Product Quality Standard : Audits, practices and vigilance in the supply chain

The importance of product quality for companies raises questions about the methods and costs associated with their control and improvement. But how to control and improve this quality ? What are the benefits and costs of product quality standards ? Discover the importance of audits and standards to optimize the supply chain and strengthen competitiveness.

What is a product quality standard ?

A product quality standard is defined as a specific set of criteria - including requirements, specifications, indications, or characteristics - which serves as a reference to ensure that the products and services correspond to their intended purpose. These standards are often set by entities at different levels: international, national or sectoral. For example, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is recognized for its universal quality management standards, adapted to a variety of organizations.

However, it is also possible for specific customers to determine their own standards, based on their unique requirements and expectations.

Adopting a product quality standard ensures companies that their offerings meet the exact needs of their customers and align with the expected quality standards. It also proves their dedication to maintaining high standards, increases customer loyalty and satisfaction, and helps them stand out from their competitors effectively.

To achieve this, it is essential to integrate a quality management system (QMS) that brings together processes, procedures, as well as specific obligations to constantly monitor and improve the quality of the goods and services offered. This QMS must scrupulously comply with the conditions of the quality standard selected by the organization and is regularly subject to internal and external audits to validate its quality and compliance as well as its effectiveness.

Who covers audits and good product practices ?

Audits and good product practices play a crucial role in ensuring that products comply with quality standards and customer expectations. Their implementation varies according to the type of product, the field of activity and the target market.

A distinction is made between internal audits, carried out by the company itself or an independent body at its request, to examine its quality management system and production processes. External audits are carried out by third-party entities such as certification bodies, regulatory authorities or customers, with the aim of verifying the compliance of products with current standards and regulations.

Good product practice is a set of principles and guidelines that establish the ideal conditions for manufacture, control, storage and distribution. These standards are defined by international, national or sectoral bodies, adapted to the specificities and risks associated with the products.

For example, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) cover the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and veterinary sectors, and aim to ensure the quality, safety and effectiveness of products, in addition to protecting consumers and the environment.

Which products require quality audits ?

To ensure compliance with current standards and regulations, all products intended for sale or use by customers must undergo quality audits. Some products, however, require more regular, detailed or specialized audits because of their nature, complexity, or potential impact on health, safety or the environment. Here are some categories of these products :

Risky products

Products considered to be at risk are those likely to pose a danger to life or health of people, animals, plants, or to cause significant damage to property or the environment. They must meet fundamental security, performance and information criteria, specified by European legislation or international standards.

These include pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, cosmetics, chemicals, electrical appliances, toys, machinery, vehicles, etc. These items require regular quality audits by notified bodies, which provide the certificates of conformity or affix the CE marking.

Sensitive products

As for sensitive products, they are defined by additional quality requirements due to their origin, composition, manufacturing process or intended use. They must comply with standards or obtain labels that ensure their traceability, authenticity, quality or durability. Including, but not limited to, food, organic, fair trade, craft, cultural, or luxury products, these products undergo periodic quality audits by accredited entities, which issue the corresponding quality certificates or logos.

Innovative products

Innovative products emerge from research and development, offering benefits, improvements or distinction from existing offerings. They must meet quality criteria related to their functionality, reliability, compatibility or interoperability. This category includes, for example, technological, digital, smart, connected, or ecological innovations. These products follow specific quality audits, conducted by specialized bodies, which validate their compliance with quality standards.

What are the essential criteria of product quality standards ?

Product quality standards serve as a guide for determining requirements and best practices for maintaining the superior quality of products and services. These standards are based on key principles of quality management, including customer satisfaction, management involvement, process-based approach, and commitment to continuous improvement. The quality standards produced can be grouped into three broad categories, each with a distinct scope and level of precision :

The generic standards

These standards apply universally to all organizations, regardless of size, industry or field of activity. They provide a framework for establishing and operating a quality management system (QMS), focused on customer satisfaction and continuous improvement of efficiency. ISO 9001 is the most iconic and widespread example of a generic standard, laying the foundation for an effective QMS.

Sectoral standards

Intended for a specific sector or industry, sector standards adapt or complement the requirements of generic standards to meet the unique characteristics and requirements of the target area. Their objective is to ensure the quality, safety and efficiency of products and services, while protecting consumers and the environment. A relevant example is ISO 13485, which concerns the medical device industry and stipulates specific requirements for a QMS that complies with the regulations of the field.

Specific standards

This category of standards addresses specific products, services, or processes, detailing the characteristics, specifications, methods, and quality criteria necessary for their compliance with customer or stakeholder expectations. They aim in particular to ensure traceability, authenticity, quality or durability offers. An example is the ISO 22000 standard, dedicated to food safety, which establishes the requirements for the safe management of the food chain.

How to ensure product traceability throughout the supply chain ?

The traceability of the products guarantees the monitoring of their history, location and condition, from origin to final destination, through all phases of the supply chain. This involves identifying, recording and communicating information about products, processes and stakeholders.

Its benefits include :

  • The guarantee of quality and product safety, thanks to the ability to identify and prevent defects, non-conformities, fraud or contamination.
  • The facilitation of the recall or removal of defective or dangerous products, allowing rapid identification of affected batches and reducing negative impacts.
  • Increased trust and customer satisfaction, thanks to the transparency offered on the origin, composition, manufacture and distribution of products.
  • Compliance with current regulations and standards, demonstrating compliance of products with legal, health, environmental or ethical criteria.
  • Optimization of supply chain management, improving the planning, control, efficiency and performance of processes and flows.
  • To ensure effective traceability throughout the supply chain, the implementation of appropriate systems and tools is essential.

These solutions must enable :

  • Identify products in a unique and sustainable way, through the use of barcodes, RFID chips, QR codes or special markings.
  • Record appropriate product, process and stakeholder information through databases, software, sensors or connected devices.
  • Facilitate the exchange of information between all supply chain links, through the use of common standards, protocols, interfaces or platforms.
  • Analyze data for tracking, controlling and improving traceability, using indicators, dashboards, alerts or reports.

Product traceability is thus an essential component to guarantee product quality and supply chain efficiency, thus satisfying customer expectations and normative standards.

Why are custom audits essential to maintain international standards ?

Customized audits are designed according to the unique needs of each company, taking into account its sector, market, objectives and risks. They are used not only to check whether products, services or processes meet international standards, but also to reveal opportunities to improve, stand out or increase their value. These audits offer multiple benefits, including :

  • Improve quality and competitiveness : They ensure that products comply with international standards while meeting the diverse expectations of customers, which vary according to regions, cultures and preferences.
  • Facilitate entry into global markets : By proving that products comply with local, regional or global standards and regulations, which may be more stringent or specific than international standards.
  • Optimize risk management : By identifying weaknesses, threats and opportunities related to products, services or processes, and proposing strategies to prevent, minimize or take advantage of them.
  • Strengthen customer trust and loyalty : By ensuring quality, safety and product performance, while offering added value, innovation or customization.

To carry out adequate personalized audits, it is essential to contact independent, competent and recognized entities. These organizations benefit from in-depth technical expertise, market understanding and flexibility to adapt their services. They can offer audits based on international standards, or adapt their approach to specific standards, specifications or codes of practice.

What are the costs associated with product quality standards ?

Investing in product quality standards is a strategy that can prove beneficial in the long run, improving a company’s quality, customer satisfaction, competitiveness, and reputation. However, this approach involves upfront costs that should not be overlooked and need to be well managed. These costs related to quality standards can be classified into two main categories :

Compliance costs

These include all expenditures necessary to establish, maintain, and develop a quality management system that meets the requirements of the standards. For example, they cover training, documentation, certification, audit, control and prevention costs. These expenses are considered beneficial since they help prevent errors, defects and non-conformities.

On average, obtaining ISO 9001 certification, one of the most common quality standards, costs between €3,500 and €5,000 for a company with 40 to 50 employees.

The costs of non-compliance

These costs represent the expenses incurred to correct or compensate for the consequences of errors, defects, or non-conformities of the products. They include the costs of recovery, scrap, return, warranty, correction call, litigation, as well as losses related to customer reduction. These costs, often considered as the result of a lack of quality, can represent between 5 and 25% of business turnover.

Faced with these expenses, some companies may be tempted to reduce their investments in quality by adopting less stringent standards or by reducing audits, for example. However, this approach can increase the risk of non-compliance and have a negative impact on customer satisfaction, market share, or even lead to sanctions.

On the other hand, companies that favour appropriate quality standards, conduct regular audits and focus on prevention, can reduce their non-compliance costs and increase their profits, reputation and competitiveness.

But then, how to access quality standards without committing to heavy expenses ? The answer lies in Yvea, a marketplace that helps you find the ideal partners for your quality audits, offering negotiated and advantageous pricing conditions. By choosing Yvea, you benefit from :

  • A centralization of the offers of certification, audit and advisory bodies specialized in quality standards.
  • The ability to compare prices, deadlines, services, and customer reviews, in order to choose the partner that best suits your needs.
  • A reduction in costs thanks to preferential rates, promotional offers, and payment facilities.
  • A simplified approach thanks to a secure, intuitive and easy to use platform, guiding you at every stage of your project.

Yvea is therefore the ideal solution to easily integrate quality standards into your business, without compromising your budget !

What are the countries that standardize product quality and require audits to obtain certifications ?

Product quality is a global concern for all countries, whether they are producers, exporters or importers. They may have their own standards, regulations and quality criteria, varying according to the product, sector or target market. International standards, developed by entities such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), seek to unify these practices to simplify international exchanges.

To verify that products meet these standards, audits and certifications may be required, ensuring their quality, safety and effectiveness. These verification processes are carried out by national, regional or international bodies recognized for their competence. Key regions active in this area include :

The European Union countries

Member countries of the European Union (EU) comply with a common framework of standards and regulations covering products sold or used in the European Economic Area. This framework ensures the free movement of goods, consumer protection, product safety and respect for the environment.

Products in accordance with European criteria receive the CE marking, which is mandatory for certain types of products such as hazardous equipment, electrical equipment, toys, and many others. To obtain this marking, an audit and certification process by notified bodies, accredited by the authorities of each country, is necessary.

The countries of the southern common market

The Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, has established economic integration based on the standardization of standards and regulations for products in this area. The aim is to boost trade, competitiveness, and ensure product quality and safety. Goods that comply with MERCOSUR requirements may bear a MERCOSUR marking, a voluntary symbol of compliance for certain products such as electrical, food or cosmetics.

To obtain it, they must go through certification and audits carried out by conformity assessment bodies, accredited by national governments.

Countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, pursues economic cooperation promoting mutual recognition of standards and regulations for certain products used or sold in the ASEAN area. This aims to promote product development, quality and safety.

Those complying with ASEAN standards can obtain the ASEAN marking, a voluntary compliance mark for categories such as electrical appliances, cosmetics and medical products. The necessary certification and audits are carried out by conformity assessment bodies designated by the national authorities.

How can quality audits improve brand reputation ?

A brand’s reputation reflects how it is perceived in terms of value, credibility and reliability by consumers, prospects, partners and other stakeholders. This perception influences purchase decisions, brand loyalty, recommendations and customer trust.

Reputation is built and propagated through communication channels, media, social networks and word of mouth, which can be either positive or negative depending on the experiences, opinions and emotions of customers. Quality audits are an effective way to improve this reputation by :

  • Show the quality of products and services by checking their adequacy with the standards and expectations of customers. The issuance of certificates or quality marks highlights recognition and difference.
  • Prevent and manage reputational crises by identifying and correcting quality, non-conformity, fraud or contamination issues, and minimizing their impact on customers, media and authorities.
  • Collect and evaluate customer feedback to measure their satisfaction, understand their expectations, needs and suggestions, and integrate this data into continuous improvement.
  • Strengthen customer engagement and loyalty by offering a positive, transparent and close experience and by making them actively involved in the quality assurance process, for example through surveys, surveys or product tests. Thus, quality audits act as strategic tools to strengthen the reputation of a brand, establishing a relationship of trust, respect and value with its customers.