Improving Bulk Production Quality by Establishing a Supplier Improvement Program

Consistent monitoring of the suppliers’ quality management system is crucial for a brand that wishes to secure its product quality and avoid the extra costs and disruption caused by rework and recalls. Regular follow-up and performance monitoring are particularly important when dealing with a supply chain stretched over multiple countries and continents.

This case study demonstrates how QIMA helped a leading garment retailer establish a supplier improvement program that would safeguard product quality and drive long-term improvement throughout the client’s global supply chain.

Case Study

Client Background

The client is a leading garment retailer in Africa, working across several divisions that also include sports goods and homeware. The client sells products under a number of own brands and follows the omnichannel retail distribution model. The client’s company operates in 14 countries. The bulk of their sourcing is done in China and India, plus a sizeable amount of near-shoring in South Africa.


The client’s products had frequent quality issues that would often only be discovered after delivery to stores and distribution centers. Based on the client’s internal data, up to 80% of quality issues could be traced back to three types of product defects: untrimmed threads, loose threads, and broken stitches.

As the client’s business model revolves around offering good-quality garments at affordable prices, it was imperative to resolve quality problems without driving up the cost of production or disrupting production schedules.

Before approaching QIMA, the client has attempted to address the problem by liaising with suppliers directly, but had limited success in terms of driving the improvement required to get production right the first time. Among the obstacles in the way of improvement and productive cooperation was the client’s lack of resources for large-scale follow-up, especially in the case of overseas suppliers.

The Client approached QIMA, a leading provider of intelligent quality control and compliance solutions, looking for an experienced sourcing partner capable of implementing a supplier improvement program aimed at achieving consistent production quality and continuous improvement in the long term.


Working closely with the client’s quality team, QIMA experts analyzed the existing product inspection data and identified 14 factories in South Africa to be targeted as part of the first stage of the supplier improvement program, with the goal of driving the defect rate down by 20% within the first three months. Using their industry expertise and the experience from working with leading international brands, the QIMA team designed a supplier improvement program with three key components:

  • Assessment: the 14 selected factories were subject to a full audit of their quality management systems. Based on the audit results, a corrective action plan (CAP) was designed for every factory;
  • Corrective action implementation: the targeted factories would receive a weekly visit from two senior inspectors to assist and drive the changes required by the CAP;
  • Performance monitoring: the quality performance of the factories was regularly measured against the goal (defect rate down by 20% in 3 months) to assess progress and determine additional interventions if necessary.

QIMA’s industry and market expertise, combined with the real-time sourcing data made available to the client, were among the key factors to the program’s success. Close cooperation with all stakeholders’ quality teams ensured that corrective actions were 100% aligned with the factories, the suppliers and the client’s expectations.

Through QIMA’s personalized dashboard, the client was able to track in real-time the performances of the targeted factories on the three specific defects targeted by the supplier improvement program. With the ability to see individual factory performances and benchmark them against their industry, supply chain, and sourcing country, the client was able to make informed decisions for their supplier management.


Within the first two months of partnership with QIMA, the client saw a significant improvement in the targeted factories, where the defect rate decreased at a much faster pace compared to other factories in the client’s supply chain.

QIMA’s quality management platform continues providing the client with uninterrupted access to real-time sourcing intelligence, allowing them to closely monitor their suppliers’ performance and serving as an early warning system against indications of relapses in quality improvement.

After the successful roll-out of the Supplier Improvement Program among their South African suppliers, work is underway to deploy similar programs for the client’s suppliers in China and, subsequently, worldwide.