Top 5 Supplier Quality Management Challenges & How to Solve Them

As a quality professional, you know that better supplier quality management would streamline your processes, mitigate risk, and save your company money over the long term. But without a sufficient budget, it’s difficult to achieve.

It’s a familiar conundrum — one that’s central to the job. The good news is that interrupting the dysfunction and repairing the cycle is within reach.

Taking on this big-picture problem by tackling it in increments means frequent, smaller successes and a path towards continual improvement. Starting with these top SQM issues is an effective way to educate and convince stakeholders to contribute more resources to quality initiatives, which will help you meet quality and safety targets while reducing operating costs.

1. Strained Budget and Resources

Companies with tight budgets often dedicate few resources to quality initiatives, which can be a costly mistake.

While you may already know the value of investing in quality management, you likely still need to convince the higher-ups. If you’re failing to develop risk formulas, implement supplier scorecards, track cost of quality (COQ), or continually improve your processes based on CAPA learnings, you won’t be able to deliver the best and most financially beneficial quality oversight.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start Where You Are. The first step is to track your COQ and build a business case to present to leadership. Don’t wait for more resources. Instead, start collecting and analyzing the data you have.
  • Focus. Select a single quality issue, set a benchmark, and begin making improvements. Document and compare your results with your benchmark. Then, keep working to make measurable improvements.
  • Research. SQM is a well-established field, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Research and learn from the experts in your industry. Keep yourself updated on regulatory changes from standards bodies like ASQ and ISO.

Don’t be daunted. By collecting even a small amount of historical data to show senior management and presenting evidence of how quality initiatives affect your bottom line, you’ll build a compelling case for your department. Showing a trend, such as fewer warranty claims and recalls, can help demystify the connection.

2. Difficult Communication with Suppliers

As important business partners, your suppliers can make or break your success. So, dealing with slow or faulty responses, poor communication, or compliance issues can be very real (and expensive) problems for your company.

Follow these tips to manage supplier communication:

  • Document. Make sure your suppliers have easy access to information on your standard processes. This could include a simple step-by-step one-sheet, but make sure they can also review a detailed manual.
  • Communicate. Don’t leave it up to individuals to track your organizational changes. When you update your processes, proactively communicate those changes to your suppliers.
  • Build Relationships. To ensure your suppliers feel like true business partners, prioritize supplier relationship management. Being recognized for their contribution to your success, for example, can keep them invested in your business.

The more people you have on your side, the better. Remember: When your suppliers have a stake in your business success, they are more likely to work proactively to help you solve problems.

3. Lack of Visibility for Senior Management

All stakeholders need specific information to do their jobs effectively. Ad hoc requests can pull you away from important projects, so it’s important to be proactive in supplying the information they need. This is especially true for senior management.

Here are some tips for increasing visibility:

  • Strategize. Create a stakeholder management strategy that accounts for all your stakeholders. Find out what information and metrics they need to do their jobs, and how they prefer it’s presented.
  • Educate. Make sure you’re reporting on any COQ efforts you can accomplish with your current resources and detail how they’re affecting your company’s bottom line.
  • Schedule. For the best results, set up a regular reporting schedule.

Being proactive and anticipating the needs of your stakeholders will reduce ad hoc requests and save you time. It also gives you a regular voice at the table, which could help you garner resources for your programs in the future.

4. Too Many Manual, Repetitive Administrative Tasks

If you’re still using spreadsheets, you’re spending more time than you need to on handling documentation, communicating with stakeholders, and collecting data.

The sheer volume of information involved in SQM is reason enough to find a better solution. When you add scalability issues and data retrieval challenges with spreadsheets as your tool, you’re looking at an out-of-date system that prevents you from outperforming your competitors.

Quality management software — which helps you manage the same information, only better and faster — exists for almost every business size and budget.

By automating administrative tasks, you can gain back precious time, mitigate business risk, and reduce overhead costs.

5. Hard-to-Find or Lost Data

When you manually track quality data, you open yourself up to more human error, which can result in a loss of organizational knowledge. Quickly finding the most accurate and current documentation is a key part of SQM, so lost or missing data can be a costly hindrance.

To address this issue, consider automating your data collection and storage. Along with the benefits mentioned above, QMS software with a search feature can help you stay on top of your data by allowing you to search by any number of variables, from name and date to compliance status.

When you automate your data retrieval you can manage by exception, putting your attention where it’s needed most, so you can make the most of your limited budget and resources.

Despite conventional thinking that pits quality initiatives against budget, there’s a strong case to be made for the contrary. With adequate funding, your quality program can help your company save money — a win-win situation for every stakeholder in your community.

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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.

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