Quality is important all along the supply chain, whether it is checking quality at the supplier, monitoring quality along the production line, or checking the final quality of the finished items before they are delivered to the customer. However, one area that is very important in the monitoring of quality is the inspection of items that arrive at the facility from your suppliers. Ensuring that the parts and raw materials are of the correct quality or specifications before the item even enters the plant is a key aspect of ensuring the total quality of the finished goods.
Inbound Quality Inspection
The purchasing department negotiates with the supplier to ensure that the best quality item is purchased for the best pricing and received in a timely manner. The quality department supplies the purchasing department with specifications that the supplier agrees to and produces materials that must adhere to those specifications. When the items are sent from the supplier to the plant, the material may have been checked at the supplier’s facility. This may be been agreed to as part of the purchasing negotiations but more often than not, this is not possible, especially if the vendor is in a different country.
If the material has not been inspected before it leaves the vendor, then it should be inspected when it is received at your plant. The quality department should provide the warehouse with instructions on how to deal with incoming materials. Not all parts will require inspection and the warehouse staff will need to identify those inbound shipments that will be held for inspection. Some materials are low-cost supplies, such as gloves and MRO items that will not be inspected. However, for many items used in the production line, the part or raw material will be subject to inspection.
Items that arrive at the receiving dock should first be visually checked for defects or obvious issues. For example, a drum of chemicals may be visually inspected and if found to be dented or leaking, the item could be rejected before it is unloaded. Items that are in packaging may also be rejected if the packaging is damaged. The quality department may have specific instructions for the warehouse depending on the item that is being received.
When an inbound delivery arrives for a large number of a particular part, the warehouse may not be required to inspect each and every item. In these cases, the quality department may suggest a sample of the delivery be inspected. The sample size may be determined by the quality department and may depend on the required level of inspection, the quantity of the items received, and the past performance of the vendor to produce items meeting the necessary specifications.
When the sample has been selected the items can then undergo visual inspection at the receiving dock or detailed inspection by the quality department. Samples of chemical materials may require thorough testing in the lab to determine whether the inbound delivery meets the required specifications.
Some products that are received at the plant may fail either the initial visual inspection or testing by the quality department. In whatever case, the company then has to determine how to deal with the quality issue. There are a number of scenarios that can be employed.
- Reject the delivery – if the inbound delivery is not up to the quality required, then the delivery can be rejected and sent back to the supplier.
- Return for replacement – if the items do not meet the specifications, the items can be returned to the supplier for replacements. It is common when the items are in-stock items at the supplier, and a quick turnaround can be achieved.
- Rework the parts – if the delivered items do not meet specification, but the quality department along with the production department believe that they can work with the parts supplied, then the sub-par items can be reworked to get them up to the specification required. It is an option when it would take weeks or months to get replacements from the supplier, and delivery for a customer could be delayed.
- Accept with discount – if the items do not meet specifications, but the manufacturing department wants to use them elsewhere, then the purchasing department can negotiate with the supplier to accept the items with a price discount. If the vendor is unwilling, then the parts will be returned.