Raw Material Sampling
It is imperative for any business engaged in procurement of bulk material (like manufacturing/ packaging sectors/ infra sector etc) to carryout proper sampling of inward raw material. This basic process is required to ensure business gets what it pays for, besides addressing other issues. Though this process and thought behind this is known to all concerned employees of a company right from purchase department to material handling department and upto production team, but, execution of this thought on ground leaves much to think about.
As we go through the details given below, magnitude of affect of not executing this process in fool proof manner would be self explanatory. Not only that, the gravity of negative impact of lax controls and execution, on business would dictate that businesses need to carry out thorough analysis of the process being followed by them.
Most of the companies have documented process to carry out sampling of inbound raw material. Most of the process start with or have following guidelines for picking up samples from bulk material :
“It shall be duty of chemist on duty to pick up random sample from each consignment……. “ (or words to that affect).
Thereafter, complete chemical analytical process is defined.
The Problem Statement
I, as loss prevention team member, have serious observation on such open ended process. which are subjective in nature and can be interpreted differently by different employees. Following questions crop up at this very first step :-
If the material is on wheels and not homogenous, what actions are supposed to be carried out by chemist on ground to ensure that his samples are true representative of consignment– is he required to pick up samples while material is still on wheels?
Is he required to have the consignment unloaded and then draw samples?
If he has to pick up samples, is he required to pick up from various corners and layers of the consignment?
When he is drawing samples, who is present to witness his process?
Is transporter or supplier is allowed to witness this process? (they are affected most in case of rejection of material)
How many samples are to be drawn? (If only one sample is drawn, it will be consumed during chemical analytical process – what, in case sample is rejected? Is there any other sample, which maintains its integrity and represents true random sample, which is under analysis?)
If there are more than one samples drawn, do all samples have same homogeneity?
If more than one sample is drawn, how will those be handled and for what purpose? (Does supplier gets a sample? Would there be a sample available at later date and time for umpiring, should there be dispute between the receiver and supplier?)
How the integrity of samples is being maintained? (Are the packets containing samples sealed on site in presence of transporter or supplier?)
How long chemist is required to preserve the sample? (Is it defined in number of days or is at discretion of chemist?)
The list goes on…. Suffice to state that open-ended process, instead of addressing the issue, complicates it further. It is most desirable to write down processes which are very objective in nature and leaves no room for subjectivity.
There are various ISO standards laid out for various kinds of raw material sampling. Detailed process would be different for liquids, gases, food grains, metals, non metals, ore etc. However, all process have some of common factors and thought process.
Question is, if open-ended process throws open more questions than it answers, then what is the solution?
The solution lies in getting it right first time and all the times thereafter. Any business process for raw material sampling should be able to address following issues :-
lead to draw true representative sample of bulk material
define actions to fulfil conditions of ‘random sampling’
help in acceptance of consignments
facilitate testing for batch release
be able to control raw material
help in release of non – conforming products
help in maintaining integrity and identity of collected sample for defined duration
help in validation of analytical methods
be able to address legal disputes
Should be fair to receiver and supplier
be practical and executable from business perspective
Since every business has its own strategy, work culture, legacy and system support, no standard process which will fit all, can be defined at this stage. Process has to be specific to each business for it to be effective. But, if above mentioned issues are factored in process thought process, more often than not, it should close all loops.