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Hey guys!

This week I went to a factory audit with two of our inspectors. It was the first factory audit to the other inspector as well, so we were both learning and seeing how things work inside a factory for the first time. Our lead inspector is already an old hand, and he was really professional with the job.

foreign inspector in front of workers

The Background

The factory is located in Huzhou, where we travelled by train. The train ride was 1,5 hours, and the car ride after that around 45 minutes to reach the factory plant.

For our customer, this was a new supplier, so we needed to investigate and report the management systems of the potential new supplier. The objective was to determine their capabilities to effectively control their processes and implement adequate and timely corrective actions when needed.

The Procedure

The factory audit means that we will perform an in depth study of potential suppliers, including quality standards, commercial registration, organizational structure, infrastructure, Production, R&D, QA/QC, and any other aspect required. Thus, factory audits are considered much more complicated to conduct compared to product inspections. In inspections, you usually concentrate on a few things and on one product, whereas in audits you need to assess the whole factory plant.

inspectors and supplier in the factory

Upon arrival, The first step to do for the auditor is to have a short meeting with the supplier representative to let them know the purpose, process, scope of this audit, so that the supplier can understand well and provide suitable supports.

The supplier should be open to cooperate with the auditor. She/ He is supposed to answer auditor’s questions objectively. Lastly, and most importantly, the supplier should be willing to let the auditor to take as many pictures and video of their facility as needed.

inspectors filling forms with supplier
Inspectors filling the factory assessment form

It’s very important for the Auditor to follow a methodology when doing an Audit for the data collection to make use of the time efficient.

The audit data collection consists broadly of two major portions:
1. Questioning / Interviewing
– Most of the information obtained during the performance of the audit is through questioning of auditee personnel. Checklist questions are written to allow for flexible questioning. – The information obtained from interviews should be substantiated by evidence from other independent physical sources such as documentation and record, witness by the auditor and sampling or measurement
2. Field Investigation / Verification
– Verifying documents and records by tracing and sampling – Getting physical evidence of methods, practices, policies and documentation through field work.
  • – Dependent upon the type of audit, the audit team may be required to examine a product or process in detail. The team must have familiarity with the tools and techniques to accomplish this task.
– Determining the effectiveness of the quality system on individual activities – Taking pictures and videos  

The Report

These are the main points that are assessed included in the audit report:

  • – Factory General Information – basic contact and commercial information, purchasing, subcontracting, main products and markets, official and quality standard certificates
  • – Organization Structure
  • – Factory Overview – general conditions, plant buildings
  • – General Infrastructure – Telecom, energy, transportation
  • – Material Management & Reception Control – raw material identification, quality documentation management, incoming material register
  • – Production overview -production stages, general organization and distribution (Layout), cleanliness
  • – Quality Assurance & Quality Control Measures – quality manual, inspection procedures, lab equipment conditions
  • – Customer Special Requests – this time this included to identify and extract samples for four textile products of the customer’s interest

All in all, the report includes 16 pages of text and pictures. Thus, a lot of information!

inspectors and factory

The Result

After each audit, we give scores for each of the sections assessed. From these scores, we give our customer the final score (0-100) of the factory.  A score under 50 would mean that we wouldn’t recommend the supplier.

The final score of this audit was 53.15 – Needs improvement. Part of the low score is because of the factory is really new. For example, their business license and certificates were not fully ready. Also, many instructions, rules and the quality system were not set. But again, a completely other story is whether they will ever even have these documents ready.