Identifying Quality Manufacturers in a World of Options

By Bob Smith, Director, Quality
March 30, 2016 Tags: Quality Process, Manufacturer Identification, Approved Manufacturer List
Bob Smith
Bob Smith

Finding high quality manufacturers is vital to our business. The industry has changed, and we have had to grow along with it. Fifteen to 20 years ago, most of the manufacturing and business we supported as McJunkin and Red Man were in North America. Now, we are a global business, our customers have global needs and we have to rely on a global manufacturing base to meet those. The trick is identifying the right manufacturers to work with.

Many of our customers at one time had their own in-house quality process, but more and more of them are moving to rely on our process. Keys to that process are our Supplier Registration Program and Approved Manufacturer List (AML). (There is also a higher level of approval process (via NORSOK standards) for alloy materials that MRC Global Energy Piping plays a crucial role in, which the team will talk about in a future post.)

When MRC Global first starts to consider including a manufacturer on our AML, we buy some of their product and test it, then we evaluate them financially to be sure they are financially stable. We require that they have product liability insurance and other protections in place, and finally, we perform an onsite, in person audit of their facilities.

When we visit a manufacturer, we want to see how the materials are actually being made. Often times, that is the best way to judge the quality of the product. There are a lot of properties of the materials we buy that are impossible to inspect or test for once the product is complete, especially with valves. We need to know where the raw materials come from and then actually see the processes and procedures being used to create the products.

Potential Red Flags During an Onsite Audit

Unstable or Low Quality Raw Material Source: This is a vital part of the manufacturing process. If the product is not made out of quality materials, then it will not be up to our standards no matter how it is made.

Outdated or Overworked Equipment: There are many different ways to make the same product but some are far, far superior to others. There shouldn’t be any outdated technology or equipment that is being stressed to the maximum capacity. On the other hand, if the equipment is all brand new, the company may be too far in debt, which could negatively impact their operations.

Signs of Strength

Diverse Workforce: When a workforce is representative of the community in experience level, we look at that as a sign of stability. When employees at different experience levels are well trained and capable, we know the manufacturer is continuing to invest in their team, which speaks to the longevity and success of the supplier.

Clean Facilities: This seems like an easy one, but you would be surprised. Even if a building is older, if it is kept well and the aisles are clean with very little clutter and plenty of room for safe material movement, it makes all the difference when we consider a supplier.

While the onsite audit is only part of an in depth process we use to qualify our manufacturers, it is one of the most telling. We have terrific manufacturers, and MRC Global strives to represent the best of the best. To be included on our AML is a significant accomplishment, and we take pride in the manufacturers we connect to our customers every day.

For more information about how MRC Global can help you identify the best product source to fit your needs, contact us.

About the Author

Bob Smith has been with MRC Global since 2000. Prior to joining our company, Bob spent 5 years at Columbia Gas Transmission and more than 20 years at US Steel. Throughout his career, Bob has seen the evolution of the PVF manufacturing industry from what was primarily U.S.-centric market to a global field of possibilities. In his current role, he travels the world identifying new, high quality sources for our supply chain while maintaining relationships with our many long-standing manufacturers.