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Supplier Management for ISO 9001 Certification

Handling your suppliers within your value chain in a systematic fashion is extremely critical to ensure a high-quality product or service. Supplier Management for ISO 9001 Certification is an easy requirement of the ISO 9001 standard that does not require too much effort from your end – and yet that will leave long-lasting benefits to your business.

Which suppliers to manage for ISO 9001 Certification?

Let’s take the example of a travel agency in Malta. The type of service that will be offered by the supplier will determine the extent to which the evaluation will include.

  • Offering ancillary services – stationary, office leasing.
  • Offering supporting processes – accounting, marketing, HR etc
  • Offering key processes – tour agents in foreign destinations offered by the travel agency

In the above example, we are only required to manage suppliers offering key processes. Even though without accounts, HR or stationary the company will not run effectively – they are not directly involved in delivering the service to the customers – and therefore, as such, the standard does not make it a requirement to perform Supplier Management for ISO 9001 Certification for such suppliers.

Supplier Approval

Before working with any supplier that will provide products or services that are directly value-adding to our own product offering, we must make sure that the suppliers are adequate. Different industries take this supplier evaluation to different levels of accuracy. For example, the automotive industry employs the PPAP (production part approval process) to manage suppliers.

A regular ISO 9001 Certification will require much less effort to approve a supplier. For example, if the suppliers is local, you can visit the supplier and see their offices or production plant. Or, if you have a business relationship (without conflict of interest) with the supplier – whereby you’ve been working for a number of years. Or you can ask the supplier for certification (including ISO Certification) to get reassurance that the company is capable of delivering the product or service as required.

Supplier Complaints

While running the quality management system, a professional Quality Manager will always be on the lookout for actions for continual improvement. As discussed in ‘corrective actions and non-conformities within ISO 9001‘ there are 3 types of complaints:

  • internal complaints
  • customer complaints
  • supplier complaints

Naturally, here we are referring to the latter. Whenever a supplier does not meet our requirements, we can file a supplier complaint. Examples of supplier complaints include:

  • delivering defective products
  • delivering products late (thereby missing deadlines)
  • not respecting customer property
  • not respecting the clients by being rude

As can be seen above, anything that doesn’t please us, and the way we like conducting business can be included as a supplier complaint. A supplier is there to help us achieve the mission we’d set out in the Quality Policy – and apart from being aware of the quality policy, suppliers must live the values as shared within our company.

Supplier Evaluation

At a pre-determined frequency – most companies choose to do it once a year (you can do it more frequently, but not less frequently) – the management of the organisation must evaluate their suppliers. Unless the company is very small, and they have a quasi day-to-day contact with the supplier, the only way to get the data to evaluate a supplier is through the supplier complaints.

Alas, at supplier evaluation, we can choose any criteria we’d like on which we’d like to rate our suppliers. We can also give importance ratings to each metric – to help us ensure that the suppliers are delivering on the factors that matter most to us, our business, and most importantly, our customers.

Some metrics that companies use to evaluate their suppliers include:

  • pricing
  • quality
  • deadline

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