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Inspection and auditBefore starting a business with a supplier, the buyer needs to evaluate the capacity of the supplier to fulfill his requirements. It is part of his responsibility. To do so he can perform an audit or an inspection. Most of us have difficulties to discriminate them from each other. Managers sometimes like to use the terms interchangeably, but the reality is that they are different processes. This is why I am going to open you the basic facts of each one.

Why to perform audits and inspections?

A buyer should learn about its supplier or potential supplier. To do so, he can examine the quality management system, check the factory and its manufactured goods’ quality. Additionally, he could consider criteria such as: safety, environmental protection or corporate social responsibility. It may surprise most of us but for all those purpose an audit or an inspection can be performed.

play_12x16 Check out the related videos! Why to assess your suppliers? Why to inspect my goods?

The difference between audit and inspection


An audit is a validation of a system (or one or more of its parts). They are detailed and in-depth, and will look at an entire process from start to finish.

Audits include reviews of written procedures and observation of tasks as well as an inspection of the equipment and processes to which the written procedures apply. Audits frequently include interviews with employees and document reviews to  assure that the steps an operator actually takes are in line with the written procedure.  It is a formal verification review or check of the current practice/implementation against the code of practice, norms or standards, systems, procedure or rules/regulation, example ISO 18001/14001, or HSEMS.

With an audit, there is frequently a question checklist that determines if the topic “meets compliance”, “needs improvement”, “does not meet compliance” or is “not applicable”. Audit tools will generally be “squishy” to allow for the auditor to probe deeper into the process to determine if it complies, and to what degree it complies.


An inspection is an evaluation or assessment on products, it involves measurements or tests to conform the product to meet the specified requirements and standard.

An inspection generally uses a checklist format with “yes/no” answers. The question is asked or the item on the checklist is evaluated, and it either passes the inspection or does not. “Shades of gray” very seldom come into the picture during an inspection. Inspections usually focus on a single item or process. They can be done during any phase of the production cycle of the goods.pass or fail

In conclusion

In general, the audit is done before your purchase order and inspections are done after the order has been placed and the production of your goods can be started.

How about you: Do you have any other ways to distinguish the difference between audits and inspections?

Read more about audits at the Supplier audits page. Read more about inspections at the Inspections page.