More than anything else, quality at H&M group is constantly developed and improved. To find out how this is done, and what principles are common to all our brands, we talked to three people who are key to the company’s work on quality.
Anki Ahlström, Group Manager for Textile Products at H&M’s Global Product Compliance Department.
What is your role?
- At the Global Product Compliance Department, we make sure our products follow the laws and product safety demands they have to adhere to in order for them to be sold in all our markets. We write guidelines and routines, and educate the production and buying departments, and anyone else who needs to know what the demands are. We also investigate the demands in new markets, and continuously stay on top of any developments in all of our current markets. I’m the group manager of the textiles group, and lead a team of specialists within chemistry, physical demands, child safety, labelling, and product safety.
What is your most important task?
- To work proactively and make sure we are at the forefront of our field. One way is to try and exert an influence on benchmarks and demands within standardization, or within other trade associations. But also by being one step ahead and leading the way, for instance by reducing chemicals even when there is no legal pressure to do so.
What aspects about your role surprise people?
- People often don´t realise that we work for the whole H&M group, not just H&M, As such the range of products we deal with is huge and that surprises people a lot. .
Elin Robling, Global Product Quality Manager, Accessories
How would you define product quality?
- When we talk about product quality, we are referring to how safe and user-friendly a product is. We are looking to ensure that products are free from dangerous chemicals, environmentally friendly, sturdy, functional, well made, have an excellent fit and colour and stand the test of time.
How do you work to improve the product quality?
- A lot of it is down to listening to the customers and making sure they are pleased. We follow all the laws and regulations, but at times even they not enough. For example the shoulder-strap on a bag may slip off when worn which may not be dangerous or in conflict with any rules, but that’s not good enough for us and in such cases we need to find a method to test and assure the quality. In that way, returns can be really useful. We work really hard to analyse and understand the feedback our customers give us and then we make improvementsto our products accordingly.
In what ways do you collaborate with suppliers to make sure they live up to your demands?
- We require them to have their own Quality Management System, carry out their own inspections and perform tests in their own laboratories. We regulary pay visits to our suppliers premises to see how they work and give suggestions on how they can improve.
Ylva Weissbach, Global Chemical Compliance Expert
What do you do to meet the requirements for chemicals in textiles?
- We usually employ the precautionary principle or the strictest law in all our sales markets. We’re far ahead when it comes to work on chemicals and we’re always actively trying to find better alternatives. Since 2013, for instance, we’ve banned fluorocarbons which many competitors use to make outerwear water-repellant. Instead, we use alternative chemicals which don't harm the environment.
What’s your most important quality goal?
- Our goal this year is to further improve the traceability of our products. This will make it easier to make sure we meet our own standards. We’re also hard at work to find good methods to evaluate alternatives to those chemicals we wish to replace.
What’s the main challenge within chemicals today? How do you respond to it?
- To communicate our complex demands in a way that can be understood globally by our suppliers and their subcontractors is important to us. We work continuously on simplifying and clarifying our requirements. Our chemists in the production countries are a super important part of this work, since they’re in direct contact with our suppliers. They do an awful lot to raise the level of knowledge in this area and help us find out why very occasionally things go wrong.
- In 2015, the H&M group carried out 41,000 chemical tests and 120,000 physical tests on our products. Add tests carried out by suppliers, and you get more than half a million quality tests in a single year.
- Quality tests are performed on all H&M group orders.
- A zipper in a garment is tested mechanically 500 times before being approved.
- Read about H&M group's chemical restrictions