Supplier Management is an area that we see neglected time and time again. This article explores supplier management as applied to management systems (Quality, Safety or Environmental) and provides basic guidance to make it a natural concept for most companies to adopt.
I’ve twisted the old adage into “do unto others as others do unto you”. It might not be the original adage, but with a little artistic licence……….
If your customers are asking for method statements, insurance certificates, qualifications, a specific service or performance level, licences, copies of certificates of accreditation, product certificates, etc then that’s the minimum you should be asking of your suppliers and sub-contractors. This is not a requirement as quoted in a standard, this is just good business practice and means you are more likely to meet your customer’s requirements. What the standards say is that you take responsibility for documenting and checking that your suppliers and subcontractors are providing you with what it is you require whilst continuing to meet all other requirements such as legislative requirements.
Customers may not be diligent in checking your supplier / subcontractor documentation which is why it is often neglected. Typically supplier / subcontractor documentation becomes an issue only when a quality, safety or environmental performance issue is identified or a failure occurs. Rest assured, in the event of an issue the customer will be asking you why you didn’t exercise due diligence (and you may be asking yourself the same thing).
How can you effectively manage your suppliers with the minimum effort?
In a competitive market suppliers and subcontractors will fall over themselves to provide this documentation providing you stipulate that work can’t start until this paperwork is received. You only have to ask for the appropriate documents, check the adequacy and then check that they are complying with their own documentation.
When market conditions are less favourable (more favourable for the supplier) I’ve seen companies write method statements for subcontractors so that they can start work. This isn’t to be recommended, but where necessary ensure the subcontractor has his name on the method statement and that he has approved it in writing.
You are more likely to get the cooperation of the supplier / subcontractor if they believe this to be the start of a long-term relationship so make it clear that you are asking them to become an approved supplier / subcontractor to your company, not just a supplier / subcontractor on a single job or project.
Ideally systems to support this process should have an automatic prompt so that the supplier and subcontractor records are reviewed and replacements are requested for expiring certificates of insurance, licences, etc. This can be managed in a number of ways, but typically smaller companies will just have a simple register managed by an individual.