Who are they?

Wolseley’s QA team is responsible for making sure that any Wolseley Own Brand product meets the highest expectations of quality, performance, and value. As the product bears our name, we’re responsible for it by law so it’s necessary to constantly monitor products and manufacturers, right from tender through to delivery and beyond – no easy task with more than 10,000 own brand products in our offering.

Once Wolseley’s Category Management Team has identified a new Own Brand product opportunity, the QA team steps in to help bring it to market, including supporting the tender process. As you can imagine, this is a detailed and complex process, involving research, specification, performance, testing, standards, and legal compliance – among other areas – all of which requires thorough documentation. The Quality Team oversees every last detail, and nothing is launched without their approval, so they have a big say. The time each product takes to reach our shelves varies but can take anything between 3 months and a year.. The aim is to ensure a cost-effective solution which delivers the best value and quality for customers.

Of the many different factors involved in the process, two are key: testing and supplier evaluation.

Testing has a critical role to play in ensuring the product meets the standards expected by our customers. The QA Team manages this process either through verifying the suppliers existing test evidence, using Wolseley‘s dedicated Testing Centre in Gloucester, or by working with other accredited third party test houses. In all cases, it’s a question of benchmarking against other branded, or market leading products to ensure compliance and performance. The QA Team also liaises regularly with Wolseley’s Customer Service team in Ripon, which gives them real-time feedback about returns and complaints. They also manage a live register which captures customer returns data for every single Own Brand product. If ever there is an issue, the QA team investigates and, if necessary, works with the supplier to make adjustments and improvements. If suppliers are unable to meet our standards Wolseley will stop working with them.

Supplier evaluation is therefore also important – and not just in terms of product quality. There are many other critical factors, including keeping pace with changing standards and regulations (e.g. WRAS) to ensure on-going compliance, while it’s also necessary to undertake regular checks for higher risk products such as small consumer electricals. More recently other factors have steadily gained in importance. These include ethical working practices and sustainability, with customers becoming ever more demanding in terms of labour, energy performance, waste and packaging. These have all become an increasing focus for Wolseley’s QA team which regularly undertakes ethical and welfare audits of the Own Brand supplier base. As a result, Wolseley now specifies only recyclable materials for own brand product packaging and has removed tonnes of single use plastic packaging. We are fully signed up to the On-Pack Recycling Label scheme (OPRL), demonstrating our commitment to minimise environmental impact. These and other considerations form part of our on-going evaluation, starting at the tender stage and continuing throughout the life of the product.

This is a huge and never-ending task, complicated by the sheer number of suppliers and their geographical spread. To help monitor quality, Wolseley has a dedicated team in the Far East to undertake pre-shipment inspection, follow up audits, and factory visits if anything goes wrong. Furthermore, the landscape is constantly changing, not least of course through Brexit which brings some legal complexities, and Coronavirus which makes it difficult to visit factories, so the QA Team is never short of its next big challenge.

It is an impossible task for the Quality Team to carry out the same levels of due diligence on supplier branded products given the sheer numbers, however full due diligence is carried out on all suppliers prior to approval.

The team then monitors supplier and product performance, and will get involved in any cases of repeat product failure or if serious concerns where customer impact is significant are raised. The QA Team also manages any recalls or legislation issues, as well as claims.

The work of Wolseley’s QA team is dynamic, complex, and global, and it’s vitally important to our business and our customers. Fortunately, with 92 years’ quality experience between them – including as trained auditors – they’re also extremely well qualified to handle the demands. The team is also a member of the CE marking Association and other regulatory bodies which means they’re in touch with best practice and the latest regulations, helping ensure we continue to provide quality – and assurance – to all of our customers.

If you’re interested to know more about our Quality Assurance Team or have questions about our work, please get in touch. Send an email to quality.department@wolseleyuk.com