At the supplier – buyer factory visit what should be the agenda for a quality assurance meeting? Based on my own experience, whether it was textiles, furniture or ceramic/metal there are five basics that provide a framework for both parties to work with when at the factory:
- The Business Report
- The Quality Inspections
- Safe and Durable
- Customer Experience Product Quality
1. The Business Report: To assure maintenance and continuity in the quality work there shall be a written document for every visit. A brief, points driven hardcopy produced by the buyer, that follows up previous reports and records the latest actions with noted responsibilities for the supplier or buyer.
The agenda points for the factory visit:
2. The Quality Inspections: The results and notes from current and previous product inspections at the different manufacturing stages are sample checked during the visit. One of the key aspects to these quality inspections should be the viewpoint – is it through customer eyes or to a technical compliance in the specifications? Each viewpoint is valid. Both parties should have already agreed at what stage and to what criteria these inspections are conducted.
3. Safe and durable: This part of the factory visit is very much about securing the product performance in terms of function and safe use by the customer.
- Review product test requirements to secure that they are fully understood by both buyer and factory.
- The product tests are conducted correctly and in the right conditions.
- Approved external and in house testing facilities are used during the product tests.
- Full documented test reports are available and valid.
- Material Safety Data Sheets are available and valid.
4. The Packaging: Check that the packing materials, containers and their on site storage secures the specified performance requirements. Confirm that the materials are neat and clean and during specific seasons will not degrade because of the weather conditions.
5. Customer Experience Product Quality CEPQ: Both buyer and supplier review their customer focus throughout the factory operation in terms of the following.
- Durability and Function: Confirm the performance of the material and components to secure that the product does ‘what it says on the tin’.
- Safe to Use: Assure the correct chemical and substance content in the product. Confirm the security of small and loose parts.
- Well Designed Product: Review design briefs and specifications. If the product is part of a range, secure its modularity e.g. correct dimensions, consistent and true colour/shades.
- Customer Friendly: What is the after use appearance, are the buttons, switches convenient. Is the packaging sufficient and recyclable. Assembly and installation is easy for the customer.
The factory visit by the buyers technical or commercial team should be a very hands on operational activity. They are excellent opportunities to achieve alignment if the meetings are within a structured framework of a practical agenda. The above are my suggestion for that framework. Two of the above I would like to stress as a must – The Business Report to secure continuity over time and changing personnel and CEPQ to secure customer quality.
One last point: stick with sandwiches for lunch when on factory visits!!
Mark K. Astley Robert Vernon Associates