Screening new suppliers requires significant time and energy. Whether you’re switching manufacturers or selecting your first one, it’s a bad idea to rush the process. Otherwise, you might end up with a low quality product and negative reviews.
A factory audit is a valuable tool that can help you make smart supplier decisions. It helps you determine if they’re a good fit and can deliver on their promises. You can customize these audits based on specific requirements — like environmental friendliness, social responsibility, or security.
Here, we’ll show you how we typically conduct a standard quality audit. This will give you an idea of how we approach these assessments so you can decide how to conduct yours. You’ll see the ten sections we usually include, and at the end, you’ll get an example of our factory visit checklist.
Section #1: Facilities
Here, we assess the layout, maintenance, and cleanliness of the premises.
- Do employees maintain a clean, organized environment contributing to product quality and safety?
- Does the layout enable safe production, reduce bottlenecks, and optimize resources?
- Have they set up maintenance practices to ensure smooth operations and reduce the risk of breakdowns?
These questions provide insights into the facility’s working conditions and general circumstances. They clue you into whether the factory is set up to encourage quality production outputs.
Section #2: Quality Control System
In the next phase, we focus on the supplier’s quality control system.
- Do they have an established internal quality control program?
- Is there a formal training program for quality control personnel?
- Have they developed a comprehensive quality manual?
These questions help us assess the supplier’s ability to meet quality standards. They provide insights into the type of system they use and whether they effectively implement and follow it.
Section #3: Incoming Materials Inspections
In the third section, we shift our attention to the inspection of incoming materials.
- Does the supplier have measures to ensure that raw materials match specifications?
- Are materials appropriately labeled, stored, and traceable?
- Do they have controlled storerooms to prevent theft, loss, and quality deterioration?
The main goal is to ensure the factory has established processes to avoid using incorrect materials. Whether it’s plastic, metal, or wood, incoming material conformity affects the quality of the components in your product.
Section #4: In-Process Quality Control
In the fourth section, our focus shifts to in-process quality control.
- Do engineers and quality managers carefully review samples from the pilot run?
- Is the quality control (QC) staff adequately trained?
- Are there enough QC employees to support mass production needs?
- Do they follow international standards for in-process inspections?
Effective quality control measures during production allow suppliers to detect and resolve issues early. This way, they don’t escalate into more significant problems later on.
Section #5: Final Inspection
Aside from in-process inspections, manufacturers should conduct final quality checks.
- Do the quality control staff conduct final inspections of the merchandise at the end of production?
- Do they follow internationally recognized standards?
- Do they accurately file and trace formal written inspection reports?
Asking these questions helps assess the thoroughness of the factory’s final inspections. This makes it more likely that your orders will be shipped with minimal defects.
Section #6: Packaging
Moving on, we shift our attention to packaging.
- Is the packaging area clean, organized, and free of contaminants?
- Has the factory implemented measures to prevent products from being placed in the wrong cartons?
- Do workers wear gloves or other protective clothing to avoid contamination?
Products should remain free from dust and dirt and be stored to protect them from sunlight and moisture. They should include necessary shipping marks and date codes. Effective practices help the manufacturer maintain product integrity and meet shipping requirements.
Section #7: Non-Conforming Materials
Another crucial consideration for importers is the handling of non-conforming materials.
- Are non-conforming materials identified and segregated during all production stages?
- Is the approach to handling scrap material acceptable?
- Is the non-conforming materials policy effective?
Separating improper materials helps uphold each order’s quality. So, implementing robust practices to identify and manage them is vital.
Section #8: Communication, Documentation, Control, and Work Movement
The eighth section focuses on communication, documentation, control, and work movement.
- Is there enough English proficiency among factory management and key staff for direct customer communication?
- Is there an adequate and formal system for receiving purchase orders, tooling, and equipment?
- How about a system for accurately receiving and implementing drawing, procedural, or design changes?
Specific requirements may vary depending on your business and communication needs. However, effective communication helps to ensure smooth operations and avoid misunderstandings.
Section #9: Handling of Complaints
The handling of complaints is another crucial aspect we examine.
- Does management actively address customer complaints?
- Does the factory have a formal procedure for handling complaints?
- Are complaints analyzed to determine their root causes?
Well-defined processes for addressing complaints and proper documentation help ensure that customers’ concerns are genuinely heard. They help maintain and drive continuous improvement.
Section #10: Score Calculator
The last section of the factory audit is the score calculator.
We calculate a total score based on all the previous nine sections. The weighting of each part can be customized based on your specific requirements.
At Insight Quality, we also offer the flexibility to incorporate more sections such as environmental, social compliance, or other concerns and adjust the weighting accordingly.
If you’d like help conducting an audit, learn more about our factory audit services. You can also download the complete factory audit template below.
Download the Factory Audit Checklist
Insight Quality provides third-party auditing services in Asia, Europe, and North America.
We conduct quality audits like this one, as well as environmental, social, security and other audits.
Download this template to use as a resource for your own sourcing initiatives or contact us to help you conduct a third-party audit on your behalf.
Note: This article was originally published on Jul 26, 2019 and has since been updated