This document is used to convey all the company's expectations regarding suppliers to the supplier base. The Supplier Quality Manual/Handbook defines the requirements for becoming an approved supplier and how suppliers are rated, as well as how to become a preferred supplier if the company has a Preferred Supplier Program. The manual sets forth the company's quality philosophy and defines requirements for the supplier's quality system, including process controls, inspection systems, gage management and training. The manual contains a supplier survey form, used to assess the supplier against predetermined requirements, i.e. ISO 9000, FDA or the company's own requirements. The manual usually states that the purchasing preference is preferred suppliers and then approved suppliers.


The supplier quality assurance program begins with an assessment of present performance of the supplier base. The company must have some minimal inspection capability and have defined those characteristics of the supplier's product that must be controlled. If variable characteristics are being inspected, the supplier can be rated on process capability, permitting a parts-per-million or PPM rating, as opposed to the pass/fail system based on Acceptable Quality Level or AQL from a sampling table. When assessing supplier performance, delivery issues need to be considered, as well as quality issues.


When performance levels have been established across the supplier base, the company must set the minimum performance level (acceptable quality/delivery record and minimum score on the supplier survey) necessary to be an approved supplier. The suppliers meeting or exceeding these requirements are placed on an Approved Supplier List. With very few exceptions, all purchases are made from the Approved Supplier List. The company may elect to create a Conditional Supplier category, where the conditional suppliers are motivated, technically qualified suppliers that presently do not meet the minimum requirements to be an Approved Supplier. To be considered for purchase orders, the conditional supplier must provide a plan and timeline to become fully qualified.


A Preferred Supplier program enables the supplier to move to the highest purchasing level, as far as purchasing preference is concerned. The company must establish the requirements for preferred suppliers in terms of quality and delivery history. In addition to receiving purchasing preference, the Preferred Supplier's shipments are not typically subject to inspection, but are released by the receiving department to be placed directly in inventory (dock-to-stock).


If your firm is experiencing supplier problems and seeking to manage and improve supplier quality, contact us using the Interest Form below for assistance in developing and maintaining a supplier quality assurance program.  We can manage the entire supplier quality assurance process through our Contract Services Division in the event your firm elects to out-source the process.