Supplier Quality Audit Basics

PurchTips edition #150


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What Should You Do On A Supplier Quality Audit?

For important purchases, ensuring acceptable supplier quality is critical. Performing a supplier quality audit is one step in ensuring the selection of a capable supplier.

A supplier quality audit is more than just walking a supplier's shop floor and looking around. You should leave a supplier quality audit with a greater understanding of at least the following items.

Quality Methodologies – Many quality methodologies are used today including Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, and Lean Six Sigma. Ask the about the methodology the supplier employs and how it's used.

Lot Determinations – defines a lot as "a defined quantity of product accumulated under conditions considered uniform for sampling purposes." In quality recalls, good suppliers know exactly which lots were affected by the non-conforming material, ingredient, etc. So learn how the supplier tracks lots.

Tools – How is the supplier monitoring its quality? One common tool used is Statistical Process Control (SPC) charts. SPC identifies an acceptable range of quality measurements and then graphs actual measurements both between upper and lower limits of acceptability and outside those limits. Ask the supplier to show you how quality tools are used to monitor quality.

Improvements – Suppliers often use numbers to gauge their quality performance. Ask the supplier for a few years of reports with these metrics. Are the metrics getting better, worse, more static, or more erratic?

Team Empowerment – Experts agree that quality improves when line workers are empowered to watch for defects. Can the supplier's employees tell you what they do when a defect is discovered?

Sampling Arrangements – In mass production, not every unit made is inspected. How does the supplier choose the size and composition of inspected samples?

Inspection Process – How does the supplier inspect items before shipment? Is this inspection method similar to the way your company evaluates conformance?

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