Case Study: George – Investing in training to drive up standards, quality and sales
Four years ago, clothing retailer George at Asda identified an issue with quality control checks in overseas factories that were costing the business time and money. To tackle the problem and improve the existing processes, they worked with City & Guilds on a training programme to ensure that high standards were achieved consistently by all their suppliers no matter where they were based.
Region East Midlands
Size 1,000+ employees
training candidates worldwide
rejection rate drop
£ cost per candidate
courses currently offered
Problem: Sub-standard stock arriving from overseas
The quality of clothing received from some overseas suppliers including from China, India and Sri Lanka was initially only checked by George once it had reached the UK. Products that didn’t meet George’s high standards had to be sent back to the supplier for reworking, costing the company time and money.
Solution: Training all quality inspectors
George developed an innovative training solution to end this rejection cycle by putting their own trained quality inspectors in the ports of supplier countries to assess stock before it left for the UK.
The training programme consisted of a 50:50 split between classroom delivery and on-the-job practice with a range of elements including coursework and questionnaires, a colour vision test, a small part cylinder test for choking hazards, and other practical assessments to mirror the working environment.
The change made a significant impact, with the rejection rate plummeting by 75% – a change that motivated George to consider how it could take this training even further.
Free training for suppliers to achieve a step-change
“The natural progression was to upstream the training into the factories,” said Quality Assessment Manager for George, Chris Clarke. “So we offered our training free to our suppliers’ Quality Control operators, which meant that the consistency of inspection was then driven through the factory, through the port in country, and through to the UK. So wherever it was inspected, it was done to the George standard and that drove our rejection rate down to less than half a per cent. That was a big win for us.”
More than 2,500 candidates worldwide have now been through the training, which covers quality assessment, safety and standards. Costing an average of £68 per candidate, providing training free of charge to the suppliers is a substantial investment for George, but Mr Clarke says the results make it worth it ten times over.
‘We offered our training free to our suppliers’ Quality Control operators, which meant that the consistency of inspection was then driven through the factory, through the port in country, and through to the UK.’
Chris Clarke, Quality Assessment Manager for George
‘Wherever our product was inspected, it was done to the George standard and that drove our rejection rate down to less than half a per cent. That was a big win for us.’
Chris Clarke, Quality Assessment Manager for George
Boosting individual careers and benefiting an entire industry
George is not the only beneficiary of the programme. Clarke says the training is an opportunity for the company’s partners to ensure they’re equipped to meet George’s needs and can also form a path to career progression for employees. “We’ve heard some great stories about how having completed the training, people’s careers have really taken off,” he said. “Some people do the training and then get a job offer in a factory that we don’t use, but we’re quite comfortable with that because it’s upskilling the industry and if we can help to improve the quality standard in the industry, it benefits us in the long run anyway.”
Clarke also noted that the opportunity to gain a City & Guilds-accredited Acceptable Quality Level (AQL) qualification is enormously valued by participants, many of whom have found it has opened doors for their future careers. He said: “From joining at entry level, people come through the training and now some are managing the quality operation for whole factories. Many of them put that down to having had the right training at the right time and they take pride in having a City & Guild’s qualification.”
Training continues to evolve to improve standards
The impact of the training has also been felt elsewhere in the business. George has always been committed to maintaining standards among its suppliers and offering training to new partners, and parts of the training programme are now embedded into the official induction process for all George head office staff within the organisation.
But the retailer doesn’t intend to stop there. Looking to the future, George intends to offer additional opportunities for employee development with the introduction of product-specific courses – for example, courses focused on the quality of footwear.
Speaking about the impact of the training programme, Mr Clarke said: “If you’ve got a problem to solve then a formal qualification can be a very good solution. For us, a City & Guild’s accreditation gave us credibility and to offer that for free – well you see the benefit back financially over and above what you put into it.”
Proud to have achieved the PRTA standard
Reflecting on being recognised for their investment in training, Mr Clarke said being awarded a PRTA was of real value to the business. “As a low cost retailer in this industry, you’re always fighting against the misconceptions around how our clothes get into store at the right price, at good quality and in the right way,” he said.
“People assume that we cut corners – they don’t see that we reinvest into the industry to bring up standards. So it’s really positive to be recognised for putting something back and to have done it well and made a difference. That’s what we’re really proud of.”