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  • Roger Yao

Quality management system for new fitness equipment brands

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

fitness equipment brands


How to establish an effective quality management system is a challenge for the vast majority of Chinese fitness equipment brands that have emerged in recent years. Due to corporate genes, these new fitness equipment brands often have shortcomings and deficiencies in quality management awareness, experience and talent pool.

This article analyzes the common problems resulting from in the misunderstanding of "Find a good cooperative factory, you can make good quality", "Quality management = quality inspection", and "Copying international big brands quality standards can assure a good quality." Combined with 20-years experience in quality management for international fitness equipment brands, author gave his thoughts and insights.

Finally, from the aspects of "quality awareness and quality strategy", "quality budget and team building", and "process establishment and target management", the author proposes that new brands of fitness equipment should build a systematic, practical and efficient quality management systems.

Key words:

New fitness equipment brand, misunderstanding of quality management, establishment of quality system, quality problem

QC treadmill

1.The challenge of new fitness equipment brands

Due to the expanding demand for fitness products and the popularization of new Internet retailing, a number of new fitness equipment brands have emerged in the Chinese market in recent years, some of which have grown rapidly and achieved good sales performance. However, with the further development and the expansion of the sales market (some Chinese brands have plans to go overseas), product quality problems are gradually emerging, which have become a restrictive factor for the long-term development of the brand and a headache for brand operators.

The sales in the traditional fitness equipment market are mainly dominated by agents or distributors who represent domestic and foreign brands. The products sold by these agents or distributors are provided by manufacturers with rich experience in production management and quality management, and the product quality is relatively stable and reliable. Therefore, the quality of products is not the main focus of agents and distributors.

In this article, we are going to discuss the newly emerging fitness equipment brands in the Chinese market. They mainly purchase products from OEM/ODM factories, and they are responsible for product development, quality control and after-sales service. The founding teams of these new brand owners usually come from e-commerce operations, marketing, advertising, product design and other industries. They generally have advantages in product concept or marketing, but often lack experience and genes in quality management and supplier management. Therefore, quality management has become a shortcoming in their business management.

In the communication with these new fitness equipment brands, the author got some feedback about the troubles and complaints about quality problems, such as:

The products did not meet the expected expectations, the quality was not stable, the customer complaint rate was high, the customer dissatisfaction rate was high, the after-sales cost was high, the brand image was damaged because of poor quality, the product was forced to be taken off the shelf, and the relationship with the supplier was tense, etc.

Quality control for fitness equipment

2.The misunderstanding on quality management

Faced with the negative impact of product quality problems on brand sales and enterprise development, business operators gradually began to attach importance to quality management and tried to establish a quality management system. However, when establishing the quality management system, some senior management of enterprises lack a comprehensive and systematic understanding of quality management, and here are some common misunderstandings.

1) A good factory ensures good quality?

The production management of "good factories" is relatively stable and reliable, but it is not enough to ensure good quality. In fact, even if some international high-end fitness equipment brands cooperate with factories with good management systems, there could also be certain quality problems.

We found such situation in many years of OEM and ODM project management: even if a factory uses the same materials, specifications, configuration and production process, the final product quality may be different. Whether the purchaser can use appropriate quality management methods and quality management tools to intervene management plays a key role in the final product quality.

In the procurement management of the fitness equipment industry, applying an effective quality control work method in one factory then replicate it in another factory may have little effect. Therefore, brand buyers should adopt different quality control strategies according to different suppliers’ condition.

If there is a quality problem, unilaterally accusing the supplier of being irresponsible will not help solve the problem, but may also worsen the cooperative relationship with the supplier. Therefore, in addition to selecting excellent suppliers, what is more important is how to establish own quality management system, use appropriate quality management methods, deeply participate in the supplier management system, and work with suppliers.

2) Quality management= Quality inspection?

Many buyers' understanding of quality management is simplified as: quality management = QC inspection.

It is true that many customers will send quality inspectors to perform finished product inspections before shipment from the factory to determine whether the finished products meet the requirements of the purchase contract; some customers even send people to the production site to watch one by one on the assembly line.

But can this effectively avoid quality problems? not really!

It is true that the final product inspection can find some obvious and appearance problems, but there are also many hidden dangers may not be found.

First, when the inspector finds that the product is defective, the product is finished or most of the process is finished. Stop the production, repair, and rework will cause huge economic costs, and at the same time, it is easy to cause new problems.

Second, the final inspection uses a random sampling method. If the sample size is insufficient, there is no guarantee that systemic problems will be detected. In the actual inspection activities, if the inspector is lazy and the sampling quantity is not enough or the sampling randomness is not high, it is likely to miss some major quality defects.

Furthermore, the final inspection cannot find hidden problems such as wear, rust, internal structure mistakes, etc. For example, in the transmission system of the exercise bike, poor bearing pressure will lead to compression deformation of the bearing, resulting in abnormal noise and smoothness of rotation after long-term operation. And this problem is usually difficult to find in the final inspection. To solve this problem completely, in addition to monitoring the process in the riveting and pressing process, it is more important to shift the focus of work forward, in the specification of the thickness of the bottom bracket, the selection of the bearing specification, the clearance fit between the bottom bracket and the bearing, the welding method, Process design intervention management in terms of riveting and pressing operation methods.

In addition, the final inspection cannot correct the design defects of the previous product structure. We once encountered a case: the treadmill developed by a company sold well in China. Subsequently, a European customer also took a fancy to this product and wanted to purchase it. However, after receiving the samples, it was found that the treadmill's running board did not meet the specifications of the EU fitness equipment standard EN957. Because the entire frame and mold of the product have been finalized, the rectification cost is too high, and finally this treadmill lost the opportunity to develop the European market.

From the perspective of different stages of product realization, quality management should cover all processes including product design, specification configuration, material selection, production process, production assembly, packaging and transportation. Brand buyers need to carefully study each process, identify key control points, then use appropriate methods for quality intervention management.

From the perspective of a manufacturer, good quality is not checked, but manufactured; and for brand owners, good quality is also not checked, but managed. After establishing an effective quality assurance system, some international big brands may put less people and cost on final product quality inspection, but still gain a good quality performance.

3) Copy big brand’s QAM, gets good quality?

International big brands tend to be high-end, and through their mature quality management and supply chain management systems, to ensure the high level and high standards of their product quality.

Most of the traditional brands of fitness equipment in Europe and the United States rely on their own manufacturing background, such as famous brands KETTLER, BH, etc. have manufacturing factories in Europe (although they are gradually shrinking and closing in recent years). After decades of operation, they have an experienced management team and profound technical accumulation, and have established a complete quality management system. Decathlon and INTERSPORT, which focus on retail, have invested a lot of money and manpower in product development, quality assurance, testing and verification, and supplier training, although they do not have their own manufacturing bases.

If we study further, we will find that different international brands have different quality management strategies. Some domestic brand owners and enterprises often find that these standards and processes are not suitable for them after referring to these high-end brand product standards or management processes. Either the operating cost is too high, or qualified talents are lacking, or the supporting resources of the enterprise cannot keep up. The seemingly perfect quality management model often ends up being a mere formality and cannot play its due role.

So, how to establish an effective quality management system?

Quality control for treadmill

3. Suggestion to establishment of QAMS

As mentioned above, the high quality of the final product cannot be achieved simply by relying on suppliers or final inspection or copying the management system of international big companies. Therefore, managers should stand at a strategic height, regard quality management as a systematic project of enterprise management, and gradually build a comprehensive quality management system according to their own actual company conditions.

Due to space reasons, this article cannot comprehensively and systematically describe the construction of the management system. Now, I only make some suggestions based on my observation of the industry and my own work experience.

1) Quality awareness and quality strategy

According to the current status of quality management of Chinese fitness equipment brands, it is necessary for the top management to further increase their emphasis on quality management, and to take the lead in the development and promotion of this work. If the management wants to carry forward the brand and make it a century-old enterprise or an international brand, it is essential to have superb quality management capabilities.

Although many companies put "quality is life" as a slogan, few really elevate quality work to the level of strategic management. Only by raising quality management to a strategic level can an enterprise effectively coordinate the allocation of resources, such as internal product development, marketing, procurement, operations, after-sales service, as well as external suppliers and third-party service providers, to obtain sufficient support and cooperation.

At the same time, it should be noted that the quality strategy established by the enterprise must match the brand positioning, and this decision must be made by the highest decision-maker . A high level of quality management does not mean that the product must be made into the highest specification or the highest grade while a brand positioned at the middle and low end does not mean that the pressure on quality management is lighter.

The so-called "suitable is the best", the quality management methods for positioning high-end brands and low-end brands are different, and the specific quality management practices are also different.

2) Quality budget and team build-up

According to my observation, Chinese fitness equipment brands have also seriously insufficient budget investment in quality management. There is no free lunch in the world, and without adequate investment , it is impossible to obtain corresponding returns. Through the understanding of several international brands and buyers of fitness equipment, a general data has been obtained. The direct cost of hiring quality personnel for traditional professional brand owners accounts for about 1.5%~3% of the purchase amount (the direct cost of quality personnel in large supermarkets is about 1%~1.5%), while the operating cost of the entire quality department can be reach 5% to 8%.

Although there is no authoritative statistical data on the return on investment in quality management in the industry, most operators generally report that the direct and indirect losses caused by product quality problems are very high. Therefore, they also have a very strong willingness to invest in the construction of the quality management team.

The actual situation is that some brand owners who are just starting out do not have full-time quality management personnel, and they are often responsible for product development, quality, and after-sales. staff-based. In general, the composition of quality management talents is relatively simple at present, and there is a lack of senior compound talents who both understand product technology and system construction experience.

So how to establish a team within the framework of a quality management budget?

The functions of the quality management department should include: supplier evaluation, supplier coaching, quality problem solving, product testing, quality optimization and improvement, production process inspection, final product inspection, performance data analysis, etc. Therefore, when forming a team, attention should be paid to the professionalism and diversity of the talent team, that is, there should be not only talents who understand the production process and product knowledge, but also experts who are proficient in the establishment of the quality system.

Of course, for small and medium-sized brand in the early stage, if they cannot recruit excellent senior quality management personnel, they can also consider using external experts to provide quality management consulting services to help enterprises train talents and gradually establish an efficient , a capable team.

3) Process construction and target management

With the basic team framework, the next step is to establish the company's quality management system process.

The current situation of many brand companies is that there is almost no established workflow, or a process is built for the purpose of building a process, resulting in cumbersome workflow and inefficient operation. They could learn from some of traditional brands, However, it should be based on the positioning of own products and actual situation of the company environment.

Management by objectives should be promoted in specific quality management practices. Management expert Drucker believes that it is not the job that has the goal, but on the contrary, the goal can determine everyone's work. Therefore, SMART principles (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based) should be followed in quality objective management to scientifically and reasonably formulate quality objectives and action plans. With continuous practice, regular review and review, continuous improvement.


Rome was not built in a day. The establishment of a well-functioning quality management system is the result of a long-term effort, which is also a process of continuous improvement and continuous growth of the company. The top managers of new fitness equipment brands should, on the basis of a correct understanding of quality management, truly implement the concept and essence of quality management into the daily business practice through formulating strategies, recruiting teams, and building processes, so as to improve China's fitness equipment product quality level, and ultimately create a high-quality, valuable and influential global brand image.

Treadmill quality expert
Roger Yao ( FQC )

  • The founder of FITQS/FQC, providing quality inspection & product development service;

  • 20-year experience in fitness/sporting goods industry for sourcing quality management;

  • The columnist of magazine “ China Fitness Equipment” for product review section.


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