Quality problems can be minimised by simply selecting competent and co-operative suppliers.
There are many ways that we can employ to identify competent suppliers and we shall discuss only three of them in this article. We shall consider product testing, proposal analysis and capability survey.
It is important to note capability surveys are recommended during the vetting of approved suppliers and not at the purchasing stage.
Product testing refers to tests carried on a product before one makes a decision to purchase.
Quality of products can be determined by engineering test or by use test. Use test is very common in the motor industry where a potentially big customer is given a product to operate for a period up to six months assessing its performance.
Customer operates the product or equipment assessing responsiveness to their specific needs before a purchasing decision is made.
It is expected such test can be done by institutions such as the uniformed forces and parastatals when deciding on a suitable vehicle or equipment to use given the volumes and values associated with their fleet.
Engineering tests can be done by the seller through exhibitions or through agents. Many view the environment is stage-managed and would not effectively expose practical situations and therefore field test runs are preferred.
The objectives of product testing are two folds:
• To determine that a potential supplier’s quality level is commensurate with the buyer’s quality needs
• It affords feasibility study to compare quality levels of different suppliers, where there are many suppliers offering that product. The development of a list of capable suppliers is done without difficulty.
For such test to be effective, appropriate data need to be collected and the product needs to be exposed to the environment it is envisaged to operate in.
Supplier capability may also be done by assessing proposals. Proposal can be direct, addressed to you or indirectly, from commercial advertisements.
What is important is the capacity to identify how that proposal intends to comply with the buyer’s quality requirements.
A professional buyer must have capacity to detect misrepresentations or possible areas of overemphasis that can be related to sales puff by prospective suppliers.
Where quality is of essence, it is important to request potential suppliers state explicitly how they plan to achieve the specified quality level consistently.
When proposals satisfy on paper buyer’s requirements, the next step is to evaluate the suppliers’ capabilities on-site. It is important to note this requirement cannot be done to all suppliers because of the costs involved.
From my previous articles, I emphasised categorisation using Pareto Principle, ABC Analysis, XYZ, VED, etc, as a basis of deciding which categories to invest resources in.
Inspection of supplier attempts to get information on the firm’s basic quality policy, the attitude of management and employees to quality issues and quality programmes such as TQM, quality circles, kaizen, zero defects, six sigma, etc you also need to assess the suppliers financial and technical capabilities to meet your needs as a buyer.
It is unfortunate that most supplier visits that involve external suppliers exclude the buying team that has expertise in such issues.
If organisations are serious about quality management, supplier assessment visits must be lead by the procurement unit to achieve all the issues we have discussed in this article
Nyasha Chizu is a fellow of CIPS and CIPS Zimbabwe branch chairman writing in his personal capacity. Email: email@example.com