Have you decided to start auditing your suppliers’ factories? Or maybe some parts of your company/group?
Getting ready to audit your or your supplier’s factory?
We suggest you follow this tried-and-tested factory auditing process which will help reduce quality risks:
1. Define some baseline requirements and communicate them
You could go with ISO 9001, but many companies opt for a checklist that suits their needs more closely. (ISO 9001 was drafted in a way that applies to restaurants as well as steel mills, so it uses very generic terms that can be confusing.) Read more about auditing a factory’s quality system
2. Keep pressure with a regular auditing schedule
You don’t need to assess every part/area and every requirement, every time. Stage these so every area is checked at least once a year, for example.
After some time, the leaders and managers will start thinking ‘what would the auditor say if they see this?’, and this line of thinking can have a profound effect.
3. For extra impact, use a healthy competitive spirit
Quantify results in each area/line/workshop or in each factory, share them widely, and show some kind of ranking. Nobody wants to come out last! Some people are very motivated by this type of competition. Another benefit is, you will see where extra support is needed.
4. Keep a close eye on critical processes
You probably know what they are. That testing station that, if run improperly, fails to catch issues with catastrophic consequences. That manual soldering process (a known common cause of non-functioning electronic products). And so forth.
Get them audited (much) more frequently than other processes.
5. Prevent recurring issues
Similarly, you should keep a list of past issues that have hit you and that you never want to see again. You will want to evaluate whether the root cause(s) of those issues have been addressed in an effective and permanent manner. Keeping pressure with audits is often the best way to prevent people from ‘forgetting’.
One really useful feature of our application is that it reminds the auditor of those past issues.
6. Re-audits should cover findings of previous audits
That’s when it starts to drive improvements. The virtuous cycle looks like this:
- Find holes in the quality management system, or other practices detrimental to your interests
- Get them to understand why that’s an issue; ask them to commit to fixing it
- Come back and see how they addressed it
- If needed, send an engineer to help fill the gap
- Escalate to top management if a serious issue is still unaddressed after some time
7. Grow management skills in your organization
An auditor should observe other processes in their/another organization, ask questions, and accept different ways of getting to the same result. It is a great breeding ground for future leaders. Send some of your promising people to do some audits, after a bit of training. You will give them more exposure and hone their analytical & communication skills.
Have you had success when performing factory audits? How so?
Please share your questions and experiences by leaving a comment below this post.