The purpose of most quality audits is to confirm a manufacturer is relatively reliable. For example, some of the checkpoints might be as follows:
Basically, the purpose is to detect such cases:
- Factories that don’t know what they are doing (e.g. jigs that allow operators to place a part in an incorrect position, a so-called engineer who doesn’t know the melting temperature of the most commonly-used polymers…)
- Factories that have habits detrimental to quality (e.g. using recycled material for plastic injection molding, taking shortcuts during the setup…)
- Factories that don’t pay attention to the long-term stability and reliability of their processes (e.g. in-adapted maintenance programs, machines that are running at too high a speed…)
How do audits on your regular suppliers differ?
As their buyer, you are trying to manage them in a way that improves their performance. So, the real question to ask is, ‘what do best-in-class manufacturers do?‘
There is no one answer that is always true, but I can point to these key success factors:
1. They provide training to their staff
It’s not all classroom training. It’s actually mostly in the form of suggestions and feedback while doing the job. That’s how a line leader is taught how to get operators to stick to the standard, for example.
2. They have a plan for the next improvements they need to work on
They know in what direction they need to go. They know if the priority is quality, efficiency, flexibility (for low volumes), etc. They usually translate this into action plans
3. They keep auditing the process and pointing to issues
Two common phrases in excellent organizations are:
‘Hard on the process, easy on the people’
‘No problem [detected] is a big problem’
You might not be able to set up their training program or their management system. That’s the work of consultants.
However, you can work with them on a continual auditing program, which could typically be set up in 3 phases:
The simpler the auditing checklist, the better. For example, for simple assembly operations, we usually look at these points:
Of course not. It only works with companies that:
If some of your suppliers are in this situation, continually auditing them can help a lot in improving their ability to ship quality products consistently.
What do you think about continuous auditing? Have you got experience with this type of approach, and what were the challenges? Please leave a comment with your questions and thoughts.