Running a successful business requires care and attention to all aspects of your supply chain. There is perhaps no area more important for meeting your customers’ needs while mitigating corporate risk than supplier quality management (SQM).
What is Supplier Quality Management?
Just like it says on the box, supplier quality management (SQM) is everything that goes into evaluating, documenting, and tracking supplier quality. Your SQM must identify the best suppliers, maintain your supplier relationships, track and approve products to ensure quality for your consumers, and keep detailed records for audit.
In the food and beverage distribution industry, this can involve hundreds of suppliers, each offering multiple products — all of which you need to approve and track. That’s a lot of documentation, and if you’re like many mid-market distributors, chances are you’re doing it all manually. In addition to making it nearly impossible to effectively track quality, the higher risk of missing information or misfiled reports can result in big problems for you and your company.
Read on to learn more about how effective SQM can help you foster great relationships, ensure quality products reach the shelves, and avoid costly errors.
Supplier Quality Management in the Food and Beverage Distribution Industry
Supplier quality management is absolutely critical in the food and beverage industry, where the goods and products in question are consumables. In addition to all the typical distribution responsibilities, food and drink SQM professionals also have to account for additional safety and labelling standards.
The Food Modernization and Safety Act (FSMA), as well as most global standards like the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), require a certain level of food supply traceability. That is, you need to be able to provide current certification and quality confirmation for the products you sell. This is a massive undertaking so we recommend a “one-level-up and one-level-down” approach, in which you simply provide documentation about who you bought the product from and to whom you sold it. You must also be able to prove that your product matches the label. If it claims to be BPA-free, you need to show documentation. The same goes for kosher, organic, or goods marked as responsibly sourced. Come an audit or a foodborne illness incident, access to this paperwork will be essential.
According to FSMA rules, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can request information that you must make available within 24 hours, but your legal requirement is only the beginning. Your documentation might just be what helps pinpoint a problem before it has widespread effects. The bottom line is your SQM procedures can help you provide safe and quality products, and that’s always good for business.
From Manual to Accountable: A Better SQM Program
Supplier quality management is an exacting field that balances your customers’ needs for quality goods with industry standards, legal requirements, and your time and money investment. It’s complicated — but there are tools to make it easier.
Traditionally, the paperwork associated with SQM might be distributed across email accounts, spreadsheets, cloud storage, or even physical files. Organizing that material is complex enough. Doing so in a way that allows you to search by key data points — certifications, supplier performance, or expiration dates, for example — is nearly impossible.
This is where software can really help out, but it doesn’t have to involve a complete overhaul of your systems.
In general, you need to look for a solution that:
- Fosters Good Relationships. All business is based on relationships, and the most successful interactions go beyond single transactions. Building trust and communication with your suppliers is crucial, and it encourages innovation and collaboration.
- Provides You With Visibility and Your Suppliers with Clarity. Nobody likes guesswork. Your SQM program should set clear expectations while providing your suppliers with all the relevant information like specifications, requirements, and standards to fulfill your request. At the same time, it should offer visibility into your own processes.
- Is Scalable.You’re working hard to develop your business, so you’ll need an SQM program that grows with you.
Turning to a software solution takes the pain out of your paperwork, but there’s another business benefit to consider.
SQM professionals tend to approach their work either reactively or strategically. Reactive managers correct problems after they arise, causing them to be stuck in the now, whereas strategic managers take a proactive approach, allowing them to plan for the future and achieve long-term goals. In our experience, the most effective SQM is strategic, proactive, and collaborative. The bottom line is, you can’t build an effective strategy, foster good supplier relationships, or mitigate your risk if you’re always one step behind, looking for the right documents.
SQM covers a lot of ground. With the right systems in place, you will have access to the information you need to enhance your business, mitigate risks, and cut costs.
RizePoint offers a supplier quality management solution that helps you cut the time you manage suppliers in half, so you can spend more time building strategic programs that mitigate risk and less time on admin work. It’s an ERP-type solution without the huge price tag. Click —> here to learn more today.