Supplier Quality Management Systems

Supplier Quality 101: Key Processes & Measurements for Success

Companies across the globe are placing more emphasis on effectively controlling Supplier Quality. This includes improving product Quality, Delivery, Cost, and Responsiveness for supply partners involved in supporting your company’s product offerings. It is critical to identify and prevent quality issues that lead brand reputation, customer loyalty, and overall value of the company. Building an effective Supplier Quality Management System can be a daunting task, but below are a group of key processes and measurements that should be used to guide your company in the right direction as you continue the journey of developing and enhancing a Supplier Quality Management System.

Supplier Evaluation Process

As your company begins its product launch, identification and qualification of potential supply partners should be one of the first steps to come after the product has been designed. Partnering with the right strategic suppliers will allow your company to scale quickly and offer your product at a reasonable cost. Making the decision to avoid acquisition of tooling and internal manufacturing space by leveraging a trusted supply partner can be a great decision but often brings challenges with quality control and visibility.  It is critical for every organization to have a structured Supplier Evaluation Process or model in place to determine the level of quality, delivery, and responsiveness of each supplier that is being considered in the selection and sourcing phase.

ISO Certifications
These certifications primarily aim to give confidence to both firms and their stakeholders including customers and society in their systems and processes. Many buyers today will only consider partnering with supply partners that have achieved some form of quality standard. These quality standards can also bring financial benefits by cost reduction through improving internal quality management processes and building a trusted brand that results in increased revenue and overall performance. ISO certifications help remove international trade barriers. When companies across the globe recognize the same quality standards, they are on a more level playing field. Below are some of the common general and industry specific certifications.

General Certifications:
• ISO 9001: Quality Management (Most common Quality Management System)
• ISO 14001: Environmental Management
• ISO 27001: Information Security Management

Industry Specific Certifications:
• TS 16949: Automotive
• AS9100: Aerospace
• ISO 13485: Medical Device

Develop a Supplier Quality Assurance Manual
The Supplier Quality Assurance Manual is intended to serve as a reference for a company’s suppliers to better understand the requirements and their role in the shared responsibility to deliver great products when measured for quality, delivery, cost, and responsiveness. This manual contains several documents that include expectations and working procedures to assist your supply partners in reaching premium supplier status.

Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP)
APQP is a structured method of defining and establishing the steps necessary to ensure that a product satisfies the customer. APQP involves 75% up front planning and 25% implementation through production, to determine customer satisfaction and continuous improvement. Although APQP is generally associated with the automotive industry, the quality planning processes in APQP can be applicable among many industries.

Production Part Approval Process (PPAP)
A vital part of APQP, PPAP is a structured process used commonly in the automotive and aerospace industries that helps manufacturers and suppliers communicate and approve production designs and processes before, during, and after the manufacturing phase. This process is often started by a customer requesting information from a supplier to ensure that the supplied components will meet the customer’s requirements for a new product being introduced to the market.

Measurement System Analysis (MSA)
MSA is an experimental and mathematical method of determining how much the variation within the measurement process contributes to overall process variability. There are five parameters to investigate in an MSA: bias, linearity, stability, repeatability and re-producibility. This method is most commonly used in assessing a supplier’s ability to stay within the required quality specifications.

Failure Mode & Effects Analysis (FMEA)
A step-by-step approach for identifying all possible failures in a design, a manufacturing or assembly process, or a product or service. “Failure modes” means the ways, or modes, in which something might fail. This method of collecting information can improve quality and reliability by focusing on risk reduction activities internally and with supply partners.

Fundamental Statistical Process Control (SPC)
SPC is a method of quality control which uses statistical methods to optimize performance. SPC can be applied in order to monitor and control a process. Monitoring and controlling the process ensures that it operates consistently at its full potential.

A Supplier Quality Management System is developed to encourage continuous improvement by clearly communicating your company’s expectations and requirements to your supply partners. It also helps ensure that a professional and structured exchange is achieved between all parties on all issues regarding product Quality, Delivery, Cost, and Responsiveness. The implementation of a Supplier Quality Management System also assists your suppliers in the development of their own business and manufacturing processes, which enhances future competitiveness and success. It is important to understand that there is never a finish line for Supplier Quality Management; it is a continuously evolving effort to improve.