The Relationship between Suppliers and Quality Management

The Relationship between Suppliers and Quality Management
January 24, 2013 seouser

Aside from your customers and the business itself, your suppliers are also affected by your quality management systems. In most cases, having a transparent, effective process in regards to your supply chain is something that is almost mandatory if you are aiming to achieve business standardisation. Improving the quality levels of your suppliers boils down to establishing criteria for every supplier, as well as assessing their efficiency, improving the selection process and of course, monitoring your chosen supply partners. Requirements need to be outlined, an evaluation needs then to be performed followed by on-going monitoring.

How to Assess Suppliers for Quality Management

There are a few criteria that will help make the relationship between your company, your suppliers and your quality management goals far smoother. These include the following:

1. Assessment should be continual rather than periodic

The initial decision to partner with a certain supplier may be an important one, but don’t assume that the assessment begins and ends there. This relationship will (hopefully) be a long one. In order to ensure continual improvement, you need continual assessment to make sure that they continue to meet your quality goals.

2. Metrics should be defined by performance and quality

It is common for companies to measure only the things that seem to matter to the business at large, but when it comes to quality objectives, metrics should be determined also by your own standards of performance and quality. Your suppliers might measure their own performance, but this is not always enough. After all, it is your quality management system that needs to succeed – not your suppliers’ system.

3. Informed quality decisions should be made rather than hasty ones

Doing a bit of legwork early on into the relationship is far better from a quality perspective than making hasty decisions that may not take a deeper look into the factors that matter. Start the assessment upfront, to determine the supplier’s strengths and skills before you begin the contract. Of course, if it is a once-off supplier, a risk evaluation should also be done. The aim here is to reduce or eliminate the risk of surprises once you have signed on the dotted line.

4. Every assessment is different – they are however all based on your ultimate goals

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for assessing your suppliers. It all comes down to many variables, from your product to size of the business – even the industry. One thing that every assessment does have in common though is that customer satisfaction is your primary quality management goal. As such, this should be top of mind with every new supply contract. Conducting a yearly supplier review or even an audit is a simple way to do assessments. In this way, you can keep track of past performance as well as quality management objectives that have been adhered to, standards that have been met and any potential compliance issues that may have arisen at some point. Creating a supply agreement with your key suppliers is also a good idea, which can assist in managing this relationship better. Keeping track of accountability for quality processes will also go a long way in preventing potential issues, thereby keeping your quality management goals on track at all times.