Sole Source has become prevalent in the Supply Chain for highly engineered critical parts/ components for a variety of reasons – volume, favorable pricing, depletion of legacy sources, etc. However, Sole Source parts/ components (hereafter simply referred to as parts) are also one of the biggest risks for Supply Chain disruption. Sole Source parts are like Eagles, they need to be understood on a case-by-case basis. In a series of posts, I will share one potential approach to mitigate Supply Chain risk for Sole Source parts based on best practices learned over many years from experts in Supply Chain management. This is intended for the designers/ OEMs from a requirement flow-down assessment evaluation. The end game is to identify and group similar parts by material and processes, such that if a disruption occurs in a Sole Source part, suppliers making similar parts can be brought up to speed quickly and produce it. That is, even if a specific Part Number is Sole Sourced, there is at least one other supplier making similar parts with similar processes, such that the Processes are Dual Sourced even though the individual part numbers are Sole Sourced. It sounds simple and logical! It is logical, but it is not simple due to the complexity of the parts being produced. If it were so easy, there wouldn’t be so many issues with Sole Source parts! It does require being proactive and investing some time up-front, however, not only will it mitigate risk, but it may also reveal opportunities for negotiating improved contracts.
To start this journey with me, pick a sole source part and document the requirements and manufacturing routing using the ‘Qual form 5’ on the SAE ITC ASPQP website as a template:
Link to SAE ITC ASPQP webpage with Qual form 5
Yes – this is an aerospace form for standard parts, but experienced Materials and Process Engineers will readily recognize that this format can be genericized into a template applicable to other critical parts. Experienced engineers have developed many different forms to succinctly capture the kinds of information represented in this one, but this format is simply one of the best I’ve seen. Start with the drawing and the sub-tiered specifications and standards. It is okay if you can’t fill out all the details or the ‘how.’ The important starting point is capturing the requirement flow-down for critical and special processes used to manufacture, test and inspect a part.
In the next post, we will look at how to evaluate this information with regard to mitigating Sole Source Supply Chain disruption.