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    Purchasing in QMS – The Process & the Information Needed to Make it Work

    How do the ISO 9001 requirements for the purchasing process change how your company purchases products or services? In general, there should be very little change, but the Quality Management Systems requirements may help to clarify the key critical areas of the process that should be monitored to ensure that a purchased product meets the needs of the company. As with all processes, you need to know the inputs to the process, and the main input to purchasing is an output from design.

    The Purchasing Process

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    Identify Requirements for Purchased Product

    One critical requirement from the Design & Development process in ISO 9001 is to ensure that the outputs of design provide the appropriate information for the purchasing process. This is a key starting point for the purchasing process, because if this is not correct then the purchased product will not meet the needs of the design. Even if you have excluded design from your Quality Management System, you still need to make sure that the information provided to purchasing is accurate and correct through your review of requirements for the product.

    Choosing a Supplier & Determining Terms

    The main goal of the purchasing process is to make sure the purchased product corresponds to what you asked for. Just as there are various types of product you will purchase, so the control placed on the supplier will be based on the effect that the purchased product will have on the production process and final product. As an example, if you buy a screw that has a damaged head, but you will see this easily when assembling and can swap it out for a good screw, then the control on this supplier and product need not be as strict.

    Suppliers need to be chosen based on their ability to provide product to meet the requirements, so part of the process is making sure the supplier can provide the quality and quantity of parts you need. The full criteria of how you will evaluate this needs to be established and records kept. Finally, the terms of the sale, such as price and delivery date, need to be agreed upon with the supplier.

    Place the Order with Adequate Purchasing Information

    The most important information when you place the order with the supplier is the information in what is commonly called the “purchase order.” There is very little mandate on what the purchasing information must be, but some simple guidelines are in the standard. The purchasing information needs to describe the product being purchased, and if appropriate, the approval requirements for product, procedures, processes or equipment; qualification of personnel; and the QMS requirements. If you require a certain piece of verified machinery be used, and a lesser model is inadequate [such as a 5-axis Computer Numeric Control (CNC) metal milling machine], then this needs to be communicated in the purchasing information. Further, the adequacy of these purchasing requirements needs to be ensured before sending the information to the supplier. If the supplier does not have enough information to provide the product you actually need, it is not the supplier’s fault. The onus is on the purchaser to make sure the full extent of the requirements is relayed.

    Receiving, Verifying and Forwarding Purchased Products to the Next Process

    The last steps in the purchasing process involve ensuring the purchased product meets the requirements. This entails the steps where your company receives the purchased product, and then ensures the product is what is needed. Whatever activities are required to do this, be it an inspection upon receipt, certification of the supplier so that the parts go directly to stock, or one of many other activities, the purchaser needs to identify these and make them happen. If an inspection is to happen at the supplier, the intended arrangements and method of product acceptance need to be in the purchasing information. The final thing to do after the verification is to forward the acceptable purchased product to the production or service process.

    The Key Steps in the Process

    While there may be many sub-steps in the above process, such as how to determine the terms or verify the adequacy of the information, the key steps are these. If the efforts of purchasing are focused on these main elements, which ensure that the right product is ordered and delivered at the right time and is free of errors, then the ability of the company to deliver its product or service as promised will be more easily met. The end customer satisfaction relies heavily on the upfront efforts of the people in the purchasing process.

    Click here to see a free sample of  Procedure for Purchasing and Evaluation of Suppliers.

    Advisera Mark Hammar
    Author
    Mark Hammar
    Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality, and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.