Managing Quality at Suppliers

Did your company shift to produce critical medical supplies in support of the COVID-19 global pandemic?  Many manufacturers across the USA quickly pivoted to help out the community by producing needed PPE, hand sanitizer, ventilators and more.

While we were proud to watch so many companies step up and lend their facilities and expertise to fight the pandemic, assuring the quality of supplier products supporting life-saving medical devices and equipment became more important than ever. 

Manufacturing Business Technology recently shared supplier quality problems to watch for summarized below.

  1. Quality Degradation: If a supplier with a history of compliant shipments begins delivering shipments with rising scrap rates or nonconforming materials, components or parts, that is a red flag. Quality-related problems to watch for include a rise in failing parts per lot or an increase in rejecting products that don’t meet specification. Errors relating to specifications are among the most common challenges in managing supplier quality. For example, critical dimensions are missing, tolerances are off or specifications are outdated.
  2. Late Deliveries: Delays in shipments and responses to inquiries are also warning signs to watch for. An influx of late ship dates often indicates a failing manufacturing process may be affecting the supplier's quality.
  3. Slow communication:  When a normally responsive supplier is slow to respond about quality issues or ship dates, it can mean the supplier is avoiding the customer. If the quality problem is recurring and the supplier is failing to identify, correct and communicate the issue to the customer, then products get delayed and product quality is threatened.

The warning signs above certainly apply to medical supplies produced in support of the pandemic, where a slight reduction in quality could have huge impacts on patients.  They are also useful to consider helping maintain a quality supply chain as we look beyond COVID-19. Important to ensure you are working with reputable suppliers and keep watch on early indicators of quality implications.

At APICS Milwaukee, our mission is to ensure supply chain professionals have the needed information to succeed in our ever-changing world. Looking for more insights and tactics on how you can better manage your supply chain? We offer virtual Supply Chain Workshops and globally recognized supply chain certification courses taught by experts to provide you with the knowledge to help your company grow revenues and apply quality management approach to your suppliers.

APICS Milwaukee is the premier professional association for supply chain management, helping over 180 Milwaukee area companies represented by our members, with educational and networking opportunities.  Learn more about how we do this on our website at