Following the response I received to last month’s letter “Waving the Magic Compliance Wand” I thought that it would be worthwhile to share a bit of our experience with monitoring and improving the operations of suppliers in Asia.
Suppliers can struggle with implementing new processes and ramping-up new production programs. At other times, they can lose the recipe and start building out of spec products that don’t meet your requirements and are often shipped late. These difficult events happen when OEMs, designers and entrepreneurs fail to do their homework.
We’ve found that before you start, it’s critical to evaluate your files or conceptual drawings to ensure that they are designed for manufacturability, repeatability and compliance with international safety standards. It’s also critical to determine that your designs and their underlying manufacturing techniques mesh well with the capabilities of your suppliers.
To make new projects seamless, a smart and experienced person who is not part of the supplier’s organization needs to ride herd. Someone needs to work as the liaison with your internal or external design team and the vendor to implement engineering changes that will insure that prototype and volume production goes smoothly.
That liaison also needs to work with the vendor’s team of engineers, quality assurance technicians and logistics specialists to assure that your prototypes will be produced using methods and techniques that reflect mass production conditions. That person must also coordinate the flow of information between the suppliers and your product team. Assigning a single point of contact to manage engineering change orders, revisions and commercial documentation is an overlooked but required step.
You’re probably asking why all this is necessary – our suppliers are experts in their fields, been in business for years and know more about manufacturing then we do. Well, they may have become skilled at building the last widget, but yours is different… As are your internal quality standards and business practices.
This process also involves monitoring your supplier’s production process to provide assurance that the factory is meeting your specifications, performing scheduled and drop-in inspections to see that there have been no process changes or substitutions of inferior components or process consumables.
Work? Yes. Easy? No. Necessary? Absolutely. If you have any questions about the process, please contact me.