Stanley expands quality board

Jeff Linville, May 26, 2003

Stanley Furniture has expanded its retailer Quality Advisory Board, lauding its benefits to the case goods manufacturer's products and business.

"The Quality Advisory Board has become a key asset in the continuous improvement process," said Jeff Scheffer, president and chief executive officer. "Input from our retail board already has been invaluable in helping us maintain our tradition of superior quality, service and delivery."

Last year, the company invited some of its largest customers to form the panel, which seeks to improve quality and service and make recommendations on goods under development. Stanley recently invited five retail executives to join, bringing the total participants to nine. The board met April 29–May 1 at Stanley's plant here for discussions on best practices, consumer preferences and operational issues.

Founding QAB members include Dick Brozic, Gabberts, Edina, Minn.; Al Charles, Jordan's Furniture, Avon, Mass.; Butch Helms, Furnitureland South, Jamestown, N.C.; and Tom J. Maldonado, Rooms To Go, Suwanee, Ga. The new members are Ron Blocker, Darvin Furniture, Orland, Ill.; Dave Duncan, Robb & Stucky, Fort Myers, Fla.; Mary Hill, Breuners Home Furnishings, Lancaster, Pa.; Wayne Lauman, Lauman's Home Furnishings, Baltimore; and Michael Voss, Kacey Fine Furniture, Denver.

The retailers' suggestions have led to a number of refinements to Stanley's products and packaging, reducing costly repairs. For example, cabinets now are delivered with larger floor glides to reduce the chance of scuffing floors, an additional brace has been added to packing cases to prevent damage to cabinet doors during shipment, and multilingual instructions for warehouse and delivery people have proven helpful.

"It's this kind of input from our retail partners that enables us to continuously improve," Scheffer said. "The fact that we consistently ship our products 99% defect-free in an average of 12 days is proof of that promise."

At the recent meeting, Blocker, operations manager for Darvin, said he noted a problem his company had discovered with the way some drawers align. That is leading to Stanley changing the way they inspect drawers.

"Stanley was extremely accepting, even of the harshest criticism that could be handed out," said Lauman, president of Lauman's. "They didn't want us to be polite. They didn't want us to say what we thought they wanted us to say."

When stores are doing a strong volume, even a small percentage of returns can affect profits, he said. "Quality-control concerns drive what the buyers can buy," Lauman said. "As retailers, we would all like to see perfect product from all manufacturers," but no company can prevent all the problems that can arise.

Another important reason for being on the board is sharing experiences and ideas with other retailers, he said.

The QAB will meet at least twice a year, between High Point markets, and at other times as necessary or desired.

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