Supplier Selection - Evaluation steps

Supplier Selection

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Companies depend on their suppliers to provide metal stock and components that meet design requirements and are delivered on time. However, companies do not always use a methodical approach for evaluating and selecting suppliers. Additionally, companies are often lured by the promise of a low piece part price, only to find that costs of poor quality, delayed product launch, and product delays overshadow the planned savings.

Supplier selection involves many considerations from several different perspectives, such as design engineering, quality engineering, sourcing, finance, and shipping and logistics. This article discusses supplier selection considerations based on the materials engineering perspective, with a focus on metal stock and metal components. Many people are familiar with the other perspectives mentioned, but not many are familiar with the materials engineering perspective.

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Materials engineering perspective

The materials engineering perspective to supplier selection is simple - select suppliers capable of consistently providing stock materials and components that have the composition, microstructure, and level of defects needed to enable:

Maximizing the likelihood of selecting capable suppliers requires a methodical approach that includes two broad sets of tasks:

  1. Identifying supplier selection criteria.
  2. Evaluating potential suppliers to determine whether they meet the selection criteria.

While these apply to all the perspectives mentioned, the specifics of the tasks from the materials engineering perspective are different.

Supplier selection criteria

The selection criteria are based on the requirements for the materials and components being purchased. So, people need to know what they need. The requirements for the materials and components must come from the specifications for components and assemblies. Based on these requirements it is possible to then evaluate whether a supplier has the capabilities needed.

The following information us needed:

Occasionally, there are also microstructure requirements such as grain size, amount of retained austenite, and presence of problem phases on grain boundaries.

Evaluating suppliers

There are several areas of consideration when evaluating a supplier’s capability to consistently supply metal stock and components that meet design requirements, and meet product launch and production schedules.

As a materials engineer, when evaluating a supplier I want to learn about the following:

Doing these evaluations will help to quickly determine whether you want a supplier. The first two evaluations can be performed with multiple suppliers for a particular item, with a materials evaluation of samples from the supplier(s) who pass the first two evaluations.

Local vs. low-cost supplier

Companies often try to go for low-cost to start, looking for overseas suppliers. This might be ok for a product that’s an iteration of a past product, where much technical knowledge has been built up about materials and components.

For a new product that is a significant change from past products or for companies that don’t have deep technical knowledge about the materials and components being used, trying to go for low-cost is risky. It’s difficult enough working with a local supplier (1-2 time zones difference, speak the same language). Adding several time zones difference and more difficult communications increases the risk of getting what you need, meeting deadlines, and meeting cost goals. It’s much less risky to first work out the technical details with local suppliers and then try to find lower cost suppliers.

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