You already know that your spectacular proprietary product is the culmination of the highest quality parts and materials coupled with exceptional design and workmanship. But what if you have quality concerns with current suppliers or you had to find a new supplier for one or more of those materials? How do you evaluate where problems lie now? Or find a new supplier that provides the finely tuned quality your product needs and your customers expect? Auditing your existing and potential suppliers will give you the insights and information you need to ensure your supplier network is tailored precisely to your exacting specifications. Supplier audits reveal and solve concerns.
Identify Your Goals
Your supplier audits starts with a plan, and its design should focus on achieving all of your goals:
- Finding where in your system the quality questions arise. You may have suppliers that have changed processes over time so you don’t know that their quality standards have shifted.
- Identifying the level of quality you are missing, and determining the metrics that will reveal those standards in production processes and outputs.
- Setting a start-to-finish schedule so you can count on completing the audit and making the changes necessary within an appropriate time frame.
Choose Your Auditor
Identify who will conduct supplier audits, whether that is one person or a team of specialists, depending on the scope of the audit and the information you want to find. Ideally, the auditor(s) will be familiar with both the processes to be audited and how those impact the overall production sequence. On a team, the perspective of each team member will inform and enhance the understanding of them all, so expect a more in-depth, more comprehensive overview from a team of auditors.
Clarify and Communicate Your Needs
It might be appropriate for your whole enterprise to contribute to the audit. Workers who interact with the production processes on a daily basis will have opinions based on granular, day-to-day experience. Department managers can add systemic data that might reveal where errors occur or gaps where there should be functions.
A thorough review of your corporate documentation is also an essential step in the audit process. There may be outdated manuals that don’t track existing machinery or practices. If those documents are marked up in the margins with notes and reminders, it may be time to update the entire document creation and retention system.
Review and Act on Resulting Supplier Audits
Your auditor(s) will be tracking activities and findings as the process moves forward, which creates an excellent record of how the corporation looked before you implemented the audit recommendations. The resulting audit report will include the facts and materials developed during the audit, as well as the conclusions and recommendations suggested by that data. If your current suppliers need to tune up their internal systems, the audit report should tell you where that needs to happen and why. If your audit suggests a new supplier is required, then the audit report gives you the data needed to streamline and speed up that search.
You put your name on the work product of your suppliers, so it’s critical to the success of your business that their standard of quality is as high as yours. Keep your customers coming back time after time by ensuring all your suppliers share your vision of quality.