By: Jim Brown, Quality Manager
Sourcing cast parts through overseas foundries can make ensuring product quality more complicated, but certainly not impossible. The right sourcing and logistics partner can make all the difference. Your partner should conduct careful validation and vetting, have an onsite presence at the foundry, and provide risk mitigation in case of unforeseen issues.
Look for a sourcing partner that takes these five key steps to assuring product quality.
1. Vet and Validate the Supplier
Your provider should be sending key members of its quality team to thoroughly vet and verify the foundry before committing, getting to know the owner and key team members to determine if they’re qualified. Thorough inspections and audits should include reviewing in detail the foundry’s certificates for calibrated testing equipment and its quality control process.
Be sure to get a full tour, examining the equipment, inquiring about maintenance processes, asking to see equipment spare parts, and thoroughly reviewing the entire casting process. Don’t limit yourself to what the supplier wants you to see. Wander off the official tour route to see what work the foundry is doing for other customers; this can provide a window into product quality as well as the foundry’s capacity. Keep in mind that a foundry owner who wants your business may tell you they have the capacity, while backed-up inventory may tell another story.
2. Build a Relationship
Take the time and effort to establish relationships with foundry owners and managers. Cultural differences, time changes, and distance issues make this step challenging, which is why a partner with local presence is imperative. Use a partner that understands the local culture in order to avoid any missteps.
3. Establish a Local Presence
Make sure you are protected by having actual representation at the foundry itself. Whether you’re purchasing direct or through a third party, having someone at the foundry to validate the process and product conformance is crucial. When purchasing product from the other side of the globe, weekly updates regarding the status of the manufacturing location and the ability to assist with program launches is key.
4. Work Closely During Product Launch
In order to launch on time, new programs require a direct employee at the manufacturing location. This helps assure that all aspects of the launch are done properly and on time. Key non-destructive and destructive testing should be completed, including chemical composition, dimensional/layout reports, radiographic analysis, dye penetrant, and material characteristics (hardness, tensile, yield, and elongation). Consider sending two or three members of your quality team to the foundry for milestone events during the launch, or at least be sure they have frequent communications and tracking mechanisms in place to stay on task. Choose a set number of parts to verify in the sampling phase. Use your own equipment to double-check the foundry’s data, and return to the foundry for a final inspection before product shipment.
An added benefit of multiple visits is that you’ll uncover any issues that may have been successfully kept from view during the initial walk-through.
5. Partner with Multiple Suppliers
The key to any risk mitigation strategy is establishing relationships with multiple suppliers, ideally in different regions. This is important to reduce your risks in the event of an issue at a given foundry or any issue that impacts not just one foundry but an entire region, such as a natural disaster.
Choosing the Right Partner Can Mitigate Risks and Assure Product Quality
The right supply chain management provider can offer a network of suppliers, already vetted and validated, that can provide a variety of processes, areas of expertise, and experience levels so you can choose the right supplier for each part and reduce your risk.
Members of EQI’s US team of 30+ engineering, metal, quality, and logistics professionals regularly travel to work with our team members ‘on the ground’ in our foundries around the world. We provide start-to-finish services, from fabrication-to-casting services to managing the launch phase through assuring product quality at vendor-managed inventory warehouses.
EQI simplifies the global supply chain for the world’s leading heavy-equipment OEMs. Find out how we can deliver quality product, risk mitigation, and cost containment to your supply chain, too.