As an "old" logistician, I always took care of the operational processes, the supply of the production plants and the delivery problems with suppliers. But since I didn't want to just reactively chase parts all the time, I had to pay more attention to transparency and process improvements. In addition to the daily operational parts chase, transparency, performance monitoring and process control became a central goal in the collaboration with suppliers.
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In this context, ISO was always just an administrative vehicle for my colleagues from quality management until I was taught better and then integrated the principles of quality management into my daily work as a logistics manager and experienced the positive effect.
Why? ISO doesn't really help you when you're about to be audited and everyone has to get their documents up to speed quickly in order to make a good impression on the auditor. But if applied consistently, it will help you in the improvement process in the long term - also or especially in logistics, particularly in times of supply disruptions.
Today I know: ISO 9001 can be a powerful friend of the logistics manager.
The implementation of EN ISO 9001 naturally runs through all areas of an organization, but it also targets relationship management (formerly: "supplier relationships for mutual benefit") and thus a company's partner or supplier management in a special way. In one of our latest blog articles, we go into detail about what ISO 9001 is all about and how supplier management can benefit from it: Supplier Management to ISO 9001.
However, certifications and audits according to ISO 9001, which used to run smoothly, now pose challenges for companies if they are carried out consistently. The reason for this is the 5th revision of the standard, which, after a longer transition period, has been finally mandatory since September 2018.
The most important changes in ISO 9001 with regard to supplier management:
The concrete operational shaping of these principles now offers special possibilities for participation, necessities and opportunities for the logistician.
In the certified company, ISO promotes and demands the involvement of logistics and continuous improvement of supply processes. Partner management is not a one-man show of purchasing. You as a logistics specialist are also on board. This is both a challenge and an opportunity.
Placing orders and expecting that suppliers and partners will "automatically" deliver well is no longer enough. It is necessary to develop effective mechanisms for controlling and enforcing one's own requirements and for controlling the relevant processes.
For supplier management in purchasing and logistics, this means defining the following levers in particular:
Purchasing is traditionally well prepared for this, but logistics is often not.
Unlike in the past, the mostly loose approach within a more or less structured supplier management is no longer sufficient to meet the ISO standard. In addition, the disruptions and uncertainties in global supply chains are giving this new ISO approach even more emphasis and critical attention in future audits and certifications.
The holistic quality concept focuses not only on the quality of parts or goods, but also on process quality in particular. From the logistics perspective, this means in particular the quality and performance of the supply processes and the daily collaboration with partners and suppliers.
This makes modern supplier management an opportunity and even an obligation for logistics to participate. The statement "I have nothing to do with suppliers, purchasing does that for us", which is still sometimes heard in logistics circles, can no longer be upheld. As a logistics manager, you can no longer hide behind such arguments.
Rather, it is the task of purchasing and all specialist departments working with suppliers or partners - especially logistics - to systematically move the control levers outlined above.
In modern supplier and partner management, there is significantly more focus on improving collaboration processes and securing supply. In order to ensure this efficiently, measurably and sustainably, the use of a supplier relationship management tool or collaboration software with an integrated measurement and key performance indicator system is recommended.
With TradeLink, you digitize your supplier and partner management, create transparency along the supply chain, and bring together all coordination processes on a digital platform - without complex installation.
Dear logisticians, the opportunities are there. It is up to you to skillfully and successfully use this set of rules as a powerful tool for logistics. Ultimately, the implementation of ISO is not just a tiresome procedure for passing audits and certifications, but from the logistics perspective it is about supplier management that contributes to the continuous improvement of supply processes in the operational business - with effectiveness in terms of time, costs, quality and resilience.
Hans Gerl is a senior adviser and expert in logistics, supply chain and supplier management. At the BMW Group, he was responsible for securing supplies for all 30 plants worldwide. Since 2020, he has supported and accompanied TradeLink with his experience and expertise on its way to becoming the leading digital collaboration platform.
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