Material Issues / Governance

Quality Assurance

Approach and Policy

The SMM Group has established and operates a business model based on 3-business collaboration between the Mineral Resources, Smelting & Refining, and Materials Businesses. Through this business model, we endeavor to continuously improve products and respond to changing customer needs in order to deliver quality that satisfies customers.
To provide quality that satisfies customers, the president has established a Company-Wide Quality Policy and sets SMM Quality Objectives every year. Based on these standards, each business division sets forth and implements division-specific quality targets and conducts quality activities that are aligned across the entire SMM Group.

Company-Wide Quality Policy

Provide quality to satisfy our customers through continual improvements of quality assurance and control systems.

  • Pursue quality levels that stand out from the trends of the time
  • Abide by laws and rules and strive to create products incorporating safety and environmental considerations

Quality Assurance Promotion Framework

With the president bearing ultimate oversight responsibility, we have appointed an executive officer in charge of the Quality Assurance Department to drive quality assurance initiatives. Each business division develops and maintains their own quality assurance framework, while the Quality Assurance Department manages quality across the entire Group and ensures a Group-wide unified approach.
Additionally, not only does the Quality Assurance Working Group—which comes under the Sustainability Committee—deliberate key measures for promoting quality assurance activities, it works to improve the Group’s quality management systems (QMS) through the sharing of information on progress toward departmental targets and quality control status including the reduction of the number of complaints against the Company.
In addition, quality assurance managers from the various business divisions and business sites, along with members of the head office’s Quality Assurance Department hold an annual quality meeting to share the quality management status of each business site and quality issues common across the entire Group.

■ Promotion Structure

SMM Quality Objectives

FY2023 Company-Wide Quality Policy

Drive QMS improvements to achieve zero major quality complaints and create a structure that earns customer trust.

  • Zero major quality complaints. Prevent complaints on quality that could jeopardize our business foundation
  • Zero occurrences of quality misconduct
  • Achieve complaint goals within business divisions

Quality Complaints

The chart to the right illustrates the trend of quality claims since FY2014 for the entire Group.
Quality complaints declined gradually from FY2014 onwards, and in FY2022, the number of complaints had reduced to approximately one-third of that of FY2014. We believe that this is due to the effective implementation of quality improvement initiatives at each business division and business site, and the impact of QMS.

■ Quality complaints (with FY2014 data as 100)

Quality Improvement Initiatives

Improving Effectiveness of Quality Management Systems

The SMM Group has established and operates QMS at its business divisions and business sites. For such QMS to function effectively, we have been conducting improvement activities based on the SMM Quality Standards, which constitute a summary of the ideal form of QMS at our Company. Every fiscal year, each business site sets a target level for the SMM Quality Standards prior to engaging in improvement activities, and—while assessing these activities through internal quality audits and quality audits by the Quality Assurance Department—undertakes self-assessments of its level of quality achieved as of the end of the fiscal year. The effectiveness of QMS at business sites is continually being improved by setting new targets for the next fiscal year based on the results of these assessments and then conducting improvement activities.
The SMM Quality Standards categorizes requirements into eight sections, with content based on prior incidents, allowing us to identify strengths and weaknesses of each business site, and to focus on improving such weaknesses.
The SMM Quality Standards are revised each year to raise QMS to the level required by the Group so that we can deliver quality that satisfies customers.

■ PDCA cycle for QMS improvement in SMM Quality Standards
■ Overall picture of QMS and applicable items in SMM Quality Standards

Strengthening of Our Internal Quality Audits

Based on the SMM Quality Standards, we currently aim to carry out activities to achieve internal quality audits which work with a third-party-like perspective to identify potential internal issues from problems that have been found, and relay these findings to top management. We hold training to cultivate internal quality auditors at business sites in Japan, turning out roughly 450 internal quality auditors from FY2019 to FY2022. We operate a PDCA cycle to develop these internal auditors, and confirm their effectiveness through supervised audits by trained internal auditors.
To prevent quality-related misconduct such as falsification of inspection or testing data, we provide Group-wide quality fraud prevention training opportunities using e-learning. In addition, Group-wide efforts are made to deter misconduct, including internal quality audits to guarantee product quality and to confirm the reliability of inspection or testing data, automated transfer thereof to avoid human intervention, and if such automation is difficult, administrative measures are enhanced.

Expansion of Group-Wide Education on Quality

We provide training on quality based on our education system that aims to equip each level of employee, from new employees to managers, with necessary quality-related knowledge and management ability. With the aim to acquire wide-ranging quality-related knowledge and enhance awareness, SMM Hinkaku,* an e-learning program for all employees launched in FY2019, with approximately 5,900 employees taking the course in FY2021. SMM Hinkaku will be used for the education of new employees and transferees.
As a shortage is expected of human resources capable of assuming responsibility for quality in the future, training is conducted Group-wide to nurture people responsible for quality. Four practical training sessions a year are conducted to improve the effectiveness of the QMS by rolling out SMM Quality Standards to the business divisions. After completion, the trainees will determine issues to be addressed at their own business sites and aim to accomplish these issues by utilizing what they have learned in the training program. The Quality Assurance Department also follows up on the progress of the initiatives. The training was completed by roughly 25 employees in FY2022 and is currently participated by 20 employees in FY2023.

Trainees learn the minimum level of knowledge and awareness regarding quality required for manufacturing and then their proficiency is graded through a test

Disclosure of Information on Products and Services

Most items in the SMM Group product lineup are supplied as raw or processed materials for use by customers for manufacturing. Information that customers require to handle our Group’s products properly from safety and environmental perspectives, as well as information needed to enable them to supply products, is communicated in product specifications at the time of contracting, during technical discussions, and via product inspection certificates and safety data sheets (SDS),1 based on prior and the latest information, our Group’s proprietary knowledge, and necessary studies. SMM products supplied to customers are carefully designed, incorporating considerations toward safety and environmental compatibility, and are only delivered after thorough trials and inspections carried out during their manufacture2. We make sure that information utilized for the above is always appropriate through quality management systems, reviewing it based upon the latest technology, laws and regulations and demands from customers.

  • 1.SDS (Safety Data Sheet): A document listing information on a chemical product, including the chemical substance, the product name, the supplier, hazards, safety precautions and emergency procedures
  • 2.We also conduct surveys linked to life cycle assessments (LCA) for copper, nickel, and zinc through associations related to each metal

Communication with Customers

Business divisions and business sites take the initiative in conducting customer satisfaction surveys. The results are fed back to the sales and development divisions. To enhance customer satisfaction, we are constantly improving our methods of measuring and assessing customer satisfaction, accurately identify issues through precise and sufficient communication with our customers, and execute effective measures. Through quality improvement activities, we contribute to resource and energy conservation by improving product yield.

Initiatives to Take on Issues and Provide Improvements

Quality that earns customers’ trust is achieved only when all employees align their goals and directions and actively engage in activities to achieve targets. To enable this, we clarify issues based on facts obtained through communication inside and outside the Group, set targets, and work to achieve these through active participation by all employees in quality improvement activities based on our SMM Quality Standards.

Information on SMM Products Requiring Disclosure by Labeling and Applicable Products/Services

Information requiring disclosure Applicable products/services
The sourcing of components of the product or service All products/services containing substances requiring management under legislation
Requirement is not applicable to our main products (raw materials and internally processed materials)
Content, particularly with regard to substances that might produce environmental or social harm All products/services containing substances requiring management under legislation
Safe use of the product or service All products/services containing substances requiring management under legislation
Environmental/social harm from disposal of the products All products/services containing substances requiring management under legislation

Methods for Providing Information

Provision of Information Relating to Specifications

We indicate product specifications requested by the customers on the order received sheet to provide necessary information to them.

Provision of Information Relating to Chemicals

The SMM Group uses SDS, etc. to provide information on chemical substances contained in products, complying with regulations for chemical substances and usage, regarding health and safety.

Other Initiatives

The SMM Group also engages in transactions such as the sale of different types of lubricants to general consumers. In line with related laws and regulations, we provide information on products and services in this area through labeling, advertisements, and explanations to ensure correct understanding.

Responding to Product Quality Issues as They Arise

If a quality issue arises in relation to the Group’s products or services, the necessary action will be taken in accordance with the Quality Assurance Regulations. The business divisions and business sites will immediately check facts, report results of root-cause analysis and verification to the customer, and agree on the necessary corrective actions and recurrence prevention measures.
In the unlikely event that a serious quality issue occurs, the business division will promptly report the problem to management and the General Manager of the Quality Assurance Department, who in order to resolve quality issues immediately, will check the progress of necessary response measures, and confirm the effectiveness of corrective actions and measures to prevent recurrence.