Page 5: Quality management
Coats Viyella believes that there are three bases for competition - Quality, Service and Value.
“Quality management” requires clear identification of customers and their needs and meeting these needs with products and services which conform with the customers’ requirements or are “fit for purpose”. Coats’ effective and extensive product range is the foundation for its present success and the platform for future ambitions. From general purpose spun polyester and high performance core-wrapped threads to the latest developments in air-jet technology, the aim is to provide a range of products, colours, lengths and sizes to meet the most specific customer needs.
As Coats is the largest producer, it is able to employ the finest technology. This means, for example, that Coats is able to produce thread in large quantities which is of the exact colour required by individual customers. Uniformity of dyeing is made possible by the sharing of colour physics data with the Division’s 50 dye houses around the world. Fewer errors occur, making production planning more accurate and speeding up order fulfilment.
Given the choice, a customer will deal with a supplier (Coats) who is able to supply almost instantaneously, the quantity of thread that is required, in the exact colour and which meets all other specifications, rather than a competitor who is not sure when it can deliver and cannot guarantee uniformity of product. Coats has introduced a system known as “Right First Time” which is based on making sure that all of its dye houses throughout the world do just that - “get it right first time.” Because this happens, there is no need to reprocess, thus saving energy, labour and raw materials.
In a competitive environment, Coats’ ability to provide high quality services for its customers is an important way of differentiating what it does. If organisations are not marketing orientated or do not provide customers with desired levels of satisfaction, the needs, wishes and aspirations of customers will have been ignored and this could affect the success of the whole organisation. Coats has been involved in six distinct developments designed to improve the whole area of service.
- Historically, Coats has produced much of its product range from stock and offered a service to customers from this stock. In industrial thread, Coats has moved increasingly to ‘make to order’ which reduces the need to carry high stock levels and the risk of dormancy. This is assisted by Right First Time described above.
- Coats has a network of dyeing plants around the world designed to provide local services which respond to and cater for local customer needs. Coats continually enters new markets as clothing manufacturing migrates and has built or acquired manufacturing in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Morocco, Hungary, Poland and Egypt over the last 10 years.
- Coats embraces new technology to produce goods which are tailored to individual customer requirements.
- The enhancement of supply chain management, particularly by using information technology and electronic data interchange (EDI). The use of such technology by Coats improves service to customers on a variety of levels, especially response to orders.
- Value Added Services is an initiative started in the Industrial Thread Division. Traditionally the business regarded the thread which manufacturers have left over at the end of a job in the same way as Colmans became rich - “mustard on the side of the plate”. To the manufacturers however, it was waste. Coats has therefore started to work with a number of its larger companies on a stock management service in sewing thread. The customer provides Coats with the production plans and in return Coats guarantees to have the thread there on time and to manage the stock supply, so much so that there will not be any returns. A growing number of customers have said that this adds a lot of value to their business and improves their bottom line through the prevention of waste.
- Speed to market. Coats Viyella on a company wide basis ensures that it gets its goods to the market very quickly. This is essential in the market environment described in this case study.
The last of the three bases is value. One of the most important requirements for ensuring value is to develop alliances with suppliers. Closer links and the sharing of information help both organisations to reduce costs and focus activities.
Another key way to improving value has been to encourage more energy and autonomy in Coats’ operating divisions. It has recognised that the fundamental disciplines in manufacturing and customer service are quite different and that they must provide both with appropriate managerial focus. Coats as a Group has, therefore, developed a very decentralised style of management, with decisions being made as close to the market as possible.