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Steve Silver launching Web portal for QC

FORNEY, Texas - Fixing problems in a long supply chain is tough, but Steve Silver is tackling the challenge with a new Web portal.
     Launching in December, the portal may be a first in providing real-time instant tracking and analysis of product quality.
     Quickly correcting issues in supply chains stretching to Asia, before goods are shipped, can keep them from costing suppliers and retailers time and money, said David Corbin, chief operating officer of Steve Silver.
     "We believe this is pretty much best practice in a lot of other industries and I think directionally is where the furniture industry is going," Corbin said.
     The company, an occasional, dining, home office and leather upholstery source, began previewing the portal for inspecting product at last month's High Point Market.
     Called the Steve Silver Quality Control Center, the portal tracks quality control from about 40 factories and more than 800 SKUs in the company's product line. Each country has its own portal that can be searched by purchase order.
     "We wanted to be able to isolate down to the inspector," said Corbin, adding that drilling down problems quickly is essential when shipping hundreds of containers each month worth millions of dollars.
     Inspections are done first in their country of origin and at the company's Texas office, checking a sampling of each SKU being shipped. Factory inspections overseas are handled either by an agent, an inspection survey at the factory or by Steve Silver staff.
     Each inspector uses an itemized list on a tablet device, replacing a former three-step process. Multiple photos may be uploaded from each inspected product.
     "I can go in and click on a vendor and say I want to see this vendor... I want to see what the moisture content is. I can do that instantaneously and look at trends," Corbin said.
     The software focuses on more than 50 points of inspection, such as moisture content, finish quality, product dimensions and packaging, in 12 categories.
     "We wanted to let the Asia factory people see what we're seeing," Corbin said. "It allows us to see as they are developing what quality issues there are."
     Detecting and isolating issues early is the focus of the portal. The quicker problems are found, the quicker the production process can be corrected.
     "If it takes you two months to figure out that you've got a problem, then there's two months of product in the pipeline that potentially could have that problem," Corbin said.
     Previously, the company used a paper system with three steps required for processing, a slow and laborious way of gathering information, company officials said.
     "With the new software system our procedure will be reduced to a one-step upload. Our overseas inspectors will use a tablet to perform the inspection, take pictures, then immediately upload to our website for all to view," said Scott Garza, IT manager and systems engineer for Steve Silver. "We will see this information prior to the container being loaded."
     He said that once the company inspects product stateside it will also upload to the same system, giving it the ability to track vendor performance and product consistency.
     "The increased speed of communication between overseas and the U.S. will help reduce problems before they happen," Garza said.

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