Understanding systems-based quality strategies

In this article, Smith uses its own experience to demonstrate how a systems-based approach to quality ensures people, products and services meet the highest standards

Quality begins long before components enter Smith’s facilities. A supplier screening process includes a review and audit of their physical location, financial status, trade references, certifications, quality management systems and more. Each supplier is formally selected, qualified and continually evaluated to ensure its ability to provide product that conforms to customer requirements, in line with CCAP-101 and AS6081 certification standards.

Each supplier receives a rating based on their evaluation results, from Preferred to No Trade. Preferred suppliers have long track records of high performance and favorable terms, while No Trade identifies sources that are prohibited from trading with Smith due to inferior quality or poor performance issues. Additional ratings, such as Approved and Conditional, are given to proven suppliers with more limited terms and promising suppliers with good transactional and performance history but potentially limited traceability, respectively.

Recently, Smith has added two new rating levels: Inactive and Initial. Inactive suppliers are those who have not had any purchasing transactions for more than one year, while Initial suppliers are newly created or unproven because minimal activity has not yet been met. Through this defined rating system, Smith’s trading team can efficiently and methodically pursue products from suppliers that have demonstrated their quality and performance.

On receipt, components pass through an inspection process, beginning with packaging. Each package is inspected, ensuring labels are correct and barcodes scan properly. The general packaging is examined (outside and in) to confirm labels are present/authentic and there are no signs of tampering.

Smith’s receiving team then verifies all documents and requirements from the purchase and sales orders. This helps ensure all customer requirements are met, including packaging, date codes and specialized testing requirements.

All components then pass through the standard quality-control process. During visual inspection, Smith’s CCCI-102 Level 1 and Level 2 quality inspectors examine components to verify that part dimensions, markings, leads and other characteristics are consistent with manufacturer specifications. Smith’s quality team uses tools such as digital microscopy, imagery and dimensional measurement to detect blacktopping, sanding, oxidation and retinning, plus compare product to samples that are known authentic.

Smith tracks receiving history, product dimensions, pictures and test results from previous orders of each component in its proprietary operational platform: WorksChain. The company also has one of the industry’s largest libraries of golden samples. This wealth of historical data is constantly growing and is accessible to Smith’s quality employees to review and reference throughout the inspection process.

As needed or required, Smith offers more extensive and customizable functionality and authenticity testing. In-house functionality test laboratories perform more than 50 different functional tests daily. Beyond visual inspection, Smith can also perform both nondestructive and destructive authenticity testing at its three hubs. Nondestructive testing can identify markings, voids and other anomalies in or on components without affecting the parts’ performance or reliability. Destructive testing, such as decapsulation and lead solderability, may be required to confirm legitimacy.