Production before Quality - Is the Customer Always Right?


Don Reid

I would be interested to hear if others have had a similar problem to one that I am experiencing at present. The scenario is this;

One of our major customers has resourced several components in our favour. From discussions with the customer we agree timing plans for pre production to prove the tooling, initial sampling and then full production. No problem!

Subsequently, during this period, the customer declares they are suffering from a “stock loss” (they cannot find them) and their production line will stop very soon if we do not supply parts.

Naturally, we do everything humanly possible to help.

The parts have two post manufacturing operations (hardening followed by phosphating). The parts leave our works and are sent for the above treatment. They do not return to us: they are despatched from our subcontractor to our customer. This is at the express instruction of our customer as they are desperate for the parts.

Here is the problem: Several departments within our customers’ premises do not adequately communicate. Consequently, within a few hours of the parts being received by the customer, their QA blokes are on to me asking why I am submitting parts without sample approval. I cannot possibly do this as the dimensional aspects of the components have to be measured in the post treatment state. In addition, I need to verify hardness and phosphating. I cannot do this if I do not have the parts.

Conversations with the customer have not helped. They admit the problem is of their own making yet their QA department will not remove the demerits awarded for shipping non approved parts. Worst of all, they expect me to submit corrective and preventive action plans regarding how I can stop this happening!!

I did submit one that laid the blame firmly at their door. Their reaction was so severe, and went to such a level, that I am surprised I still have a job.

Incidentally, the customer is registered to QS9000.

The customer is always right?

Don Reid.
Elsmar Forum Sponsor

Don Watt

Hi Don,
I've never experienced a problem like this one and I symapathise with your plight with such a seemingly "pig-headed" customer.

How have you adressed the issue with your sub-contractor, surely they are at fault for despatching what is your product (contract between you/sub-con) to your end customer?

Don Reid


the subcontractor also treats parts made directly by our customer and they will simply "do as they are told". They cannot afford to lose the business any more than we can.

Jim Biz

As I read this you "may" have a couple of options.. (we have similar situations at times) Is it possible your customer has an internal communication/cooperation problem he wants you to solve?

MAYBE? - contact your subcontractor have him return to you "sample parts" for your layout from the lot in question. - Then you will at least be able to explain to the customers Qa folks where & when the documentation will be available.

OR? Explain to your subcontractor that the parts can not be shipped without layout docs. so they need to send you copies on final characteristics and their operations before shipment to the customer.


Geoff Cotton

Quite Involved in Discussions
We have been through this mine field with automotive customers and lost. Now we don't move from the contract/standard without a waiver signed by them. I'm sure this is what it probably says in your own Quality System.



Spaceman Spiff

I will throw my 2 cents worth in. If the customer is QS9K, then most likely they will require PPAP. In that case layout would not suffice. I had experienced a similar situation (but the customer wasn't so obtuse). We submitted deviation (i.e., SREA) for the engineering department to approve. The shipment was referenced to that SREA number and off we went. Several weeks later we submitted PPAP. And everyone lived happily ever after.

Don Reid


your option of our subcontractor supplied a sample back to us is what we do, we have no other way at the moment of getting parts ultimately sample approved. The main issue is one of distance. The subcontractors plant is less than half a mile from the customer and, in fact, used to be owned by our customer until they "rationalised" the business.


if we had time we would, but the customer reduces the allowed time because of their screw up. On one occasion we agreed a timing plan that allowed three weeeks (ample). The next day they told us they needed finished parts within 48 hours.


tried the waiver approach, and indeed our QA system stipulates this. The problem is compounded by getting someone to sign the bloody thing. No-one will take the responsibility.

however, the bit that really pisses me off is when it suits them they quote QS9000. When it doesn't suit them..............

It should also be noted that the customer in internationally known, they are not some small fly by night outfit, even though they act as such!

I am not so naive to beleive that corners are not cut when it is expedient to do so, but common sense must also prevail.

Perhaps the forum lads should all get together and draft a standard of our own, something along the lines of:

ISO 25000:2000 A common sense guide to dealing with idiots.

[This message has been edited by Don Reid (edited 13 July 2000).]

Daniel J. Rupright

Finally somebody with the same problem!

This needs to go to the top brass at your plant.

Have them contact the culprit putting you in this situation.

You need a massive waiver from them.

We have delt with this exact problem.

We're QS certified which requries 100% on-time delivery.

If the customer calls today stating that they lost,mis-counted, scrapped parts that they need. This can make you late.

How 'bout that?


Sounds like you got caught in the cross-fire between the QA and Production departments of your customer. And from the results, I'd say QA lost.

You might want to explain to their QA department that filing corrective actions on you is not affecting their process. Maybe they'll leave you alone.

Good luck,


Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!

After reading your posts, I am happy to hear that you still have work. At one time or another, I am pretty sure that all of us have felt this way at one time or another. The stories are different, the theme is not.

The problems you are facing are born out of a lack of understanding. It is then further complicated by do-nothings or do-littles who would rather pass the buck than to take the time to understand the problem. Bad news comes in the front door and before you know it, you are left trying to work the perfect scenario. Good luck!

The only thing you get out of it is a miserable experience and the knowledge of what to watch for on the next great disaster. You still probably won't be able to do much to lessen the severity of the next event, but hopefully it doesn't become strike two.


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