How do you select the right suppliers?

Selecting suppliers is undoubtedly one of the most challenging tasks organizations contend with.  Between finding, evaluating and selecting suppliers that will meet existing needs with room to grow doesn’t have to be an arduous process.  While requirements do vary greatly depending on industry, company size, demand, etc., the process of supplier selection can be simplified using a general road map that reduces much of the risks and cost.

So, how do you select the right suppliers?

Evaluate your needs– Where supplier selection and most other things are concerned, planning is key.  Organizations need to carefully evaluate the internal and external factors that affect the kind of supplier they need.  Not only is it a good idea for organizational strategy purposes, but potential suppliers will likely find this information useful for quoting purposes as well.  I’ve found that feedback relating to poor choices in supplier selection is mainly attributed to poor communication.  In other words, failure to meet expectations usually happens when expectations are not well defined and/or communicated to all.

Find potential suppliers using a concentrated checklist– Once you’ve figured out what you need, imagine the ideal supplier.  In fact, brainstorm all of the characteristics that this perfect supplier would have.  Then, take that list of wants and needs and concentrate it down to a handful of attributes.  If you find it difficult to narrow down, see if any of the items can be characterized into a broader category and then assign weighted values.  It’s a good idea to incorporate values regardless so analyzing the options becomes easier.  Scouting often starts with online searches using marketplaces such as Alibaba.com.  Follow-up interviews using the checklist as a guideline keeps everything in perspective.

Analyze the options– Go back and review the serious prospects.  Pick a handful that outshines the rest based on the checklists.  A grid analysis is an excellent tool for organizing information like this.  It forces you to look at the bigger picture, yet it retains the ability to see each option separate or broken down by characteristic.  At this point, a proactive approach we suggest is conducting supplier audits for the two or three choices that stand out as the best potential fit.  “An on-site audit of the facility includes an evaluation of general operations, quality systems, qualifications and capabilities of the supplier as a viable source.”   During an audit, checklist information can be verified on-site through various interviews and documentation review.

Make a decision—  When selecting suppliers, make sure you maintain perspective regarding your requirements and weights of various attributes as noted during the information gathering process.  It’s very easy to look at the bottom line and compromise on salient issues.  Trust your information.  And, be sure to follow-up with any potential prospects you didn’t select.

Develop a relationship– Developing a relationship with suppliers is critical to long-term success.  It’s difficult to find a company that disagrees with this, but much easier to find one that truly dedicates the time and resources towards accomplishing it. Documented expectations and open communication reduce the headaches associated with poor quality, missed shipments or ultimately the process of switching suppliers.  Regular follow-up is an invaluable and cost-effective way to identify potential issues early on.

Monitor performance– Ongoing evaluation of suppliers is necessary for continuous improvement.  Gathering and analyzing performance data (inspection defect information, return rates, etc.) on a regular basis, in addition to intermittent on-site audits, identifies areas of improvement and insures expectations are being met. Where necessary, corrective action can be incorporated to resolve issues prior to customer impact and possibly even before they start.

Note that as a 3rd party quality assurance provider with resources in over 30 countries, Pro QC assists clients with Vendor Identification services that includes checklist development and scouting. In addition, Pro QC’s team of quality professionals offer expertise and local knowledge you can put to use on-site, providing unbiased assessments while reducing the time and cost associated with travel and evaluation. Product InspectionsCorrective Action and Supplier Development services also complement the supplier selection process as noted in this article.

Global Sources China & India Sourcing Fair (Dubai)

Bruno Singier, Pro QC’s Marketing Manager for Europe and Asia, and Ruei Chen travelled to Dubai earlier this month for the Global Sources China and India Sourcing Fair.  The show was held between May 31st and June 2nd at the International Convention and Exhibition Center.

Our booth was well located, at the main entrance of Hall 8 and opposite the Global Sources booth.  Bruno reported consistent traffic and had an opportunity to speak with many companies from the Emirates and other Middle-East countries.  He also noted several companies were from India/Pakistan and Europe.

For a schedule of upcoming shows, visit our newsletter site.

Raising the Voice of Quality: A 5W2H Approach

Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of attending and presenting at the local ASQ Section 1508 meeting over in St. Petersburg, Florida.   I had originally planned to discuss a prior article relating to quality misconceptions but later shifted the topic over to “Raising the Voice of Quality.” After attending the World Quality Conference in May, I was excited and ready to spread the word. I took a 5W2H approach that was well received.  It really was wonderful to reconnect with people that I haven’t seen in years… And, it was also a great opportunity to meet several new passionate quality professionals that live in the area.  Good stuff!

The information I presented ties in with the latest Feature Article we issued through the quarterly newsletter earlier this month.  The full presentation from last night’s meeting can be downloaded here: VoiceOfQuality_5W2H

“If, as Dr. Juran foretold, the 21st Century is to be the century of quality, it’s high time the quality community raises its voice, to bring more attention to what it knows about the quality concepts, techniques, and tools to make the world a better place.”   ~Paul Borawski (www.asq.org/blog)

Product Inspection Strategy

A frequent question account managers receive is how to employ an inspection strategy to identify issues early and continue to ensure that product meets specifications.  Most agree that the tangible and intangible costs associated with poor quality support a preemptive strategy. The answer isn’t necessarily a simple one due to the variances involved in product specific requirements.  But, a general method of attack is suggested here:

 

Inspection Plan Development
A good plan is only as good as its foundation, so a comprehensive and detailed product specification is critical to the success of the overall strategy.  Pro QC often assists clients with this documentation creation and also uses it internally to direct engineers on-site.  A good plan incorporates anything that will affect the salability and performance of the product.

 

First-Article Inspections
Pro QC inspects first-article samples prior to volume production.  That means the product specifications are being met and reengineering won’t be necessary at an inconvenient point of time in the future.

 

In-Process Inspections
These on-site inspections evaluate samples of your products selected during the manufacturing process.  It confirms the quality of your product and allows any necessary changes to be addressed early on.  Incorporating these inspections reduces rework time and costs.

 

Pre-Shipment Inspections
During a pre-shipment inspection, engineers verify that the finished goods confirm to your specifications.  A representative sample is chosen randomly from the lot using a sampling plan such as ANSI Z1.4. The criteria is used to determine sampling levels and accept/reject determinations.

 

Inspection schedules are dependent on factors such past performance, so costs associated with preventative action are also reduced as performance becomes predictable and/or stable.  Continuous improvement and consistent results means investing in quality throughout the process and avoiding associated risks and cost in the future.