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Joby George

Management

Ensuring Quality and Efficiency Across the Supply Chain

Once again, Deming’s philosophy rings true

Published: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 11:56

Manufacturing has changed dramatically during the past several years. Where once original equipment manufacturers made products primarily within their own four walls, now those companies must manage a complex global supply chain. In an effort to support innovation, reach new markets, and reduce costs, many companies are leveraging third parties to outsource not only supplies and components, but also the actual manufacturing and distribution of finished goods.

Although using contractors and suppliers located around the world has reduced the cost of the finished product, it has also added new levels of risk due to limited visibility into the product’s life cycle. As a result, organizations are looking for ways to create greater transparency into their suppliers’ and contract manufacturers’ operations and quality processes to ensure that products meet safety and quality requirements. As I discussed earlier this year, effective supplier management is a critical component of a company’s overall approach to quality management.

It’s now time to take it a step further and truly be collaborative with suppliers when it comes to managing quality. Consider these key aspects of W. Edwards Deming’s quality management philosophy:
• Catch problems early
• Build quality into processes
• Be proactive

How can organizations extend these same principals beyond their four walls and out to suppliers and contract manufacturers? It can be a challenge. According to a recent KPMG study, only 13 percent of manufacturers surveyed said they have complete visibility into their supplier network. However, those that do are leveraging technology to ensure that quality events are tracked and managed efficiently across the value chain.

Catching problems early

Quality issues can surface at any point in the supply chain and production process. It’s imperative to catch quality issues as early as possible in the supply chain. Despite investments in enterprise quality management systems, many companies continue to communicate with suppliers using manual and disconnected methods of communication.

Leading companies are leveraging cloud technology to connect and integrate their suppliers into their quality management processes. When companies can streamline communication and collaboration on quality events, issues can be identified and resolved early in the manufacturing process.

Building quality throughout the supply chain

In addition, by connecting suppliers into typically internal-only quality management processes, there are now standardized quality workflows and processes that allow all members of the supply chain to participate in a consistent, centralized manner. Wherever and whenever a quality issue is identified, companies and suppliers alike can create, track, and manage the quality-related information, and fully collaborate until resolution.

Being proactive

To ensure that quality processes are being properly managed both internally and with external suppliers, it is important for companies to be able to report on trends, opportunities, and obstacles to proactively manage issues and supplier risk. From average cycle time and on-time performance to supplier scorecards, leveraging a collaborative, centralized solution to manage quality events can provide both suppliers and companies with the quality-related information required to gain insight on performance and identify areas for improvement.

By connecting and tightly collaborating with suppliers on quality-related events, manufacturing companies can reduce risk, increase supplier quality visibility, and improve operational efficiencies with a consistent and measurable quality management process.

For more on this topic, be sure to join Quality Digest and Sparta Systems on Tues., Sept. 27, 2016, at 2 p.m. Eastern/11 a.m. Pacific, for the webinar, “Improving Quality and Efficiency Through Supplier Collaboration.”

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About The Author

Joby George’s picture

Joby George

Joby George is a product manager at Sparta Systems, developer of quality management software solutions. George has been with Sparta for more than 11 years with experience in the support, services, and pre-sales organizations. He has lead the effort on various TrackWise solutions, such as the Electronic Regulatory Report and TrackWise Analytics. Currently his primary responsibility is leading and defining the product and development efforts for  Stratas SaaS-based solutions. George has bachelor of science degrees in computer science and economics from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.