Monday, February 14, 2011

DenTek Doesn't Understand Customer Centricity

Recently, I had a run in with defective floss.  "Defective" in that when used normally, on my teeth, which are not insanely tightly spaced, nor are they unusually sharp, the floss broke.  I looked at the package, and found that this dental product was being manufactured in China - that very clean, never contaminated, highest-quality-possible, never-compromising-on-quality, third world country.  Why China?  DenTek thinks it'll make them more profitable.  Lose your customer base, get bad publicity, and you won't be in business forever, much less be profitable.

So I wrote the company, finding a "contact us" email address at their website:
Hello Dentek and Elyse Bender-Segall,
I have been using Dentek Floss products for a long time and have been happy with the product.  Today I was closely looking at your packaging on the Floss Picks, and I noticed a "Made in China" label.  This raises some concerns and questions that I am hoping Dentek can answer straight forwardly.

As an experienced quality professional myself who has spent a great deal of time (3 years) in China trying to source complex, high quality machine components, I am well aware of the challenges that North American based companies experience in China regarding Quality control, consistently meeting exacting standards, and complying with FDA requirements for products destined for the US market.  As I've traveled extensively throughout Eastern, Western, Southern, Northern, and Central China, working with both small mom-and-pop shops as well as medium and large, 10,000+ employee companies, I found significant issues with contamination, hygiene, code compliance, corruption, consistency, and reliability with the various suppliers and products they tried to produce.  My experiences were not an anomaly, as reinforced by recent findings of lead contaminated toys, and tooth paste, melamine contaminated pet food and baby food, toxic dry wall, et al.  I also understand the perceived fiscal accounting pressure US Manufactures think they must acquiesce to in out sourcing their products internationally. But all the "savings" of out sourcing can easily be wiped out by a product recall, quality issues, or bad publicity.

With this experience in mind, I would really like to know the following:
1) When was the last time your supplier in China was visited by a Federal US auditing agency?
2) Were there major findings from the last Federal US governmental audit?  And if so, what were the nature of those findings?
3) Was the audit conducted unannounced, or was ample preparation time afforded to the supplier, to put on their "best face" prior to the inspection?
4) Does Dentek have a on site, Dentek Quality professional stationed at the supplier in China?  By "Dentek Quality Professional" I mean a direct employee of Dentek, not a contractor or an outside 'certifying agency' but someone who understands that their personal success and Dentek's success as a manufacturer of the highest quality dental products are intrinsically linked.
5) Where is the testing laboratory located that generates the quality reports on residual contamination on your floss products produced in China?  If it is in China, what international certifying agencies have qualified the lab?  If it is outside of China, please let me know which country if possible.
6)  What levels of residual lead, mercury, cadmium, and other heavy metals, and other inorganic and organic contamination have random swabs of Dentek floss products, and Dentek floss product packaging produced?  I do understand that Dentek floss products are NOT designed or intended to be produced with any such contamination, but I also understand that the environment throughout China is unhealthy, and the cleanest, purest, most pristine consumer products can be quite difficult to make and export to the US in such an environment.

I know that for some of the questions above, Dentek may feel it is intrusive or proprietary and cannot directly answer, but I do hope that someone at Dentek will respond in a positive and cooperative manner, so that as a consumer who wants to use more of your products, as well as a blogger who gets 1000s of hits on my blog each month, my concerns can be addressed.  I know it is possible to get high quality products from China, with fastidious supervision and a driving passion for excellence, but it is not easy.  If Dentek has a success story from China where they've conquered significant challenges and made tremendous inroads in quality improvements, I would love to hear about them. On the other hand, if Dentek has never sent their own Quality representatives to the China factory, or has no employees on sight, or simply purchases the floss products on a generic contract, sight-unseen, I will need to begin using dental hygiene products from other companies.

I would be happy to pay 50% more, or 100% more, for a safe product, rather than the lowest price for a product whose safety I am not assured.

Be Well
Just JoeP

I asked 6 straight forward questions.  Yes, some of them might have been "proprietary" in nature, but each one was specifically asked to be able to gauge what DenTek's quality program was like, to help restore a "warm fuzzy" feeling that I had with their product before I found out it was made in China.  Did DenTek Consumer Affairs take any of my 6 questions seriously?  No.  They insulting sent me the following brief reply, 3 days later:
Thank you for contacting DenTek.  As a provider of FDA class 1 and class 2 medical devices we are required to deliver safe and effective products to the consumer.  We do have in-house quality assurance and controls that adhere to set quality guidelines and our products are reviewed both in China and in our facility in the US.
Have a great day!

Best Regards,

Consumer Affairs
DenTek Oral Care, Inc.
307 Excellence Way
Maryville, TN 37801
Phone: 1-800-433-6835
Fax: 865-380-4133

Now, this was not a true "form letter" response, but it did not address all 6 of my questions, concentrating on #4 and part of #5 only.  Not very assuring, no "warm fuzzy" and sadly, falling far short of what I expect as an experienced Quality professional.  No "if you have any other questions, please feel free to call us" or "if we have not addressed your concerns, do not hesitate to reach So-and-so at phone number 800-xxx-yyyy", or any such thing.  Just "we deliver FDA class 1 and 2" and "we have in-house quality assurance".  Well, the FDA is sorely lacking in inspectors, and the Republicans will not fund getting more of them,  And Dundar Mifflin, has a Quality representative, Creed, and that doesn't reassure anyone either. 

So I will no longer be purchasing DenTek products.  While I cannot recommend anyone else use or avoid this company's products directly, I can make my own decision, and the basis upon which I am making it, public, to the tunes of thousands of hits a month.  If DenTek has a change of heart, and would like to open up an honest dialogue with one of their concerned (former) customers, they certainly know how to reach me.

1 comment:

  1. I use Oral-B floss that is made in IRELAND. Alright!


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