Managing quality effectively in the supply chain

Customer satisfaction has become a global process as companies in various industries are outsourcing more of their products and services to suppliers located all over the world. To compete, there is a need for clear communication and seamless integration of the supply chain to ensure that the quality of the product or service meets requirements and specifications.

Supply chain and quality

Quality is one of the most important factors for companies in their relationship between suppliers and customers. A quality improvement leading to a reduction in defective units, and therefore a reduction in rework, has a positive impact upon the supply chain as schedules are met and production cycle times are reduced.

Quality management programs between suppliers and buyers should focus on:

  1. a) prevention of defects and poor quality through audits and supplier certification programs.

When applied to supply chain processes, a certification process assists with pursuing quality at the source, incorporating quality and delivery factors into the vendor selection process, and improving quality and delivery while reducing costs. This assists with developing a stronger linkage between supplier and buyer through a win-win relationship for both partners, establishing and standardizing quality goals throughout the supply chain.

  1. b) surveillance of the manufacturing process through an inspection program agreed between buyer and supplier.

Inspections help minimise the risk of defective products by ensuring they meet the contractual requirements. An error at an early stage is very hard to fix afterwards, and the sooner manufacturing defects are found, the less overall quality and delivery time will be affected.

Performance data can guide supply chain improvements related to quality. Companies can use data to select new supplier, provide feedback to current suppliers, and monitor and improve relationships with their partners and suppliers.

Supply chain integration

In today’s economy, sharing the right information at the right time with the supply chain is becoming increasingly important. Integrating the supply chain members so that all the upstream and downstream partners can see the full picture will enable them to plan ahead more accurately and manage demand more cost-effectively.

Information technology is one of the keys to a better supply chain integration: greater collaboration with the other parties involved in the production can help the industry become more efficient. In the future, companies that will excel in the global marketplace will need to incorporate supply chain quality management to gain full control over their supply chain.

But to make it possible for the supply chain to get real-time access to data, there is a need for reliable online tools with appropriate security and privacy measures. Industries will not only need access to much more – and more confidential – information, they will need to share more information such as data on orders and product flows with contract manufacturers. In short, they will need to control the management and transfer of information as carefully as they control the physical movement of their products.


The current trend with respect to supplier quality management is a supplier selection and evaluation process that encourages long-term relations with a few qualified suppliers capable of achieving necessary quality requirements.

Current managerial thinking needs to shift from traditional company-centric mindset to a supply chain perspective. Best supply chain quality management practices indicate that a cooperative attitude in the supply chain, effective communication and inter-organizational teamwork are essential.

Supply chain quality management by means of internet-based software tools is required for an inter-organizational process that involves customers and suppliers, to effectively compete in today’s business environment.

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