The question is “What difference does it make?” After all, quality is in the eyes and experience of the customer, right? Well, the truth is not always. Sometimes the real beneficiary of a quality program is the company that institutes a program. Most quality programs and certainly as a benchmark, ISO 9000 programs, raise awareness of quality standards both in products and operating processes across a company. The increased awareness often brings about benefits like continuous improvement and root cause solutions that solve problems which may have existed for a long time in the company culture. Any supplier worth consideration will tend to fix the immediate crisis as quickly as possible but often don’t take the time and effort to drill down into the real cause of many issues that repeat over and over and cost the customer and supplier a lot of extra money waiting for someone to actually solve the real cause of defective products or service. The end result from making the effort is a supplier that, more often than others, gets the job done right both in the products they sell and the services they provide. They provide customers with a higher level of consistency and ultimately can be trusted to deliver on their promises.
At our company we use the slogan; “say what you do and do what you say”, this to us is the epitome of quality of service. We initiated and qualified our Quality program to the ISO 9000:2008 quality standard which makes our company prove to an independent certificating organization that we have the processes and procedures in place to deliver on our promises and measure our results to achieve continuous improvement. A supplier with this type of quality program will be able to document for you the methods they use to insure that you receive exactly the products you have ordered and also provide full traceability on the critical products that you specify. They will also be able to document their service performance and be able to identify the root cause of any defect and demonstrate corrective actions when errors or defects occur. Typically the requirements of an ISO 9000:2008 qualification are so rigorous that most companies will accept your certificate alone as assurance that you have addressed all of their quality concerns and nothing further is required.
From the customer’s perspective if a supplier delivers consistently on their promises (along with the promises of the quality manufacturers they represent) then a requirement for the supplier to have a program in place may not be necessary. However, if you as a customer have quality requirements that are specified and required by your customer or your company, it is certainly a benefit to have a supplier with a qualified quality program/system in place. Further to that point, if the products or services are critical to your success in delivering your products or services to your customers you absolutely should require your supplier to participate in your requirements by having a quality program in place that helps you achieve your goals.