Improving quality in the supply chain—by talking about it

Barb ClearyWord of mouth may have the greatest influence when it comes to sharing information—both positive and negative– about products and services, most will agree. We think of a neighbor raving about his new lawn mower, or a co-worker sharing a positive experience with a plumbing service. While consumer products come to mind when we talk about word of mouth, the same process applies when it comes to the supply chain that produces these products.

Large automotive manufacturers such as Ford or GM depend on countless purveyors of parts and services that go into the final product, and count on these suppliers to provide quality products to support the final product quality. Certification to standards such as the ISO 9001 requirements are created to assure that this will happen.

Within those standards, of course, there are many approaches to quality control and improvement. Each supplier may create its own quality manual or standard procedures, often developed through a process of trial and error. And each supplier is often an island, with little communication among other suppliers to the same larger manufacturer.

Maybe it’s time to open the doors and chat with others in the supply chain. Word of mouth doesn’t have to be confined to chatting with a neighbor in the grocery line.

PQ Systems SPC and measurement systems solutions are often found in successive supply chain links. A company that manufactures plastic resin, another manufactures plastic automotive door trim, and a company that manufactures stamped metal parts may all be using SQCpack for statistical process control. Sharing the ways in which they take advantage of the program’s features is not likely to happen spontaneously, so word-of-mouth communication may be a challenge. This is indeed a missed opportunity.

Through its webinars and seminars, PQ Systems provides the opportunity for exchange of tips and practices that can ultimately benefit an entire supply chain. A frequent “Eureka” comment from customers is generated by finding a feature they had never realized was available—often discovered in conversation with another user. In a seminar or webinar, a community of users forms around an interest in expanding their knowledge of the software, but they may find that they learn as well from exchanges with other seminar participants.

Operating in separate silos that serve a common customer is an inhibitor of overall improvement in quality. Breaking down these silos by talking to other suppliers will bring common purpose and enhanced commitment to quality.

Suppliers who need suppliers are the luckiest people in the world. Maybe Barbra Streisand had it right.