Article > Opinion

Questioning Quality


Read this month's letters to the editor.

In regard to Counterman Publisher Jon Owens’ recent column on product defects: The meaning of the word “defect” has really become distorted over decades of abuse.

We are a small importer/supplier in the aftermarket that sells good-quality timing components and sets to production engine rebuilders. As a supplier, I have some points that are relevant to the on-going “defects” discussion.

The first of the problems started when WDs began letting jobbers return anything, regardless of the damage. Decades ago, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, WDs started this policy.
Then, labor claims became popular in the 1990s. Manufacturers were (and still are) writing “destroyed in the field” credits for this stuff while the rep trashes the goods. No one ever looks at the defects at all unless a labor claim is attached. This perpetuates the decline in quality due to this lack of attention. We inspect every defect for failure because we have to. How else can anyone stay on top of their product quality?

Today, defective claims are often valid because many of the supplying companies that are importing these products don’t have effective quality control. They often are ISO certified, yet allow substandard quality into the markets and don’t stop it because they bought it cheaply. Many of the smaller (but well-known) suppliers that import parts from overseas don’t employ anyone who truly understands quality. Remember: Just because a part is supplied by a major USA manufacturer does not ensure the customer is getting a quality product. These parts are often sold into the WD aftermarket because the WD simply sells a part in a box and truly doesn’t understand how to know quality by looking at the box or the part itself. These quality issues require a very experienced professional and testing of various sorts.

Without great, consistent quality, I don’t understand how these WDs expect to stay in business. The installers are among the most important parts of the aftermarket. They demand quality they can depend on for long life and good fit. If they keep getting substandard quality, they will start buying almost everything from OEM dealers. The OEMs are very aggressive about taking a great piece of the aftermarket, as you probably know. Only great quality will win a future for us all. And, by the way, good quality does not necessarily cost more. Suppliers that are not greedy bring exactly that to the aftermarket.

There should be no budget for defects. Why should there be defects? Today, the word “defect” often means the technician couldn’t install it properly. Overall, we see very few real defect and our total returns as defects are less than one percent of our sales. Total returns are about five percent. We have reduced the defects by keeping a close watch and refusing defective claims that are not valid. Customers now police their defects before sending them in. This took us a while to manage but, we are happy with the results from our professional defective diagnosis results.

Mike Rose
Preferred Components, Inc.

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