It would be wrong to suggest that David Ramirez spends all his working days tracking Facebook and Twitter, but social media is a hugely important part of his new role as vice president of group quality assurance at Pandora, one of the world’s largest jewellery brands. Pandora designs, manufactures and markets hand-finished and contemporary jewellery made from high-quality materials at affordable prices.
Interviewee: David Ramirez – Vice President, Group Quality Assurance, Pandora
Ramirez joined Pandora in May 2015 and now works at the company’s headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was previously the director of global quality assurance and product compliance at the New York office of fashion brand Stella & Dot.
It is a newly-created role at Pandora, defying the trend in the jewellery industry for shifting senior quality assurance positions away from head office and closer to the, typically offshore, manufacturing plants. Pandora manufactures its jewellery in Thailand employing more than 10,000 of its 15,000 staff at that site. There is another VP of quality assurance for manufacturing based there, but the company just decided it needed someone in a market-facing role back at base.
Ramirez says: “I’m a lot more involved with the market-facing aspects of quality assurance than I have been in my previous roles. Social media has become a new avenue for customer service, and so a big part of my role is monitoring quality trends in the marketplace, keeping an eye on conversations on Facebook and trends that are emerging on Instagram.”
He adds, “Often a lot of the friction we get about quality, whether it’s functional or aesthetic, we will hear about first on Facebook and other social media platforms, rather than through more traditional customer service centres. That’s a new component we are trying to get our heads around; incorporating social media as a holistic approach, listening to what the consumer is saying online, and seeing what we should perhaps be doing better.”
Once issues have come to his attention, Ramirez must decide on the best course of action, which may mean feeding the information back into the product development chain and through to manufacturing in order to make changes to future production. He visits the factory in Thailand once a month and remains in very close contact with his peers on the ground there.
Ramirez has worked in the jewellery industry since graduating in 1999 from the Gemological Institute of America, a non-profit gem research institute. He then worked in several roles in fine jewellery, for the likes of Zale Corporation, part of the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewellery, and Rosy Blue, one of the most renowned diamond and jewellery companies in the world. Always focused on quality assurance, his career took him to India for two years as director of overseas production for The Aaron Group, one of America’s five largest jewellery manufacturers. He moved into fashion jewellery in 2008 with a role at Polo Ralph Lauren, and then moved to Juicy Couture before arriving at Stella & Dot.
He says: “The combination of experiences I have had, working in both fine jewellery and fashion jewellery, made me an ideal candidate for the Pandora role, as did the fact that I had spent many years in Asia looking at factories.”
The advent of social media as a new way of communicating has introduced a new era of value and importance for Quality Assurance. There’s a conversation that consumers are having about their products in a public forum now, and a lot of companies are responding.
Over the years, Ramirez says he has seen many jobs moving offshore, so it has been nice to buck the trend: “When I first started my career, a lot of the top talent in quality was within the US, but over the years, many of the roles have been outsourced overseas. At various companies in the US, I have helped with the implementation of programmes to move the quality teams offshore, away from head office. That trend has taken hold primarily as a result of cost considerations and logistics with manufacturing based in Asia, it has just made sense to have the quality function live near the factories.”
Pandora was founded in 1982 and its jewellery is now sold in more than 90 countries on six continents, through approximately 9,500 points of sale, including more than 1,600 concept stores. For a retail business like Pandora, social media has been a game-changer, and it has transformed the role of quality assurance.
“Historically a lot of my focus was based on the operational side of quality, working directly with, suppliers and factories to ensure the proper development and production of finished goods quality,” says Ramirez.
He adds, “If there’s a design or a style that goes out that’s just not right, if you don’t have someone at the ‘home office’ that can take that information and, from a technical perspective, and affect some improvements, it could have serious implications.”