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The benefits of a quality ethos

Author : Tony Downer | Chief Technology Officer | Solid State Supplies

01 July 2022

Solid State Supplies_Quality Inspection
Solid State Supplies_Quality Inspection

In manufacturing environments, a reference to “quality” may bring to mind industry standards & accreditations, or productivity statistics, yield curves & defect analysis. It can be viewed as solely the domain of production & quality teams – but Tony Downer, Chief Technology Officer at value added electronics distributor, Solid State Supplies believes that companies committed to a quality ethos throughout their business can realise huge benefits…

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“A focus on quality has always been important for Solid State Supplies – but it rolls all the way through the company, not just at our manufacturing sites.” says Downer. “Our industry accreditations are of course extremely important – some are essential, in fact, for our military and medical customers – but the quality ethos permeates the whole organisation and our aim is to make even the smallest transaction reliable and robust.”

Solid State Supplies employs quality management tools to provide a framework for collecting and analysing data to this end. Ensuring that a quality management system meets the provisions of industry standards, including the popular ISO standards or application-specific medical or aerospace standards, such as AS9100, provides a recognised benchmark and gives customers confidence in a company’s capabilities to maintain robust and reliable processes and procedures.

From opportunity to delivery – quality matters

The Solid State group has been in the semiconductor distribution business for over 50 years, and the addition of manufacturing capabilities and value added services has been a key part of the group’s growth. Going above and beyond the core business of component supply, to offer additional services and help customers solve problems, leads to much closer relationships with both customers and suppliers. Wherever possible, the company’s business development and product teams will take a step back from an enquiry and ask the customer what it is they are trying to achieve. They’ll then often be able to suggest different approaches to solving a problem, or alternative technologies the customer may not have even considered.

Striving to exceed expectation and offer the best possible service in this way aligns exactly with a quality ethos. As Downer observes: “We call it closing the gap between specification and application. We never settle for the status quo; we’re constantly looking for ways to improve any and every business interaction – whether it’s company introductions for new staff, sales & marketing communications or attention to detail when packaging and presenting goods. From opportunity right through to delivery, every small link in the chain – it all counts.”

Solid State involves all its employees in this true culture of quality. Staff in every department are encouraged to consider how quality can be inherent in how they do everything, every day. Innovation is welcomed, especially if it introduces process improvements, and even visitors are encouraged to offer observations and ask questions as they view the facilities with a fresh perspective.

Solid State staff involved in quality ethos
Solid State staff involved in quality ethos

Maintaining a quality ethos is challenging when a company expands, and particularly so when that expansion happens by acquisition. The Solid State group has acquired several companies in recent years; each time, the challenge is to integrate a new team of people with different strengths, processes and systems into the wider group, ideally benefitting from complementary capabilities and learning from each other.

There are always difficulties retaining the strengths of smaller companies while implementing the inevitable changes that become essential as a business grows. The ideal is to take the best aspects from each acquisition into the company, and to apply the best from the company to the acquisitions. As Downer notes, “We actively encourage a flow of information and a sharing of best practice between our sites and our teams, despite some of them being on different continents. Acquisitions such as Pacer, Willow and AEC have brought tremendous skill sets into the group, in diverse areas, and we need to pool our expertise, while blending our different approaches. This is actually a very complex objective, but our quality ethos helps our people to address it effectively.”

A focus on quality can be threatened when the supply chain is under pressure. During periods of long lead times and allocation, companies whose production is jeopardised may be tempted to cut corners and forego their usual quality standards, despite the significant risks involved.

Solid State established a specialist Sourcing & Obsolescence Services unit several years ago, to support customers having difficulties obtaining specific products. Appropriately known as SOS, this dedicated team offers a comprehensive sourcing service for obsolete and hard-to-find electronic components. Crucially, the SOS team only obtains product from approved sources; Solid State is an ERAI (Electronic Resellers Association International) member and understands how important it is to provide an assured source for obsolescence requirements. The company offers services such as re-testing and up-screening, and utilises the latest anti-counterfeit detection methods to protect this assurance.

Looking to the future

Adopting a quality ethos also involves a forward-thinking, strategic element, as Solid State aspires to be the best it can be, not just now but in the future. The company strives to foster inclusive, long term relationships with both customers and suppliers. By seeking to determine their future plans and roadmaps, it can ensure the best possible chance of alignment by looking ahead and being ready to meet the future needs of its stakeholders.

Embracing a true quality ethos throughout the business, applying it to even the smallest transaction, and involving every member of staff, has been shown to reap significant benefits for Solid State Supplies.

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