ISO 9001:2008 (part 4)

Is your vendor ISO certified? Have you verified the status of their certification with their registrar? In a world economy in recession/depression these are questions that everyone in a position of responsibility should ask. Tough economic times are forcing some companies to drop their ISO certification and cut corners that should not be cut.

ISO 9001:2008 is all about securing a stable supply chain. All of the components of the standard contribute to this. ISO provides tools and methodologies that can be used to select, qualify, monitor and dis-qualify vendors in the supply chain. How a vendor is selected is up to the buyer and team members. However, once selected the vendor must be qualified in a way that ensures that they have their act together. Can they provide a consistent product on-time and at a fair price. This is where ISO comes in.

Qualification:

Nothing beats an on-site audit. Get in their face and ask questions. Ask to see records. Are measuring devices calibrated? Is the environment clean and controlled? What do their other customers think about them? Are they financially stable? A vendor is your partner for success. If they can’t provide a consistent product the end product you manufacture shall be adversely effected. Bad materials contribute to a bad product.

Have the perspective vendor fill out a vendor survey. Surveys can be as complex or as simple as you want them to be. When you think of it, a vendor survey is very much like a resume. Its a self evaluation of the vendor. The responses can be followed up on with an on-site audit. If you are not sure what to ask or how to generate a vendor survey you can refer to a survey(s) that your company has recently filled out. Take what applies and add on some questions of your own that may apply.

Get a copy of their ISO certification. Doing an on-site audit can be expensive. If the vendor is on the other side of the world, the cost and time required to accomplish an audit becomes great indeed. ISO certification becomes critical at this point. It is not enough for a vendor to say that they have ISO procedures in place. Being ISO certified means that an independent auditing firm has come in, reviewed the system and certifies that it is being maintained properly. Since you can’t get there, this is the next best thing. However, it is not enough to get a copy of the vendor’s ISO certificate. You must contact the registrar responsible for issuing the certificate and make sure its legitimate.

Over the past week I have been following up on prospective vendors. Each vendor had provided me with an ISO certificate. Half of the certificates were either fraudulent or were rescinded by the registrar. The implications are alarming to someone in my position. If these vendors are willing to misrepresent their status, how trustworthy a partner shall they be? What other corners are they cutting? Printed circuit boards are complex structures that are only as reliable as the weakest component used in their manufacturing. Defects either fall out in my manufacturing process or may not show up until they are in the field. Either way my costs would go up since I would have to deal with the mess.

Monitor your Vendor:

Once a vendor is approved they can be added to a company’s Approved Vendor List (AVL). Once on the list they need to be monitored for performance. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Feedback must be given to the vendor on an on-going basis. Let them know when they succeed and when they fall short. If you are having trouble with a vendor then you need to tell them to give them an opportunity to improve. If they are doing well you need to let them know so that they know they are being watched. ISO does not get into the fine details on how to do this. This is something best left to the team responsible for managing the ISO system. Milestones and goals need to be set. The end results are the important thing. Is the supply chain consistent and reliable?

Dis-qualification:

When the milestones and goals are not met by a vendor, the road to dis-qualification begins. Working with a vendor to save the relationship is important. Adding a vendor to the AVL is an investment made by the company. Effort should be made to save that investment. However, when the vendor continues to fall short your bottom line starts to suffer. When corrective actions are not effective or more and more issues keep happening, a decision to dis-qualify the vendor is needed. Its a tough decision to make. Your actions may result in someone loosing their job at the vendor. However, if they did their jobs correctly then they would not be in this position in the first place. Its a choice of evils at this point. If you don’t police the vendors and hold them responsible then it may be you and your co-workers being sent to collect unemployment.

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