Outsourcing and quality


Q: The company I work for has outsourced its manufacturing processes and will possibly be outsourcing some of its other processes (including its core quality operations) in the near future.  I am interested in ASQ articles that relate to the outsourcing of core company operations or how quality is affected overall by outsourcing.

A: Outsourcing can be defined as a “strategy to relieve an organization of processes and tasks in order to reduce cost, improve quality, reduce cycle times, reduce the need for specialized skill, and increase efficiency” (taken from The Quality Improvement Glossary by Donald L. Siebels).

The ASQ Knowledge Center has over 30 articles and case studies that specifically focus on the topic of outsourcing.  I have listed some below that I think relate most to your question:

“Quality 3.0”, Quality Progress, Feb. 2010
Abstract: In the era of globalization, the focus of some organizations has shifted from quality to cost savings. The resulting outsourcing of activities created problems with solutions that, thus far, have been short term. Some experts believe better answers are available as long as quality leaders emphasize innovation.

“Reversing Course?”, Quality Progress, July 2011
Abstract: In a recent survey, almost all responding organizations indicated they outsource functions, but most have not met or achieved service, quality and productivity goals.  For outsourced functions, internal service levels were frequently disappointing.  A more holistic approach with less emphasis on cost savings may lead to fewer outsourcing failures.

“Out of Sight…Out of Mind”, Quality Progress, Feb. 2009
Abstract: Quality often takes a hit when a company outsources any process with direct customer impact.  Those changes can leave customers feeling alienated from a company they previously had confidence in.  Holding the outside vendor to a standard of performance can ensure effective oversight and improved customer satisfaction.

“Managing Quality in Outsourced Production: Construct Development and Measurement Validation”, Quality Management Journal, April 2011
Abstract: There is surprisingly little literature on the subject of managing the quality of outsourced production. This paper develops and evaluates the necessary scales of measurement for studying production management of contract manufacturers. To the extent possible these scales are derived from existing literature on in-house production management. These scales are refined through a rigorous item-sorting process and formally assessed using data collected from buyers and contract managers.

“In the Know”, Quality Progress, August 2008 (online-only content)
Abstract: A body of knowledge dedicated to quality in outsourcing will strengthen processes and help companies exceed expectations in today’s global economy. Careful consideration of six knowledge areas can lead to a repeatable, scalable and sustainable outsourcing process based on solid quality fundamentals.

You may also want to take a look at the “Expert Answers” column from the March 2008 issue of Quality Progress.  It contains an answer to a question regarding working on processes related to outsourced products and services.

I hope that this information is helpful.  Please visit the ASQ Knowledge Center if you would like to search or browse for more resources.  Feel free to contact me if you have additional questions.

Best regards,

ASQ Research Librarian
Milwaukee, WI

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One Response to Outsourcing and quality

  1. kerrieannec says:

    An issue I would have with respect to this query in relation to Top Levels of Management as required in many product and systems certifications – ISO 9001 quite clearly states the need to identify manage control outsourced processes – however it also requires Top Level Management participation & engagement – not sure what other compliance certifications may require – but it is a key issue to be addressed

    Also identification & control of quality hold points as well as processes for management of non conforming products are key quality musts.

    Kerrie Christian
    another ASQ Influential Voice for Quality Blogger

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