser I've always found it reassuring, more so for bigger ticket items.

Made in Britain: Does it have a ceiling as to how big the ticket is?

Response: Accreditation is a powerful demonstration of quality. Putting product/services through training and testing to gain these certificates provides evidence that these are quality products/services. But also testimonials and reviews from other customers who have put your product/service to the test during day to day life and experienced its quality are very highly valued

Made in Britain: @MarketAccents referred to this earlier. Are some accreditations regional/national and how well do these help in selling to overseas customers?

Response: You are right @MadeinBritainGB. The advantage within the UK is that we have developed a lot of the standards, which are then adopted in other countries, so having an UK marque is a very strong validation

Response: ISO9001 certification, transparency around their supply chain, open door days to their factory to show there is investment in R&D and modern equipment 

Response from Made in Britain member Easify:  Attention to detail. Look at a company like McLaren. Every single aspect of their business is top notch and pristine. Even the wheels on their component cages have to be the exact shade of McLaren grey and approved by the MD. Over the top perhaps but unquestionable quality

Response: Genuine customer reviews (TrustPilot, Feefo, Bazaarvoice etc), Google reviews, case studies, using professional imagery in marketing collateral, well-written marketing collateral, ISO quality standards, low warranty claims, revenue growth, demonstrable investment in R&D etc

Made in Britain: Customer reviews or previous customer testimonials? You'll see all reviews on the public use channels, is it the same for company websites?

Question four: Do purchasers do so based on ‘perceived quality’ rather than metric-based evidence?

Response: Depends on the industry. Automotive is easy to source based on hard data i.e. PPM - because they've been at the front of the curve for measuring quality objectively. For something like textiles, for example, much harder and more subjective

Response: It does depend on the size of the buyer, and the product. Most industries have developed benchmarked data, even textiles, and this is in order to cut down on slavery in the supply chain, environmentally friendly processes, and quality checks in the production and assembly

Made in Britain: Do many industries have quality metrics built into supplier contracts? 

Response: Having not seen supplier contacts across all the industries, I cannot really comment, but I would suspect that they are all moving in that direction. #CIPS and many purchasing professionals have been working hard to raise the standards of purchasing departments.

Response: Many industries have on time in full (OTIF) requirements built in. Very few suppliers in my experience will sign up to penalties for indirect and consequential losses though (lost production time, loss of profit, loss of sales etc)

Response: A lot of purchasing is made based on 'perceived quality' the first time. After that the purchaser has their own metric-based evidence of having used the product, so subsequent purchases (or not) will be more objective

Made in Britain: and is ‘perceived quality’ delivered by the brand?

Response: Yes - the perception is created in a large part by the messaging of the brand and product.

Made in Britain: Initial samples? Short initial run? Would these be useful?

Response: Both, as stories featuring factual evidence will fuel consumer perceptions which in turn underpins the brand and its reputation

Response from Made in Britain member Easify: Most definitely, some of the tech giants sell more products based on their perceived quality and premium-ness rather than any actual benefits over their competitors.

Response: Perceived quality definitely for the first purchase - perceived quality will include C2C referrals via testimonials and recommendations. Surely it's all 'perceived' until you actually try out the product for yourself?

Response from Made in Britain member Addmaster: Yes, we believe so. So many wonder/ cure-all products out there that have not been scientifically tested or properly regulated. Always ask for evidence and qualification otherwise false marketing claims can lead to hefty fines from Trading Standards

Made in Britain: Is there is also a big challenge for those with evidence in making it understandable and correct for audience?

Addmaster: yes of course. Those with evidence, but possibly less marketing resources, face the challenge of communicating this effectively.

Join Made in Britain on Twitter at 1pm every Thursday for #madeinbritainhour. We engage with everybody, members and non-members alike (some of whom become members as a result). Hopefully, see you there.

By Made in Britain 4 weeks ago | Made in Britain news

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