Whatever your industry or your quality management approach, supply chain quality management is a necessity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making cars or potato chips, or if you use Kaizen or Six Sigma. If you use any materials not made in-house, you need supplies. And if you need supplies, you need to monitor their quality.
And the best way to monitor quality, is to have a good relationship with your suppliers. Managing supplier quality isn’t just a series of transactions. Managing supplier quality is about fostering a relationship where both parties work towards a common goal.
Fortunately, whatever your industry may be, there are supplier quality management basics that can solidify any relationship. These five supplier quality management basics will help put your business on a sure footing, no matter what you do.
- Maintain Good Communications
- Assess Your Risks
- Have a Single Source of Truth
- Use Root Cause Analysis to Find Solutions
- Use Technology
1. Maintain Good Communications
Good communications are essential to any relationship, and that’s no different for suppliers. Suppliers need to be open about what they’re providing, and you need to be open about what you want. This is true whether you work with two suppliers or two hundred.
And no matter how many suppliers work with you, it’s your overall relationships with them that matters. Modern supplier relationships aren’t just transactional. They’re multi-faceted, and often continue for long periods. That being the case, communications are essential.
Communication undergirds every stage of the supplier quality management relationship. Whether you’re auditing your supplier, or reacting to a recall, maintaining open lines of communication is necessary every step of the way. It’s also necessary to communicate what you expect to your own employees, so their audits are tracking the same standards.
If you run into problems with a supplier, open lines of communication make things easier. The supplier won’t see your communication as one more complaint, but as part of a relationship where information flows both ways.
ETQ Reliance’s Document Control feature helps you keep the lines of communication open. Whatever information your users require will be immediately available to them on the QMS platform. Furniture manufacturer Herman Miller used ETQ to keep communications open with their suppliers. When a corrective action was necessary, Reliance made it easy for Herman Miller to get what they needed. “Whenever HMI (Herman Miller Inc.) staff notice a problem that needs to be addressed, an HMI quality person assigns a corrective action directly to the supplier,” said Senior Quality Specialist Ken Grisso. As a result, Herman Miller has reduced by 50% the time required for a corrective action. Where a paper-based corrective action process took an average of thirty days, corrective actions using ETQ took only fourteen days.
“One of the key requirements when we bought ETQ was that we could use it for supplier management. Our supplier quality engineering group is extremely happy with ETQ.” – Steve Bergeron, CREE
2. Assess Your Risks
No matter what supplies you require, there are risks involved. Whether it’s a late shipment or a faulty product, it’s good to consider all the ways Murphy’s Law might kick in, before it does.
ETQ Reliance’s Risk Assessment feature organizes all the potential risks associated with a supplier. However, your various branches assess risks, ETQ will provide a centralized digital location for this data. Reliance’s Supply Chain Quality Management app can also mitigate risk by automating receiving and inspection so suppliers are required to inspect materials according to your specifications, before those materials even ship.
Better yet, the way ETQ collects data can make risk a lens through which you view your business. ETQ lets you filter corrective actions by risk, which will give you a better view of which suppliers are high risk, and which are more reliable. That in turn gives you the chance to rank suppliers by risk factor, and measure how you may need to alter your supplier relationships. In keeping with the idea that supplier relationships are just that, ETQ also helps by allowing your suppliers to view open corrective actions, rather than be left in the dark, uncertain about where they stand with you.
3. Have a Single Source of Truth
It’s difficult enough keeping track of multiple employees. And when you’ve got multiple employees in multiple departments, it tends to mean multiple software systems. Add to that keeping track of multiple suppliers, and you’ve got an exponential headache. With that many information inputs, it’s essential to have a single source of truth for your organization.
ETQ gives you that single source of truth. ETQ can interface with your ERP and other existing programs, getting your data out of silos and into a central location accessible to all users. For tasks like supplier audits, that centralization can mean efficiencies that translate into savings. ETQ gives you the chance to configure audits according to how you do things, no matter how many audits your team handles, or what questions go into an audit. And since ETQ’s a cloud-based program, any employee who can use the program can access those audits. That means efficiencies, and time and money saved on what used to be proliferating paperwork.
4. Use Root Cause Analysis to Find Solutions
Sooner or later, you’re likely to get a less-than-perfect item from even the best supplier. When that occurs, quality professionals know that root cause analysis is a solid way to keep one slip-up from becoming a systematic problem. But root cause analysis can be a troublesome multi-step process, especially when you’re working with a supplier.
ETQ’s Corrective Action feature is perfectly suited to help you navigate any complicated multi-step process. The real-time dashboards provided by ETQ’s CAPA functionality get all the information you need in one place. Better yet, it’s in one place that you, and your supplier, can get access to. And once you’ve got a corrective action plan figured out, you’ll be able to collaborate on it in the cloud.
If you’re looking for further root cause analysis tools that complement ETQ’s root cause modalities, check out our Root Cause Analysis toolkit.
5. Use Technology
Covid-19 has been a crash course for everyone in handling distributed teams. It’s only driven home something that savvy quality professionals already know: the best solutions are as distributed as workers are during Covid.
A cloud-based software solution like ETQ’s enables supplier quality no matter where your employees are, or when they’re working. Should a problem with a shipment come up at an odd hour of the night, employees can find that out, and access information about it, no matter where they are. Better yet, the fact that this information’s kept in the cloud makes it more secure than it would be otherwise.
Beyond the 5 Supplier Quality Management Basics
While these five are important to any business’ supplier quality management program, they’re just the start for any business looking to improve their quality initiatives. If you’re interested in all the ways software can transform quality from a necessity into a profit generator, ETQ would be happy to walk you through a demo.