March 5, 2014 / customer service, product liability, quality, supply chain
When most managers think about quality, they tend to think about their internal operations and the competency of their staff. And, yes, quality control is largely based on the processes that managers have put in place to ensure that tolerances are met, cosmetic expectations are achieved, and errors are kept to a minimum.
However, it is important for managers to remember that quality begins with the supply chain. As echoed in this paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT), product liability and traceability continue to be huge concerns for metal service centers, and mix-ups can be both expensive and dangerous. For this reason, it is critical that operations managers track the quality and accuracy of the material coming from the mill. By taking the time to confirm what is coming in the door, metal service centers can confidently supply products that are both accurate and fail-safe.
There are several tools today’s manufacturers are using to manage supplier quality. This blog from LNS Research lists several that could be useful, including supplier risk scorecards and document management. According to an article from Quality Magazine, these tools not only help manage supplier quality, but also keep the line of communication open. When failures do occur, the magazine suggests that manufacturers include suppliers in the process of determining the root cause of the issue. Instead of pointing fingers, the article says that manufacturers should use the opportunity to work closely with suppliers to strengthen quality processes so the same mistake doesn’t occur again.
Close supplier relationships can also help improve quality before errors occur. For example, this white paper from LIT discusses the role band saw manufacturers can play in optimizing processes and making sure manufacturers are getting the best possible results out of their equipment and industrial metal-cutting tools. By utilizing value-added services from trusted suppliers and making them more of a partner, service centers can improve quality and productivity—both of which impact the bottom line. In fact, this is one of the key principles on which the quality management system standards of ISO 9000 standards are based.
Quality can’t just be one aspect of an operation. As the Quality Magazine article confirms and as many leading companies have found, quality needs to be engrained in every aspect of an operation, starting with the supply chain.