Role of Quality in Supply Management

Role of Quality in Supply Management


Quality is an area where corporate strategy and the supply chain network become key influencers.  Quality is important in any buyer-supplier relationship, so it is a major concern in supply management.  In the end quality is in the eyes of customers and how they perceive an organization.


The traditional definition of quality meant conformance to specifications.  In the total quality management context, the definition of quality was enlarged to represent a combination of corporate philosophy and quality tools directed toward satisfying customer needs.


Material requirements planning (MRP), manufacturing resource planning (MRPII), and just-in-time (JIT or lean manufacturing) have revolutionized the quantity, delivery, and inventory aspects of material management, and these concepts have required a new attitude toward quality.  Before, it was okay to have a certain amount of defects in materials and keep some safety stock to buffer that risk.  Now with no safety stock available, firms must get fully acceptable quality products.  This extra pressure, along with all other good reasons for insisting on good quality, has sparked major efforts by purchasers to seek supplier quality assurance.  This supplier assurance works for products as well as for service providers.


The interest in quality prompts buyers to work in teams by of the need for supplier rationalization, data transparency, accessibility, cooperative buyer-supplier relations, longer-term contracts, contingency planning, and a reevaluation of the role of the price-quality trade-off in purchase decisions.

The quality concept argues that an organization’s products and services are inseparable from the processes used to produce them.  Just focusing on the product or service without the process that produces the product or service will not allow the organization to continuously improve the product.


Every organization has a supply chain with one side as suppliers and one side which are customers, so every organization performs the functions of customer, converter, and supplier.  This applies externally as well as internally.  Quality must be a philosophy which permeates every part of an organization’s fabric, because meeting customer requirements is the difference in organizations surviving or dying.