Supplier Approval Process – Should the Quality Department be Excluded?



Hello everyone,

We are an EMS and have several PCB suppliers.

The problem for us (the Quality Department) with the PCBs is that PCB’s are rather a "technical" domain. Nevertheless, we can learn (we are not idiots!).

Since the R & D department is “stronger" than us (in human resources), they succeed at imposing their choice of pcb suppliers. The Purchasing Dpt also “suffer” (they must go where the RD tells them to go), as well as the Quality Dpt. (by having numerous nonconformance at receiving).

What makes me jump is when I see an internal e-mail that mentions "The approval of a new supplier will be done by someone who knows our PCB suppliers [a person in the R & D department]".

Shouldn’t a Quality Department participate in the supplier approval process ? In the ISO standard, we talk about selection, evaluation and re-evaluation ... why we do not use the term "approval" ? Should I let this issue go and "choose my fights"?

Thank you in advance !

Les Piles


Re: Supplier Approval Process – Quality Dpt Excluded ?

IMO you want the people who know the most about it to make the decision. It doesn't matter what department someone work.
But there is more than one consideration when approving your suppliers. R&D may have some input into the technical side and Purchasing may have some input into the pricing and account arrangements etc.

Who gets to 'win' these negotiations depends on what the priorities of the organization are. Hopefully the same people who set these priorities are the same people who have to review supplier evaluations when/if purchasing and quality issues arise.

Sidney Vianna

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Re: Supplier Approval Process – Quality Dpt Excluded ?

Should I let this issue go and "choose my fights"?
I would NOT let this issue go, because your organization's future (thus your job) is at stake here. As previously mentioned, supplier selection and approval should be a multi-disciplinary evaluation. A supplier that might be able to provide you with a batch of 10 complex, multi-layer PCBs (used by R&D for D&D V&V), might not be able to consistently deliver 10,000 of these same PCB's per month, when your customer and you need to ramp-up production. Many times, as I am sure you know, the processes/equipment/tooling used to produce a small batch of PCBs are not the same used for volume production.

So, absolutely, I would insist that your department/function input is sought, valued and acted upon, during the supplier selection process. Sorting of incoming product, especially when you are dealing with high volumes is NOT a smart way to control the quality of parts being received. If the quality department is misunderstood as the inspection department, you know you are in a world of hurt.

Good luck.
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Re: Supplier Approval Process – Quality Dpt Excluded ?

My experience in this matter?

R&D can do whatever they damn well please until the company begins selling parts.

Purchasing should be able to buy those parts from whoever best meets their requirements for quality, price, and delivery schedule. R&D should have no say in the matter.

All the QA function should do is assess and report on the capabilities of the suppliers chosen. If Purchasing wants to use a turkey for a supplier, the QA function should go on the record as advising against that turkey, and be able to provide objective evidence demonstrating why that supplier is a turkey, and other evidence showing the availability of a superior supplier.

Sure, it would be nice if QA could choose the suppliers. If you have a big enough department and budget to do that, with support and commitment from the top, more power to you. It rarely works out that way though.

I try not to tell the coaches how to play the game - I throw the flags and assign the penalties and let the kids play where possible.

Perhaps too much coffee today ... :rolleyes:
I do the same a Norm - Purchasing buys from the absolute lowest bidder, and the quality is usually pretty bad. I keep the Approved Vendor list and it is fed live performance information which rates the suppliers. I make it known that certain suppliers are "bad" and the list shows the performance data (and highlites them as RED), but purchasing will still use them anyway. I have done my part in supplier analysis and providing them with up to date data, if they choose to ignore it, they can explain why to the auditor. When the boss freaks out because we received a load of defective product, I point to the list and question why purchasing is using them when they are listed as a bad supplier. Sometimes you need to carefully apply leverage to get where you need to be....


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These days, as a supplier, I don't want Purchasing anywhere near the selection process. Too a lesser extent, I don't want QA either. Both are too "numbers" orientated. What I want is someone who knows and understands the process they are buying. If they have a solid understanding of what we do, how we do it, and the challenges we face, things usually go very well. JMO.


Should QA be involved for selecting a supplier of liability insurance for a consulting firm, or cloud IT services for an insurance services, etc.

A multidisciplinary team is often useful due to their different perspectives. But I would never say that QA must be involved with selection of all suppliers.
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