Sending Quality Documentation to a Competitor

4 Replies

Sending Quality Documentation to a Competitor

Posted by Ashley Wood on Aug 14, 2019 3:02 pm

Hi All,

Our company has been asked to complete a supplier re-evaluation form from a customer who is also a competitor.  It's a relatively simple questionnaire with 14 yes or no questions.  But with each of these questions, they've asked for copies of our procedures or other quality documentation.  Beyond a copy of the Quality Manual, they're requesting copies of management review meeting documents, our organizational chart, examples of our job descriptions, training records/certificates, our approved supplier list, lot/serial history, etc. 

Top management at our company finds this off-putting and questions the "normalcy" of requesting this type of information in a supplier re-evaluation, especially with this customer also being a competitor.  Our company (in the medical devices industry) is certified to ISO 9001:2015, and the plan was to provide some of the documentation they were asking for, but not all of it.  Top management believes our certification should be evidence enough of the existence of this documentation.  Anyone have any thoughts or insight they could share on this? Thanks!

Re: Sending Quality Documentation to a Competitor

Posted by Jeremiah Genest on Aug 14, 2019 8:13 pm

This is a customer requesting this information as part of their qualification process? Is it also serving as a desktop audit?

The quality agreement between your companies should establish what type of documentation is required to be shared upon request. But, yes, I request information like this from suppliers on a regular basis.

Re: Sending Quality Documentation to a Competitor

Posted by Ashley Wood on Aug 15, 2019 7:57 am

Jeremiah Genest:
This is a customer requesting this information as part of their qualification process? Is it also serving as a desktop audit?

The quality agreement between your companies should establish what type of documentation is required to be shared upon request. But, yes, I request information like this from suppliers on a regular basis.

Yes, they're requesting the info as part of a re-evaluation audit.  It is serving as a desktop audit.  Unfortunately, there is no actual quality agreement in place regarding what types of information can or cannot be shared at this time. 

I planned on sending the majority of what was being requested with the exception of proprietary information, such as work instructions.  However, top management prefers to send no documentation and only provide controlled document numbers as evidence of the existence of the documentation.  He prefers the, "we are certified to ISO 9001:2015, so you know the QMS is in place and don't need to see the documentation" approach.  I guess I am on the fence regarding the most appropriate response in this situation because the customer is also a competitor.  I appreciate the input!

Re: Sending Quality Documentation to a Competitor

Posted by Jameson Marriott on Aug 15, 2019 8:10 am

We also compete with some of our customers and have been burned by sharing proprietary information in the past. It is our current policy that we don't share our QMS documents. We will sometimes send part of a page, but for significant requests we require on-site visits/audits. 

Re: Sending Quality Documentation to a Competitor

Posted by Amanda Foster on Aug 15, 2019 8:18 am

I would agree with Jameson Marriott‍, it seems to me that sharing these proprietary documents is too great a risk for your company. You are ISO certified and you can prove that these documents exist without sharing them with a competitor. 
Amanda Foster, ASQ CQA