Supplier Quality Management Defined For You

How is Supplier Quality Management defined? It is a huge area and I don't know at what point of development you are at presently. I will explain the most important concepts and you can explore them for new ideas in your present area of work.

The Aims Of Supplier Quality Management

The aim is to have a system of tools in place so you can

reduce the potential risk

to your own company by a supplier.

The most important concept is to aim to have a 

cleanly integrated, efficient and cost-effective system.

Anthony Robbins Quote on Quality QuestionsQuote by Anthony Robbins on Quality and asking the right questions.

Supplier Quality Management Processes

The overall Supplier Quality System must have processes within it that govern the 

- Sourcing of new suppliers

- Integration of new suppliers

- Maintenance of supplier quality

- Ramping down of suppliers

Thereby integrating the Quality Assurance efforts with those in Purchasing.

This is quite often necessary as Purchasing represent the clout you need as a Supplier Quality Engineer to get the actions you agree to with the supplier moving along.

Interface to the Supplier

At the interface to the supplier, quality is ensured by having clearly communicated requirements - on all the functional aspects of

  • Product quality
  • Environmental requirements
  • Logistics (Packaging, Delivery requirements, etc.)
  • Legal (i.e. Security issues, Confidentiality Contracts, etc.) 
  • Quality requirements (Upholding of QS System certification, Quality Data reporting, Certificate of Compliances, etc.) 

The basis of a good supplier quality management is formed by clear paths of integrated information from and to the various sources and stakeholders.

Supplier Risk Management

The Suppliers are rated according to priority and this priority is dependent on the risk they represent: the risk to your own companies final product and reputation.

Depending on their priority and your experience with that supplier, you can tighten the reins or loosen them. This means increasing or decreasing the amount of Quality Measures / Tools you undertake to ensure the quality. 

Supplier Quality Tools

These Supplier Quality Tools will include:

  • Product Audits
  • Process Audits
  • System Audits 
  • Environmental Audits
  • Initial Sampling
  • Certificates of Compliance 
  • Incoming Inspection
  • Production tests / Results
  • Acceptance of Quality Certificates
  • Final Testing Reports
  • Quality Improvement Programmes
  • etc. 

Sources of Data on your Supplier

In your approach to how you will have your Supplier Quality Management defined, the tools you use can be internal to your own company or can come from the supplier. Other customers of that supplier can provide you with good quality data too. 

Also 3rd party evaluating groups such as Duns & Bradstreet, who can provide good data on a potential supplier. Will your company accept the certificates from accredited certifying bodies? These sources of information are important to know when you are attempting to get your approach to Supplier quality management defined. At the very least, they will increase your security that you are dealing with a reliable partner. Too many businesses have gone bust because they did not do they homework first before engaging their suppliers.   

Rating Your Supplier

There are many different systems of evaluating the rating, by weighting the tools and then mathematically calculating the result. Here you should have a ranking for the result. 

For example: 

Process Audit: Weighting 40%  Audit Result: 78%

System Audit: Weighting 25%  Audit Result: 85%

Annual Incoming Inspection results: Weighting 35% Inspection Result 95% 

Supplier Results

Process Audit + System Audit + Incoming Inspection Results

(78 x 0.40) + (85 x 0.25) + (95 x 0.35) = 85.7 Points. 

Now is that a supplier that is good or bad? And what can you do as a Supplier Quality Engineer to improve on this situation? If this supplier is a single source, you will have to use a totally different strategy than if this is just one supplier in a flooded market.

Responsibilities of
a Supplier Quality Engineer

The Responsibility of a Supplier Quality Engineer is to protect your own company by ensuring that a supplier is good enough to be a supplier and is managed correctly. It will be your role to ensure how the Supplier Quality Management defined.

Each situation will require a flexible but an intelligent approach. It is important to integrate the activities of other functions such as Production, R&D and of course Purchasing in your Supplier Quality Management defined approach. 

The responsibility when you want to have your Supplier Quality management defined, is to weave your tools into a systematic approach that will effectively reduce the risk of the suppliers product going wrong in your production or worse still, later in the field ( when your companies product has been sold on to a customer). The later in the product lifecycle a problem occurs, the more expensive it is likely to be.

You will use more intensive range of your tools when dealing with a new supplier. Once the supplier is officially accepted, you then develop the maintenance plan with that supplier. What tools are you going to use (thinking cost-effectively) to ensure that the accepted Quality is sustained. 

When a supplier has shown consistent good quality, you can reduce the frequency of the testing to a minimum. It is always worthwhile to try and accept the supplier's own test results - once you have ensured that this testing is being carried out correctly and reliably. 

For each tool you use, be clear on what is to be done if something goes wrong - or is not acceptable. Plan B's or Contingency Planning. This could also mean you having to change your level of acceptance - maybe what you think (or your company thinks) is not okay is really not a problem. This occurs when R&D define a specification too narrowly, usually out of lack of experience / knowledge with that characteristic. 

Corrective Action Plans

There are tools from the Automobile industry to ensure Correction Actions are implemented correctly. Check out 8D Problem Solving

Proximity to Supplier

Do note too, that in our experience, proximity to a supplier was often very valuable. Purchasing often found companies that were very far away that had cheaper prices - they are after all, under pressure to keep to their budgets, but in the long run, the locals were cheaper.

There were less communication errors, quick turnaround times on problem solving, quick contingency planning. The risk factor was simply less - a point worth remembering. 

Approach to take starting out with 
Supplier Quality Management Defined.

My advice is, once you have gained an overview of the approach in how you want your Supplier Quality Management defined, set about developing your processes. This will clarify a lot of steps for you.

Start off with the overview - a process landscape and then break it down successively. The starting point of each process has to be the aim of that process, the steps involved are the tools and decisions that are made to get there. For an easy approach to Process Mapping, check out:

Check out also, the CTQ Tree and how useful that will be for your determining of critical requirements and their drivers at the interface to the supplier. Its a very handy tool to have when you want your Supplier Quality Management defined.

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