What is the Difference Between a Factory Audit and an Inspection?

by | Sep 15, 2018 | Factory Audits, Inspections, Quality Control

As an importer, you have to be sure that you identify the right suppliers and that, once you’ve established your relationships with them, they continue to do good work.

This is why factory audits are important.

You may be familiar with how product inspections work, but not audits. So, the question becomes, “What’s the difference between an audit and an inspection?”

In a previous article, we talked about factory audits are and why they are important. Today, we want to share the definition of an audit and then discuss the differences between audits and inspections.

What is a Factory Audit? Here’s the definition:

Factory AuditThe on-site verification activity of a process or quality system, to ensure compliance with requirements. An audit can apply to an entire organization or might be specific to a function, process or production step.

Like audits, inspections are done on-site. They are also verification activities and they ensure compliance to requirements. So what’s the difference?

3 Important Ways Factory Audits Differ From Inspections

There are a number of different types of audits, including capability assessments, quality assessments, security assessments, and social compliance audits.

These different kinds of audits have some characteristics in common. They are also different from inspections in certain key ways.

#1 – Audits are About the Long Term, Inspections are About the Short Term

For example, let’s talk about Capability Assessments. The goal of a capability assessment is to determine whether a supplier has the resources in place to ensure the long-term success of your business relationship.

Doing this type of audit can be useful when you are considering different factories to produce your product. It helps you to choose a supplier that is worth sticking with for the long term.

Inspections, on the other hand, are generally about how things are going at a particular moment in time.

For example, in a Pre-Shipment Inspection, your inspector is verifying whether the products and packaging in a particular shipment meet your standards for quality. If they don’t, you can deal with the situation in that moment and take any necessary corrective action.

#2 – Audits are About the Big Picture, Inspections are About the Little Picture

Let’s consider another type of audit, the Quality Assessment. The goal of these audits is to assess a factory’s overall quality management system and manufacturing practices.

This way, you have a high-level view of how they operate and how they ensure quality in general. You will get an idea of how confident you can be in their ability to do good work over the course of many shipments.

An inspection, in contrast, is generally only about one particular shipment.

For example, in a During Process (DUPRO) inspection, the inspector does a visual inspection of your products, checks packaging and labeling, and makes sure all physical product requirements are met. You get a pass or fail result for your order, and you can take corrective action if you need to.

#3 – Audits Help You Establish the Right Relationships, Inspections Help You Make Sure You’re on Track

Another type of audit, a Social Compliance Audit, is about ensuring that a factory meets relevant standards for health and safety, child labor, working hours, and management, among other things.

You don’t want to work with a supplier that engages in upsetting or illegal practices. So, having a professional visit the factory for these audits helps you make better sourcing decisions and establish the right relationships.

On the other hand, inspections are generally conducted with factories that you’re already working with.

For example, in a Loading Inspection, the inspector will help you determine whether the right products are being loaded into your container. They’ll also check that the packaging materials have all the right barcodes and labels. This helps to ensure that everything is in order before your products go to the port.

Audits and Inspections are Different and They’re Important in Different Ways

Remember that audits are focused on the big picture and are generally conducted before establishing a relationship with a new factory. Inspections are about the little picture and are generally used to help manage existing relationships.

Audits help you to make good long-term decisions. They also help you to decide which suppliers to work with so you can get the best results over time.

Having a good mix of audits and inspections in your quality control program is important. So, be sure to consider both to help ensure the success of your projects.

Guide to Handling When Things Go Wrong During Product Inspections

Free Guide: What to do When Things Go Wrong

When a quality problem happens – and they will – how you approach the problem makes all the differences in successfully squelching it.

Learn how to deal with the problem at hand, see potential quality gaps throughout your supply chain, and take proactive measures to avoid future problems.

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