How to Optimize New & Existing Quality Initiatives
As a quality professional, you’re responsible for meeting the needs of a sea of internal and external stakeholders while managing the cost, quality, and timely delivery of supplier products. With so many moving parts, your job can get complicated.
But it doesn’t have to be. By taking a proactive approach to supplier quality management, you can build a strategic plan that effectively streamlines your processes. In other words, it simplifies your life.
Planning around known pain points — everything from an overwhelming inbox to unclear business goals and diverging stakeholder expectations — also helps you develop a system that consistently yields better results. That means you walk away with a more efficient and cost-effective quality program with fewer risks, a higher return on investment in supplier relationships, and better quality products for customers at lower costs.
This article explores the objectives of your role, the daily challenges you face, and actionable steps you can take to optimize your quality initiatives.
Build Better, More Collaborative Supplier Relationships
Your company’s success depends to a large degree on your suppliers. After all, they’re important partners without whom you wouldn’t be in business. For this reason, it’s in your interest to foster collaborative and communicative supplier relationships.
As an SQM professional, you likely complain about communication issues, delays in accessing important documents, and/or a weak supply base. But it’s imperative that you also take your supplier’s pain points into account. Shifting priorities, a lack of standard protocol, and poor communication are among their most persistent difficulties. Unfortunately, these issues contribute to operational interruptions, eroded morale, and lost time and money. By addressing these common supplier complaints, you can make significant progress toward your goal of developing a network of trusted suppliers.
To develop stronger supplier relationships, follow these best practices:
- Adopt a proactive and strategic management style that favors collaboration for better corrective action and seeks to address the root causes of issues.
- Open up lines of communication and train key stakeholders to ensure they’re fully briefed on your organization’s standards.
- When it comes to inspections and assessments, include your suppliers in the process of meeting regulatory requirements.
The stronger your supplier relationships, the fewer risks your organization will face and the happier your customers will be.
Standardize Supplier Quality and Performance Metrics
Without clear goals, your suppliers can’t effectively organize their priorities or make informed business decisions. And when they’re left to guesswork, your program is vulnerable to diminishing quality and disappointed stakeholders.
Establishing clear business goals, in contrast, can help you identify appropriate success metrics against which you can measure supplier performance.
Keep in mind that the key to a collaborative approach is transparency. For this reason, it’s important to produce a manual, which can be shared both internally and with your suppliers, that outlines the responsibilities of each party. This document should include information about key performance indicators as well as the structure of your evaluation process, and can be updated as needed.
Access to such information will reduce confusion, empower your suppliers to act as true business partners, and boost the likelihood of meeting your targets.
Measure and Track the Cost of Poor Supplier Quality
Poor supplier quality certainly has a negative impact on your company. But it’s impossible to measure the exact costs if all you have in hand is anecdotal evidence. If you want real insights that help you improve your supplier quality program, you’ll need to adopt a system that returns usable data.
You can’t track changes without a baseline of data, so a good place to start is using the data from your annual or bi-annual audits. Develop supplier scorecards that, at minimum, measure supplier quality, responsiveness, and delivery performance. To stay on top of your team’s status, make sure you have your suppliers’ most recent quality certifications.
By putting a bit of effort into tracking key data points, you can save yourself a huge headache down the road.
Increase Visibility with Quality Management Software
Identifying and tracking supplier quality data is imperative, but that data is only useful if it’s easy to access and gain insights from. Quality management software, designed to solve this problem, provides you with visibility into key supplier metrics and overall program performance.
If you’re like many supplier quality managers, you know that SQM software exists, but — due to digital dread — you’ve yet to adopt it. While your financial and organizational concerns are legitimate, they’re hurting your business. The thing is, data stored in disparate and incompatible places are difficult to locate and nearly impossible to compare. This outdated operating model not only loses you time and money, but also prevents you from gaining valuable insights that help your company grow.
A bit of upfront planning, paired with careful execution, allows you to gain control over your processes — making them more efficient and effective. Similarly, an investment in SQM software streamlines your operations, including your document management, approvals, onboarding, renewals, and audits — saving you time and money, while providing you with the ability to identify opportunities and spot trends in your wider supply chain.
Choosing to be more strategic and less reactive can save you the headaches that come along with outdated systems and manual processes. With a little help from technology, you can develop a strong supply base and optimize your quality program.
Consider and Align All Stakeholders
Every business has a community of stakeholders. Some, like executive leaders, are internal to your organization, while others, like suppliers and customers, reside outside of your walls. All, by definition, have a stake in your company’s success, which is why every stakeholder deserves attention. Your challenge is to clarify who needs what, when.
To accomplish this goal, you’ll first need to identify all stakeholders and strive to understand what success looks like from their perspectives. A customer, for example, might see success as receiving the right product, at the right time, for a competitive price. In contrast, a regulatory body needs reassurance that you’ve met health and safety obligations, and a manager is concerned with maintaining smooth operations. No matter how disparate their perspectives, each must be addressed.
Think about how you can be accountable to each stakeholder, including how you’ll report back to them. Plan to meet their requirements but make sure they align with your business objectives and program priorities. Managing stakeholders can be confusing, but advance planning and prioritization can make the task easier.
Supplier quality managers have a difficult job. To be successful, you must address the competing needs of stakeholders, while tracking a sea of quality data. Quality management software can help accomplish these goals, but it’s equally important to adopt a proactive and collaborative approach to managing — and systematically improving — your quality program. If you keep these principles in mind will be a step ahead in tackling the complex challenges of this field.
RizePoint offers a supplier quality management solution that helps you mitigate legal risks and better control quality and compliance, so you can spend more time building strategic programs. It’s an easy-to-use, streamlined solution at a price you can afford. Click >> here to learn more today.