Every business that is involved with production – from automobile factories to the cosmetic industry – has to deal with suppliers which means value chain monitoring. Nobody wants to use a supplier that has sourced their products or materials from an unreliable source, which can result in a subpar end product. This can lead to a recall and major brand deterioration due to the resulting scandal. Remember when the iPhone 4 was released and if your finger covered a certain part of the phone then a call would be dropped? This was a design flaw but it still falls under the umbrella of quality management. The team involved with prototype testing should have done tests that pinpointed the problem before the smartphone was shipped and sold all over the world. Issues can be found with suppliers themselves if your company is not producing every component needed for your product, which is most often the case. But there are ways to avoid quality management disasters and the key is automation via enterprise quality management software (EQMS).
The Importance of a Quality Management System
Each business that is involved with producing a product for consumer use will have quality management processes in place. This usually consists of a paper-based process in which the supply chain is managed and monitored for quality assurance purposes. This can take the form of audits, checks on specific suppliers, compliance documentation, and all sorts of details that can quickly get lost in the paper shuffle. When documents become outdated or misplaced, such as approvals on new suppliers or failed supplier audits, that is when the integrity of the product and the value chain itself can be compromised. The whole idea is to know about a problem with the quality or a component of the product before it hits the shelves or is driven off the car lot by a consumer. This means that a system that monitors suppliers needs to be employed and constantly cross-checked across the company to ensure that compliance and quality standards are continually met. But how can suppliers be monitored – at every stage of the production process – in an effective manner?
Why Suppliers Must Be Monitored
It can take a lot of time for quality assurance managers to evaluate and audit suppliers on a continual basis, especially if they are unable to locate previous audits very easily. In theory, everything should be filed away for easy access if you are using a paper-based system, but humans are fallible.
Your company needs to establish an effective and efficient supplier network to be successful. But making sure that you have a responsible supply chain takes time. Potential suppliers have to be vetted for all regulations involving environmental protocols, labor and social laws, and providing a product that meets industry standards. This means that significant research must go into establishing who is a suitable supplier and regular monitoring is required to ensure quality and compliance requirements are being met. A supplier can change hands or merge with another company that has not been vetted to meet your company’s standards which means subpar materials can begin to filter into your factories and lead to issues in the finished goods that could impact your business and your consumers. A team that manually monitors suppliers is costly, time-consuming, and quite frankly a process that can and should be streamlined via software that is designed to monitor it for you.
How Software Can Help
There is a lot of software out there that is designed to focus on specific things from EHS compliance software to sustainability software and they all provide essential services for a QMS. When used with enterprise quality management software (EQMS),a system can be formed to quickly audit suppliers and upload data into the software platform for easy access and monitoring.
What you need to be mindful of is the fact that a supplier’s risks are your risks. If there have been past issues with quality control for a supplier then that means that there could be future risks which can in turn put your own quality at risk. When regular supplier audits are done, you have greater visibility into issues that can be addressed to reduce the opportunity for nonconformances and quality issues in the long run. This helps reduce costs associated with rework, scrap, and recalls, improves customer confidence, and maintains profitability.
The whole point is to run a business based on intelligence and EQMS software allows you to run a cross platform line of communication which allows both you and the supplier to communicate across the software and alert one another of any changes. This actually works to foster an environment of collaboration where your suppliers feel like they have a stake in the production business rather than simply being an external associate.
Let’s take a look at a breakdown in quality control that recently hit the news.
The Cosmetics Industry and Jaclyn Hill
The cosmetics industry is a particularly important one when it comes to suppliers and quality assurance. Each product, be it a lipstick or make-up remover, has to be formulated in a lab, ingredients have to be approved by the FDA (or equivalent in non-US countries), and tested to make sure it is safe for use. After all, while it may not be ingested it is absorbed by the body and if there is a component that may cause harm then it can make or break a brand. As soon as a product causes any kind of negative reaction such as a rash or some kind of poisoning the product has to be recalled, refunds provided, and in some cases lawsuits settled. No company wants to be put in this position.
For YouTube sensation Jaclyn Hill, audiences had long been waiting for her cosmetics line to hit shelves, specifically her lipsticks. When the products were released in June, her fans went wild ordering every color they could get their hands on. But it quickly became clear that there was a quality issue as soon as some of her customers received their product.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The good news was that her lipstick line was an instant success and sales skyrocketed for her product. The bad news came when her customers received their lipsticks and began to use them. The lipsticks did not have the smooth texture often associated with such products and upon closer inspection some of the lipsticks actually appeared to have granular bumps in them and in others white hairs were found. As her fans took to social media to share videos and pictures of this subpar product, interest for the product line dropped,and Jaclyn Cosmetics is now facing hundreds of refunds for lipsticks that were compromised during production. So, could this have been avoided, and could EQMS software have helped? The simple answer to both questions is yes.
What Should Have Been Done
The problem began in the lab when the lipsticks were being manufactured and put together. There was an issue with production and clearly audits had not taken place nor had testing been done to ensure quality control. If an EQMS had been used both by chemical suppliers and the manufacturer then a change in product formulation could have been noted or at least caught before the lipsticks were shipped out for sale. According to reports by those that received samples of the lipsticks for review prior to the public launch, the quality was that of a normal lipstick, a smooth texture without any hairs. Upon closer inspection, Jaclyn Cosmetics found that workers on the production line had not worn latex gloves but instead cloth gloves that shed small fibers. This change in standard operation procedures (SOPs) should have been noted within the process which would have required a Management of Change (MoC) and approval by the quality assurance team before such a change could be implemented. Further investigation revealed that when some of the lipsticks were exposed to high temperatures, the product would break down and create granules and inconsistencies in the product. Since this scandal hit the media, Jaclyn Cosmetics has switched labs to provide the consistency and quality product that her followers come to expect from the brand. Restoring customer confidence and the brand’s reputation is no easy task. This could have been avoided if quality management software was used to manage nonconformances and corrective actions to resolve product or process issues before they left the facility. So, avoid any troubles like this with your own products and streamline your services both for suppliers and yourself.