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History of Supplier Assurance

Managing the risk in the supply chain is not a new idea. During the 1980s the former nationalised rail operator, British Rail, started to adopt modern supplier quality assurance principles to its business, which included its supply chain. Purchased products were allocated QA ratings according to criticality and supplier inspection teams were replaced with the requirement for suppliers to demonstrate management capability and systems.

However, an unintended consequence of privatisation and European liberalisation was that these arrangements became fragmented and more numerous, being delivered by different organisations and third parties, leading to a lot of duplication. In short there was no system level thinking about how the supply chain could be risk-based and cost-efficient. The problem has persisted to the present day.

Research by RSSB has identified an opportunity for industry to save £35million (or 375 'person years' of effort) every year. In order to address these issues, we are working with other schemes, to improve the understanding of how to use them amongst buyers and work together to develop and implement comprehensive changes in 2018.

The diagram below shows how schemes - including RISQS - generate different aspects of assurance at different stages in procurement activity.

RISQS is participating in a new working group managed by RSSB to deliver a new vision for supplier assurance. In reality, the 'information hub' in the centre doesn't exist yet, but it does form part of this vision to simplifying and improve arrangements in 2018.

There have also been some early improvements as schemes have agreed to remove duplication of audits related to the assurance of wheelset, wheelset component and bogie overhaul suppliers.

The schemes are also committed to a common vocabulary and taxonomy of products and services, known as RICCL (Railway Industry Commodity Classification List), and more research is being considered to develop it to be in a position to embed it more formally in industry practice.

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