Last week part of the roof of a big soccer stadium in Holland collapsed due to a heavy storm. Luckily no one was injured because there was no game at the time. The media storm that came after was almost as heavy as the natural one. Everybody started to blame each other, and no one takes responsibility for it. As with so many of these things, everyone hides behind policies and documents. This really shows the impact of poor quality products.
However, this disaster clearly showed that you don’t want to be the company that delivers a product that has poor quality—for whatever reason.
Manufacturers Are Responsible
The statement was that additional solar panels were installed and the construction wasn’t designed for that, but still the construction company gets lots of negative press. As the company that built the stadium, they are seen as the responsible party.
Most of the time, the company that manufactures a product is responsible for the product when something goes wrong. This might not be legally so, but in the media the company is. Therefore, it is important to find out how customers want to use the product. If the product is wrongly used, try to correct the customer and guide them in how to use the product properly. Alternatively, the company can even deny delivering the product if they don’t trust that it will be used appropriately. No sale can make up for the negative media that can happen. Yes, this is all covered with legal documents but it is still your name in the newspaper. In the end, you as the manufacturer are responsible. The example in Holland proves this.
Sometimes customers can request solutions that your company is not comfortable with. This can be a lower price, faster delivery, or particular design choices. Whatever it may be, most of the time it impacts the quality of the product. Make sure the customer is well informed about the implication of their demands and explain what the impact can be. In the end, you need to be comfortable with the product you deliver because you are responsible for the poor quality. However, as a company it is essential to establish a baseline with what isn’t acceptable anymore and align this with the company vision and mission statement.
Don’t be afraid to walk away from a customer
When things actually go wrong, make sure you have all the traceability documentation in place. This is of course after the damage has occurred, but it will help a lot when this is in place. Be able to show how materials were bought and that they have been sourced at reliable companies. Also show how the product was built and tested and have all the test results at hand and verified by trustworthy third parties. This will make it a lot easier in court when things go south.
Regardless if the judge eventually releases the company of any blame, most of the harm has already been done. The company is in every newspaper, which will have a long-term impact. The impact of poor quality lasts forever.