Industry Talk

How Manufacturers Can Source Quality Supplies

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Finding a high-quality supplier is not always easy


A well-functioning manufacturer has beneficial relationships with supply partners that get them the required components. Finding a high-quality supplier is not always easy, but it’s worthwhile. Here are some tips to help manufacturers locate supply resources that support their business goals:

1. Set Your Standards

The first step in finding suppliers to meet your needs involves clarifying your standards. Setting that initial bar for suppliers is an excellent way to gauge whether they can uphold or exceed your minimum requirements. As you explain what you require to suppliers, assess their capacity for meeting your expectations now and in the future. For example, could the supplier continue to serve you adequately if your company grew substantially?

It’s also important to keep standards consistently high, even when supply chain difficulties arise. That may mean looking for alternative materials to cope with shortages, which also potentially means expanding an existing supplier network. Most supply chains can handle a 30% increase or decrease in demand at any time. However, emphasize to your suppliers that they must continue hitting your quality targets even during supply chain difficulties.

2. Investigate a Supplier’s History

Manufacturers won’t usually have complete transparency into a supplier’s decisions and history. However, it’s still worthwhile for them to do independent research to look for any glaring shortcomings, such as gross regulatory violations or repeated counterfeit goods allegations. Uncovering something undesirable in the past is not always a reason to avoid a supplier. It is worrisome, however, if the entity shows no evidence of doing better.

If a manufacturer’s supplier gets negative publicity for wrongful environmental or social decisions, that press could hurt consumers’ willingness to buy from the company that makes the finished goods. However, research indicates that buyers’ eagerness to purchase improves after such incidents if there is a willingness to change coupled with communications about how the company will steer clear of future pitfalls.

3. Prioritize Suppliers That Have Internal Quality Management Programs

Besides following the standards you set as a manufacturer, many suppliers have their own frameworks to follow. They create in-house quality management programs and expect workers to play valuable roles in reinforcing an overarching commitment to quality. Look for suppliers that involve every employee in the continuous improvement process.

When a supplier takes the initiative to focus on quality without a manufacturing partner prompting them to do it, that’s an excellent sign. It’s also ideal if a potential supplier takes the time to update a quality management program as needed, preferably under the guidance of a manager or a person in a quality-centric role. Doing that ensures the program stays relevant to address current needs.

4. Keep Your Vendor Database Accurate and Updated

When manufacturers discover sudden supply chain shortages and need to fill them with alternative suppliers, an existing vendor database could be a useful starting point. For example, a smartphone maker may primarily use a supplier for a single component. The vendor database could confirm that the supplier also makes another part that would fulfill the supply chain’s gap.

Digital tools and error-free information help manufacturers better utilize existing data and find supply chain resources that got previously overlooked. However, representatives from manufacturing companies must put in the time and effort to regularly examine the contents of the database and remove outdated or incorrect details. A vendor database is only as trustworthy as the information inside of it.

5. Determine If the Suppliers Have Relevant Expertise

When a supplier has measurable experience making the parts a particular manufacturer needs, they’re more likely to understand and know how to overcome the quality issues that could crop up. Most factories specialize in product categories or single component types.

Check suppliers’ websites or their profiles on secondary sites to get helpful clues about what they mainly produce and export. You can also directly ask a potential supply chain partner to detail how their expertise fits your industry, target market or product. If a supplier does not have experience, that doesn’t automatically mean you won’t get high-quality results. However, it does increase the risk faced by your company.

Treat Your Efforts to Have High-Quality Supply Partners as an Ongoing Goal

Besides following these five tips, remember to continually monitor all existing suppliers with tools such as scorecards. If the metrics show a partner failing to meet contractual obligations, address the matter quickly and work together to facilitate measurable and persistent improvements.

It’s necessary to expect and demand high-quality results at the start of a supplier relationship or even when your company is still evaluating a possible partner. However, it’s still worthwhile for them to do independent research to look for any glaring shortcomings, such as gross regulatory violations or repeated counterfeit goods allegations.


Emily covers topics in manufacturing and environmental technology. You can follow her blog, Conservation Folks, or her Twitter to get the latest updates.


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