Today’s consumers want lower-priced goods, but at the same time, are unwilling to accept lower quality. This motivates manufacturers to find ways to keep production costs low so they can still turn a profit, while making sure quality doesn’t suffer in the process.

To help keep costs down, many North American and European manufacturers rely on third-party subcontractors and suppliers in overseas countries. However, an international supply chain inherently faces challenges in supplier quality management. How can you make sure components and raw materials meet quality standards before they arrive at the receiving dock and are ultimately incorporated into the final product?

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If a quality issue is found after the materials arrive, then manufacturers must return defective goods and halt production until satisfactory goods can be produced and shipped. Not exactly how “just-in-time manufacturing” is supposed to work.

Supplier Quality Management Strategies

Manufacturers know that component quality directly impacts the quality of the final product that bears their brand name and will be sold to consumers. This means that supplier quality must hold the same importance as internal quality initiatives. Some manufacturers try to manage supplier quality by providing specification limits or, for industries like automotive, engineering blueprints.

While this approach may provide some peace of mind, it is still a far cry from quality assurance and still leaves manufacturers blind to quality levels until the components reach the main plant. Instead, companies need a modern approach to managing quality across an international supply chain—one that can provide insight into the manufacturing quality of their subcontractors and suppliers.

A Modern Supplier Quality Management Approach

For today’s connected manufacturing plants, this modern approach to supplier quality management is accomplished by leveraging the capabilities of the cloud. Cloud-based quality management solutions enable manufacturers to make suppliers part of their corporate quality initiatives, no matter where they are in the world.

Quality data can be captured in real time at a supplier’s facility and automatically synced through the cloud with the manufacturer’s unified database. This data centralization gives manufacturers a real-time look into the manufacturing quality of their suppliers’ components and raw materials.

For instance, if a US manufacturer submits an order for 10,000 parts to a Chinese supplier, it can take more than two weeks for those parts to travel from China to the United States by boat. In the past, the American manufacturing team would have just crossed their fingers and hoped the parts met the specified quality standards when they arrived.

But, with advanced capabilities in today’s quality management solutions, the manufacturer can have insight into the quality levels right from their own computers in the United States, before the parts are even placed on the boat. As a result, supplier quality is no longer a question, eliminating supply chain disruptions caused by the need to return unsatisfactory parts. And, the manufacturer can feel confident about incorporating those parts into the final product they sell to customers.

While cost is a primary factor for North American and European manufacturers working with overseas subcontractors and suppliers, the manufacturing quality has to be there. If suppliers do a great job with quality, then the primary manufacturer can provide a better product to the market and sell more.

But if a component has a quality problem and gets added to a product sold to consumers, causing a recall, then everyone suffers. The primary manufacturer suffers a lack of demand due to the recall, which negatively trickles down the supply chain, affecting the supplier’s business.

With cloud-enabled quality management systems like those offered by InfinityQS, manufacturers can make sure quality levels are up to par—no matter how global or extended the supply chain is—and deliver low-cost but high-quality products to customers.

Want to learn more about using InfinityQS solutions to manage global supply chains? Visit our website to read about our industry-leading cloud-based solution ProFicient on Demand. And read our case study for an insider look into how the bicycle manufacturer Trek uses Manufacturing Intelligence solutions for warranty investigations and global traceability.