The main objective of quality management processes is to ensure that goods procured by UNHCR are of the right quality, fit for purpose, compliant with UNHCR's requirements and do not expose the end-users to any avoidable risks.
The Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) has a Quality Management System (QMS) covering the CRIs and aims to conduct a Pre-Delivery inspection to every consignment that leaves the manufacturing facilities providing UNHCR with these goods; with that, products received in emergencies from the Global Stockpile Management (GSM) have already gone at least to one quality verification by UNHCR.
Considering quality tests covers also stress tests (such as tensile strength for tarpaulins, drop tests for buckets and jerry cans, etc), it can be beneficial in emergencies to ensure goods are still of the expected quality by conducting more visual checks: ensuring the goods' packaging are not tampered with, taking some samples and checking its overall conditions (no holes, not bent, no dust/dirt, etc) is always recommended to ensure goods distributed to beneficiaries are of the required quality and ensuring any goods that have been in stocks for longer periods of time are still adequate for use.
The graphic below describes the Quality Management System for Core Relief Items:
When and for what purpose?
As all items coming from the GSMs were likely to have been inspected at the factory level, it is recommended that the operation receiving the goods conduct at least a visual inspection during the receipt of the goods in the warehouse, before distribution to the beneficiaries.
The QAU has dedicated Inspection Tools for the CRIs, which can be found at QAU's intranet page for assistance; normally emergency operations will not be able to perform all tests, due to lack of expertise or equipment. With that said, we recommend the inspection of CRIs to focus on:
- Visual inspection of the goods and packaging (about 15 to 20% of the consignment) to assess its conditions (colour, UNHCR visibility requirements, dust, dirt, holes, and anything that indicates a perceived low/substandard quality).
- Check the goods dimensions and shape.
Whenever there are goods to be procured locally, the office needs to ensure all the quality-related criteria are included in the tender documents; the responsible technical requestor, together with the Supply staff, should ensure the criteria does not prevent proper competition and enables a proper quality check, with especial consideration to what is critical to achieve the operational goals.
Follow-up with distribution to identify any concerns (post-distribution monitoring) and provide feedback whenever applicable:
Not conducting a pre-distribution verification can:
- Expose beneficiaries to either substandard, faulty, or ageing products with lower performance/usability than expected.
- Damage UNHCR reputation, if items are not as expected, UNHCR can be perceived as a distributor of substandard goods/assistance.
In addition, for locally sourced items, not including a quality requirement during tendering might prevent UNHCR to properly assess the quality of the items before distributing, impacting on procurement-related risks as well.
Steps to be taken
Step 1. Define specification requirements
The technical specifications of CRIs are available in AQL/Technical Specifications documents (please see Annex). These technical specifications are developed and updated by QAU .
As a preventive measure, the Quality Assurance Unit visits the factories of UNHCR Frame Agreement holders with an Audit Services provider to ensure that manufacturers comply with quality management standards of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental management. For this purpose, the QAU has developed a Factory Assessment Tool (please see Annex) and uses a Factory Audit Service provider..
Step 2. Quality control during tendering
During the tendering process, as part of the technical evaluation process, suppliers are requested to submit a sample for laboratory testing. After receiving the laboratory testing results, the bidders submit items to the UNHCR QCC for physical inspections
The results of the laboratory and physical inspections inform a technical evaluation report. This completes the technical evaluation phase.
Upon receipt of the technical evaluation report, PS opens the financial offers (of the technically compliant offers) and decides which supplier will be awarded a Frame Agreement (FA). PS informs the bidder whether it will be awarded a FA or not.
Successful suppliers receive a "Development of Reference Sample" document which is part of the Frame Agreement where the technical non-conformities found during the tender process are stated, and are expected to use this to continuously improve their products and meet UNHCR's requirements.
Step 3. Pre-delivery quality inspection
The pre-delivery quality control is currently done by an independent inspection company commissioned by UNHCR. Selected items are subject to random sampling (in line with ISO 2859-1), physical inspections, and loading inspections. The inspection services provider uses the "Quality Control Inspection Tool" (please see Annex) to record the findings of the pre-delivery inspection.
Inspection increases the rigorousness of UNHCR's procurement processes and reduces associated risks.
In cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNHCR has developed an Inspection Report Tool which improves quality control of CRIs. It standardizes the quality control procedures of UNHCR and external inspections, applying criteria and principles developed in cooperation with ICRC.
Step 4. Quality control during storage and delivery/ Post-delivery inspection
It is important to continue to control the quality of products throughout the delivery chain. Samples are selected at random (or if necessary, from specific batches) at UNHCR warehouses and can be sent for physical inspection at UNHCR QCCs or to UNHCR approved and validated laboratories.
Post-delivery inspections also serve to control the work of the inspection services provider as they will normally do pre-delivery inspections at factories, where there could be errors on their work and where there is the risk of corruption.
The post-delivery inspection could be decided based on a supplier risk assessment where UNHCR QU could support field operations.
UNHCR has established its own Quality Control Centres in strategic warehouses. and they show that they provide effective quality control.
Step 5. Quality feedback processes
Quality feedback processes promote the continuous development and improvement of UNHCR CRIs.
The QAU has developed a Field Feedback Form to assess the quality of the CRIs that UNHCR field offices receive. The form is used to gather feedback from UNHCR staff, implementing partners, and persons of concern.
The UNHCR QAU analyses the forms and provides the feedback to SMS (Order Management unit) who then contacts the supplier for a root cause analysis and Corrective Action Plan.
Resources / inputs required
In order to conduct the visual inspections, it is needed to:
- Have trained personnel to conduct the sampling and verification of goods.
- An area where items can be set aside for the inspections.
- Regular measurement tools (such as measuring tape, scale, thickness gauge, etc) to enable verifying the needed critical aspects. Also, helpful to have a camera available (cell phone cameras can be used) to capture/evidence any non-conformity.
- Capture the results in an organized format (such as an Inspection report/template).
Step 1: Define specification requirements. Input is required from QAU technical units, as well as UNHCR partners from the Quality, Social and Environmental Group (UNICEF, ICRC, IFRC, MSF, IOM), and in some cases the private sector.
Step 2: Quality Control during tendering. A Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) is established to physically evaluate the samples sent by suppliers during the tender processes. Bidders are asked to send CRI samples to reliable and experienced laboratories recommended and validated by UNHCR QU. In order to compare the characteristics of samples sent to laboratory and for physical verification, it is useful to make use of a Technical Evaluation Matrix, similar to the one attached.
Step 3: Pre-delivery inspection. Independent inspection companies are normally required. However not all inspection companies will have the required experience and expertise on CRIs, so you could request advise from the QU on this matter.
Step 4: Quality Control during storage and delivery/post-delivery inspections. Staff and budgets are required to undertake random quality control tests and establish and maintain UNHCR's quality control centres. Quality control during storage and delivery are also the responsibility of UNHCR to guarantee the well-being of UNHCR PoCs. The use of UNHCR QCCs and laboratories are a reliable option.
Step 5: Quality feedback processes. Field offices need to provide feedback on products; the QU is required to evaluate the feedback and contact DPSM to redefine specifications as appropriate.
UNHCR DESS PMCS Quality Management , Compliance and Risk Management Unit
Email: [email protected]