Q: I need clarification on the following, please:
ANSI/ASQC C1-1996 — Specification of General Requirements for a Quality Program — has been included in the required specifications from a prospective customer. Section 3.3.4 states (in the last sentence) “Furthermore, the validity of certifications shall be periodically verified by the buyer through independent testing.”
What criteria (time-frame, suppliers, mills, etc.) should be used to comply with “periodically?”
What testing is to be performed for the required independent testing? Is it to be only a chemical analysis, or are mechanical tests to be performed as well?
Does this standard require independent testing of materials in purchased components such as gaskets, glass, bolts and fittings, or is “raw materials” only meant to be the base materials such as plate and sheet steel that we purchase?
A: To begin with, most establishments, including your customer, already know that materials most often come with material test certificates. For example, when you order a sheet of steel from EMJ Metals or another supplier, they will supply a test certificate along with it.
The certificates include that data which would be most important to your customer such as chemical analysis, mechanical properties, ASTM specifications, etc. You are probably already aware of all this.
As for “periodic” and “independent” testing, here is my opinion:
If you have, in writing, a document stating that all purchased materials will be subject to receiving inspection and such inspections will verify that customer requirements have been met, that will be step 1.
For step 2, if you go to the web site of almost any materials supplier, they will have documentation (quality manual, ISO certification, etc.) which you can use as evidence they are a qualified supplier.
You can then contact that supplier and ask if they will verify, in writing, that they also test the material they are sending. Steel suppliers, like most material suppliers, sell what they receive from the original mills. The material certs they provide to you are made of tests the mills run. A company such as EMJ, which I mentioned earlier, uses what is called a Niton tester to verify chemical make up of the product which they buy and in turn sell to their customers.
Finally, step 3: as with any quality management system, you must “do what you say you do.” So, if you say that part of your receiving inspection includes hardness testing, be ready to provide evidence of that (incoming inspection reports).
In closing, I feel confident that if you prepare the steps noted above, or something similar and communicate this to your potential customer, they will be doubly satisfied with your company. Doubly because all of this would display evidence of an organization with a mature QMS.
ASQ Senior Member, CQT,CQI
For more on this topic, please visit ASQ’s website.