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What is Supplier Assurance?

How does an organisation ensure that its suppliers have the right competence and resources to consistently deliver their products to their right specification?

Part of the answer lies in supplier assurance - used as part of a buyer's safety management system, and designed to support good procurement practice by providing buyers with a pool of capable, qualified suppliers for tendering and European public procurement purposes.

Arrangements to generate supplier assurance provide the confidence that buyers and suppliers need to have in each other when working together to manage the risks in the supply chain. The need for assurance becomes more crucial when dealing with higher risk, safety-critical products and services.

Generating this assurance costs time and money so there is a need to get it right, and an opportunity to reduce costs and see better business performance by reviewing and improving current arrangements.

How thorough should the assurance be?

The level of assurance generated will need to be a proportionate effort in relation to the risk being managed as well as legislative requirements.

There is a hierarchy of assurance techniques, each of which can be deployed depending on the category of product involved and the level of assurance required.

Registration

Registration with the buyer's defined 'scheme' enables the supplier to make themselves known to a buyer and initiates an interest to supply. Information required will generally be company details and information of the products that are to be purchased.

Little supplier assurance will be derived from registration, but for very low risk products and services, this may well be proportionate to the risk imported from suppliers.

Qualification

Qualification helps a customer build on the initial registration to derive more assurance. This might involve an 'assessment' of the supplier to ensure that the product is appropriate and that the supplier's company is one that meets the pre-determined criteria for 'approved supplier' listing.

Part of the qualification process may be applied via one of the industry schemes on behalf of the buyer and may include an evaluation of questionnaire answers and, in some cases, an audit. It may even involve documenting the qualification via a certificate. However, this further qualification activity should not be confused with the certification process, which goes beyond this.

Certification

Certification provides customers with a more rigorous process to derive much higher levels of assurance than registration and qualification. It involves providing documentary evidence that there has been a successful assessment, a process which requires differing degrees of intervention at the supplier's premises, dependent on the risk that the product or service represents.

RISQS provides registration and qualification, but not certification. For third party certification of suppliers of critical products and services, talk to our sister scheme, RISAS, the Railway Industry Supplier Approval Scheme.

For more information on supplier assurance for the rail industry, talk to RSSB.

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