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How to Determine Critical Suppliers (vs. Non-critical Suppliers) B

on API Speci cation Q1 9th Edition or API Speci cation Q2
by Miriam Boudreaux (, published September 21,

A reader asks, I am currently working on transition to API Speci cation Q1 9

Edition ( an
got stuck at a) Determine Criticality. We are a repair/remanufacturing
facility for the oil and gas industry (
consulting/oil-gas). Would you mind helping me understand how to determine
criticality? Should it be in terms of products or activities or their ability to prov
products or activities?
The topic of supply chain and critical suppliers is one of my favorites, and Mireaux Management Solution
always preached the concept of grading suppliers prior to reevaluation. Even when ISO 9001
( never called for di erentiation of
suppliers, we always advised our Clients to distinguish the critical few versus the trivial many when evalu
or reevaluating suppliers, with the main goal of making this exercise meaningful and value added. But ho
one di erentiate them?

Its all in the main process map

We all know that adopting the process approach is key to a good management system. In fact, if you read
article Do You Feel Like Your Company is Acting Like a Chicken Without a Head?
head- nd-out-what-good-process-mapping-can-do-for-you) Find Out What Good Process Mapping Can D
You!, you will learn that I compare a companys main process map (
mapping-concepts-to-develop-accurate-procedures) to the blueprint for a buildings foundation: Without
plan, no matter how fancy the house is, it will either not stand or it will eventually crumble. So well assum
have done your homework and have a good process map. If that is the case, you should have what you n
order to separate your critical suppliers from those that are non-critical. But wait, what is a good proces
map? Youll know if your company has a good process map if it exhibits the following traits:
1. Its readable You read that right. If your process map has arrows going in every direction or look
like a hieroglyph, then you certainly still have some work to do.
2. Easily recognize inputs and desired outputs This will help to know what the right direction of
the activities are.
3. Distinguish Core versus Support processes: This is critical because we understand that the core
is what makes the company money.

Here is a very simple representation of a Main Process Map for a companys core processes. Lets preten
company does machining and welding:

So now that we have a good representation of a core main Process Map, then we can begin to distinguish
critical versus non-critical suppliers.

Review the process map and identify critical processes

Stand in front of your Process Map, review it and with the help of your management team if necessary. C
the processes that you considered absolutely critical to delivering top-notch quality products or services.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking everything is important, ask yourself these questions:

1. If I had to do without this process, could I still deliver a good product or service?
2. If this process became deteriorated or degraded, could I still deliver a good product or service?

Using the same simple Process Map from above, look at it, and ask yourself: what could I absolutely not

In this sample case, we came up with 3 critical processes:

1. Inspection
2. Materials Planning
3. Warehouse and Shipping

Review each critical process and identify critical suppliers:

Now that we have identi ed our critical processes, we can review each one to see if there is a vendor inv
in those processes that we deem critical to our goal. Once again, not every vendor will be critical, even if
process were reviewing is. We evaluate vendors by going through the same two questions, but with a tw

1. If I had to do without this vendor, could I still deliver a good product or output from this process?
2. If this vendor disappeared or degraded, could I still deliver a good product or output from this

In our case, lets review one by one:

1. Inspection
Say we use NDE Labs and X-ray labs. We would agree that without those vendors, we could pretty
much not function in this department, therefore they are critical. And as a bonus, for any
inspection that we do internally, we use instruments calibrated by a lab. In this case, we also
believe this lab is critical because if our instruments are reading inaccurately, we could make
serious mistakes, so the verdict is:

a. Critical Vendor 1: NDE Labs

b. Critical Vendor 2: X-Ray Labs
c. Critical Vendor 3: Calibration Lab

2. Materials Planning
In our sample company, we do not use any vendor to assist us with materials planning, except our
good old Buyer Planner Jimmy. However, what Jimmy buys is critical: our raw materials! Our metal
pipes and welding materials are indispensable to our operations. Therefore we will make these tw
products critical and thus the vendors who supply them:

a. Critical Vendor 4: Metal Supplier

b. Critical Vendor 5: Welding supplier

3. Warehouse and Shipping

In this case we use a vendor for packaging material, but we do not consider that critical because w
can always improvise packaging material. However, the trucking companies are de nitely key in
ensuring the product reaches the customer. Local couriers are not critical because there are so
many and we have our own truck.

a. Critical Vendor 6: Trucking companies

Could there be more critical suppliers?

So based on our simple exercise, we were able to identify 6 Critical Vendors. We have grouped them so t
easy to design our entire evaluation and reevaluation program later on. These are the nal four groups,
mind also we are talking about vendors in plural, so anyone that ts in the category is considered critical
just one vendor out of the pack:

1. NDE, X-Ray and Calibration Labs

2. Metal Suppliers
3. Welding Suppliers
4. Trucking Companies

And remember that there is no real di erence between Vendor and Supplier. To nd out more about tha
our blog E ective Evaluation and Reevaluation of Suppliers part 1 (
blog/e ective-evaluation-reevaluation-suppliers-part-1).

So could there be more critical suppliers? Of course, you can always dig a bit deeper, review your suppor
processes (not just the core processes as we did) and perhaps nd out if there are other areas that could
or break your products or services. If thats the case, now you know what to ask in order to truly nd out
Vendor is critical. Once you have decided who is critical and who is not, you can continue to design your s
chain program as per the API requirements.

About the Author

Miriam Boudreaux (

president) is the CEO and Founder of Mireaux Management Solutions, a tech
and consulting rm headquartered in Houston, TX. Mireauxs products and s
encompass international standards ISO and API Consulting
(, Hands-On Training
(, Auditing
(, Document Control (
sems-consulting/document-control) and implementation of Web QMS
( platform.

To get in touch with Miriam Boudreaux, please contact her at


Tags: API Speci cation Q1 ( cation-q1), API Speci cation Q2

( cation-q2), Process Mapping (
Supply Chain Management (


When I came into this class, I had a vague understanding of API Q1. I feel
con dent going to my facility and helping with QMS after attending this class.
Kristin G.

Mireaux Inc. is a technology and consulting rm based in Houston, Texas. We specialize in assisting
companies achieve international standards certi cations, including ISO 9001, API Spec Q1, API Spec Q2,
ISO 27001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and SEMS. We provide consulting, training and auditing services, as
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