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When buying a product, quality is the first thing that comes to mind. Nobody likes to buy anything of poor quality. The only way to ensure this is by putting in place a robust quality inspection mechanism in the procurement and sourcing process. Because true to the oft quoted Will Foster gem, ‘Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skilful execution’. Planned procurement, unlike buying something off the shelf, implies quality control embedded in the process, with an overall sourcing inspection strategy. This involves aspects like examining, measuring and testing products and raw materials for their attributes and desired specifications. Quality control also involves inspection of the process of checking for quality, rounded off with audit for analysing the entire procedure.
Choosing the right supplier is not an easy process to begin with. It takes time and experience to establish a good supply chain. Before looking for a supplier, one must know the exact requirements in terms of what, how much, how frequently and at what cost. Supplier quality assurance is a good starting point when looking for the right suppliers, as poor quality will nullify the entire process and the time invested in setting it up.
There are a few important points to consider when choosing the right supplier for your needs:
Capability – is the supplier capable or competent enough to fulfil the needs? What is the supplier’s track record? Do they have enough capacity and flexibility to cater to your requirements?
Stability – How stable is the company in business and financial terms? Is the company creditworthy? How long is it in business? Is the company good enough to be a long term partner with all the resources?
Quality commitment – How reliable is the supplier in terms of quality control strategy? Do they have the necessary personnel and facilities for inspection and testing? How reliable is the company in terms of commitment to timely delivery schedules?
Price control – How does the cost compare with the competitors? While low cost is not an ideal yardstick when forming strategic sourcing partnerships, is the cost unreasonably high? How good is the quality assurance at that price?
Work culture – This should more or less be in sync with your own work ethics and culture. How fair is the company in dealing with its employees? Is the supplier following environmental norms and is committed to sustainability?
Procedural transparency – How good and effective are the communication channels and the entire process and documentation? Is the company following all modern business process tools? Is there a problem solving mechanism in place?
Quality is not ensured by assurances alone. It has to be backed by an effective monitoring and inspection process that is also transparent and open to scrutiny. The inspection process is not only to verify quality, but also suitability of the product for the given application. An otherwise high-quality product or component may carry a wrong specification and hence unsuitable for high temperature operation. Workplaces today are dynamic with flexible assembly lines and frequent product mixes that can put a regular supply chain under a strain. Increasingly, companies rely on software solutions to take care of such critical requirements. A customised quality management software along with the team of qualified professionals can take care of the quality control and inspection process by setting up proper process requirements and product specifications for each application and flag off deviations.
The quality management experts can manage all operations related to quality and inspection of the procurement process such as:
• Raw materials and pre-production requirement of testing and inspection
• Inspection during production to verify correct standards and specifications
• Post production and pre-shipment inspection to verify the correct goods
• Pre- and post-packaging inspection as well as oversight of loading operation
• Proper documentation of all tests and certificates, and
• Acceptance checks after receiving the consignments.
For businesses to succeed, it is important to build a strong relationship with suppliers and treat them as partners. As the pandemic disrupted the global supply chains, the point was further brought home how deep supplier relationships help when adversities come visiting. The suppliers, in turn, are willing partners when taken into confidence. But is important to engage with them with the project from the earliest stage and incorporate them into strategic decision making. This takes the relationship beyond price, making them involved in the success of the project. Another factor is to bring them on par with contemporary technologies through the eProcurement system for better communication and data sharing. There will always be stray cases of deals still going sour but building strong supplier network will keep those cases to a minimum. The message is clear – invest time and resources in building relationships.