Factory audits are a very standard service offered by all third-party quality control agencies. They are typically used by buyers who want an evaluation of a manufacturer, before they start a business relationship.
Different aspects of a manufacturer’s operations can be evaluated. Here are the most common:
Large retailers usually conduct a first audit before placing the first order with a new supplier, and they re-audit the same facility at a certain interval.
For example, if several serious issues were raised, the interval may be 6 months. If the result was very positive, there may be no re-audit at all.
But some importers are more hands-on. They want to push their manufacturers to improve constantly. They audit and re-audit the processes and the quality system. It is a loop:
If you get really serious about continuous improvement, you can send an auditor back once a month. Naturally, your supplier will accept this more easily if you buy 40% of his capacity than if you buy 1% of his output…
Every time, the auditor will focus only on one thing:
Checking just one thing, in great depth and throughout the factory, is a great way of catching problems and inconsistencies. It also puts the factory in a “system” kind of thinking mode, and that is already a victory in China.
This idea was offered to me by Brad Pritts, a certified quality auditor, when I was following one of his audits. It seems like a terrific idea.
And the basis for every one of these audits should be a well-documented control plan.
What do you think?