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Conforming to the Non-Comformance

Regularly, I hear of customers who are unhappy with their suppliers. They often don't know exactly why they aren't performing, they just feel they are doing as well as they should. 'Feeling' isn't enough. Make sure you track conformance to your agreement.


Non-conformance or non-conformity means that something has gone wrong. This also means it's already too late to prevent the issue from happening and whilst we would normally like to talk about how you can prevent issues from occurring by firming up your processes and governance, you will not always be able to prevent every issue. How you learn from and overcome the issues that you do develop is the next most important thing.

A non-conformance is an ISO 9001 term, which is a quality accreditation. But you don't have to be an accredited company or even seeking accreditation to benefit from having good operational practices like this in place. And they fit perfectly into the marketing environment, particularly when you are managing multiple or large suppliers.

If you made a note of every single issue that arose with every supplier you dealt with, no matter how big or small it was, at some point you would look back at a potentially long list of issues you'd encountered. Within that data, you would start to notice trends. Let's say for example that your print supplier is continually missing the delivery dates they had agreed with you. Once you can see these issues documented in one place, a few things happen;

1. It becomes really obvious what the reoccurring issues are with your suppliers

2. You know what to look out for ahead of time and be really reactive to issues as they occur

3. Your suppliers become much more focused on quality now they know you are monitoring and tracking their performance

This simple method also enables you to bring in monthly or quarterly supplier reviews where you can discuss these issues (along with other matters) to ensure you hold your suppliers to account and you are getting the very best service from them. It should help them to improve as a business too, as they deal with the feedback you give them, in the example used before, it could inform our supplier to get a new courier to ensure they don't miss delivery dates for you and their other clients.

And in more serious and unfortunate circumstances, it will support you in renegotiating or ending contracts with suppliers who simply don't meet the terms of service they promised you by providing factual evidence of failings to learn and improve with.

Have you got a non-conformance process? Perhaps it's a less formal supplier process review or maybe your procurement team deal with supplier performance? I'd love to hear about how you keep your supplier performance on track.

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