The challenges of supplier quality assurance

Skillful factory worker working with clipboard to do job procedure checklist . Factory production line occupation quality control concept .
In the continuation of this series of articles on quality, today we will address the topic of supplier quality assurance. This is the set of methods to ensure the conformity of suppliers’ products by reducing inspection and processing costs. The consequences of poor quality management of components from suppliers can be serious: in the short term, additional manufacturing costs or missed deadlines impacting profitability; in the long term, malfunctions of marketed products impacting the turnover and image of the company.  

Supplier quality assurance activity is process-oriented

Thus, the supplier quality assurance activity is process-oriented: it ensures that the right actions are carried out in an appropriate manner to deliver a product that complies with the defined requirements. Consequently, it must monitor all the human and material resources put in place by suppliers. Quality assurance enables risks to be controlled and anticipated with the aim of eliminating them. To do so, it sets a reference frame with the quality department and enforces the norms/standards. It defines and pilots the indicators, controls the methods, and chooses the tools for suppliers and buyers. Subsequently, it verifies the relevance of the suppliers’ quality system and makes sure that it is correctly applied through monitoring and audits. It informs and assists suppliers in adapting the quality system according to requirements.

The implementation of relevant indicators is a central point of supplier quality assurance

Indeed, the information provided by the indicators will give a vision of the performance of all suppliers. The detection of all non-conformities is therefore essential. In order not to miss any of them, their declaration must be intuitive and achievable in all conditions. In order to respond to this problem, we can integrate a tool that controls all quality events. Our tool has, among other things, a functionality allowing the entitled party to declare non-compliances; this can be done via the web application or a mobile application that works offline and allows to take pictures, in order to avoid spending too much time describing the problem. We can also connect to the enterprise ERP to retrieve the non-compliances declared there in production, for example.

Identify efficient and less efficient suppliers

Once the indicators are in place, we will be able to identify high-performing suppliers to reduce controls and lower-performing suppliers to manage and improve them. In this respect, our tool offers the possibility for the supplier quality manager to carry out analyses such as PARETO, FMECA and MSP in order to support him in his decision making.
Each supplier will have to be audited more or less frequently, depending on its performance; these audits will generate audit reports. Depending on the results of the audit, an action plan will be set up by the supplier to meet our requirements, always with the objective of delegating, as much as possible, the investigation phases to suppliers to save the company’s internal resources. To do this, we can integrate a supplier portal into the software suite used by the supplier quality manager. This portal is secure and allows to control all exchanges with suppliers. We will intervene in the preparation of the audit and especially in the follow-up of action plans, allowing interaction with the supplier through a workflow that the supplier quality assurance and the supplier will come to update together. It is also possible to exchange and store documents in order to centralize all the information transmitted by the supplier. In addition, the portal is equipped with a discussion thread to trace the exchanges on a file.

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