A Network Approach to Quality Management
Many organizations treat quality management as a highly technical, detail-oriented subspecialty – one that is set apart from the main business mostly to meet compliance requirements.
But quality management is at the heart of the customer experience – which makes it of primary interest to brand management teams everywhere. And even if compliance is the main focus, let’s not forget that failure to comply can represent tremendous risk to the business in terms of fines and damage to a brand’s reputation.
In other words, quality management is a big deal for the entire business – from the executive board to the shop floor. But when it comes to managing quality in the context of global supply networks, it’s often hard to keep pace. The challenge is twofold.
The first challenge with respect to controlling quality is gaining control over supply chain processes. Here, the critical capability is to reach as far upstream into the supply chain as possible.
Not that you need an employee on site where the silica is mined or the timber is harvested. Reaching upstream in a digitally connected world is more about collaboration, information visibility, and transparency across trading partners. If you can work with your suppliers to communicate quality expectations and establish KPIs to measure performance, you can streamline processes and avoid the bottlenecks that cause disruptions.
But typically, such collaboration is managed with phone calls, spreadsheets, and e-mail. This is inefficient and error-prone. It also lacks the transparency required to ensure quality in the context of the highly fluid, constantly evolving circumstances of supply chains. To keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of business, some sort of network-based approach is needed.
The second quality challenge is having the ability to monitor and record key events as materials move through the supply chain. At any point in the process, you want to be able to reach as far back into the supply chain as possible to gain transparency into product provenance and build a chain of trust for quick material or component traceability when needed.
This requires well-maintained data and documentation associated with critical handoff points. If problems with a product are detected, this data can be a good starting point for identifying the source of the problem. But again, manual processes based on texts, spreadsheets, and e-mail are too cumbersome to offer much value in this regard. A network-based approach is needed.
The network effect with SAP
For years, SAP has helped companies manage quality with a range of solutions for managing supply chain processes – both on premise and in the cloud. But those solutions don’t necessarily solve the collaboration challenge that is needed in today’s “networked economy.” At SAP, we understand the dilemma – which is why we built one of the largest business networks in the world, SAP Business Network, a network designed to break down silos and drive collaboration among all trading partners.
But where’s the quality?
It starts with supply chain collaboration tools specially designed for managing quality. You can share quality notifications with suppliers and work with them to address deviations during manufacturing. You can perform quality inspections and reviews at various points along the supply chain and share the results. And it’s all managed with the help of the network – with complete data visibility throughout and collaboration tools to address issues as they arise.
You can leverage the network for material traceability. Powerful blockchain capabilities help you maintain an irrefutable and tamper-proof chain of custody record that demonstrates where goods are and where they have been. This can help prove the provenance of materials for ethical sourcing, show compliance with sustainability requirements, and enforce quality standards with a full and up-to-date audit trail that can be reviewed for purposes of both internal improvement and external compliance.
What does this mean for your business?
Based on the experience of customers all over the world using this networked approach to quality management, you can expect to reduce FTE hours dedicated to quality management processes through automation and greater efficiency. You can also more readily extend your quality process to other materials or stakeholders – while reducing lead times, minimizing inventory carrying costs, and achieving higher and more consistent levels of quality for greater customer satisfaction.
SAP customers tell us that by deploying SAP Business Network to address their quality collaboration challenges have increased the detection of noncompliant materials and implement correct and preventative actions and improved quality document control. Not only has this has resulted in fewer customer complaints, but also enabled them to minimize the time needed handle customer complaints or product quality issues. And this has all resulted in improved customer satisfaction across the board.
Move forward today
Getting up and running with a networked approach to quality management doesn’t have to be a workout. If you’re looking to move forward, simply visit us online to raise your hand for a demo or phone call. For more information, check out this demo on quality collaboration or watch an on-demand webinar to hear directly from an SAP customer.
Join the conversation
We are all a community here and would like to hear your thoughts. Please comment below on what your organization is doing to address quality control. How are you collaborating with your trading partners to ensure that you are delivering the highest quality products to your customers? How do you manage provenance of your raw materials and components?