Definition Customer Supplied Product - Definition (including returnable packaging containers)


Jim Biz

How does your company define Customer Supplied Products?
(Are customer owned - returnable packaging containers "customer supplied products"?)

This issue came up in an internal audit at our plant - found opinion conflict as to what should be / should not be included.

What "Things/Items" do you consider?



My opinion: If it has value, it should have some kind of control on it. Where, who, how much, etc..If it would make your Customer angry if you lose or damage it, it should be controlled. True, it's not product, but, it is assets. J.M.2.C.W.

Alf Gulford

I can give you one example.

We make a particular type of chair (medical device) that uses vinyl upholstery. If a customer doesn't want to use the colors we offer, perhaps because they want to match their own decorating scheme, they'll send us a roll of upholstery to use on the cushions.

While that upholstery is in our possession we are responsible for it. When the order is completed, if there is significant material left over, our customer service rep will contact the customer and get a disposition (return or destroy).


Dan Larsen

To directly respond to the container issue...definitely, yes! Customer containers are (and should be) considered "customer supplied material". I deal with heat treaters, platers, etc. The containers in which customers send material are customer supplied. They are tagged (when emptied), properly stored, and systems set up to ensure they are returned when the process is complete.

Lose a few and get backcharged $1000 once...executive management quickly buys into the fact that these "customer supplied materials" should be controlled!

Al Dyer

Our customer consigns the raw product to us for processing and return to them, so we consider it as customer supplied product.

Where this situation comes into play is its relationship to receiving inspection requirements.

All of our consigned goods fall under customer supplied product and do not have to go through the same (sometimes stringent) receiving requirements.

As a note, this is all documented and approved by the customer/supplier during the product realization process.

The cost benefit of using the customer supplied product element has allowed us to document cost and price savings that are also a requirement of product realization/contract review.

This documentation can come in handy when the customer knocks at your door asking for a price reduction!


Jim Biz

Can't say I have a disagreement with any of the posts Raw materials - anything going into an end product with "asset value is understandable and surley need controled.

Does the definition change if customers supply semi loads of "empty" Tubs/wire baskets/ plastic shipping boxes- cardboard/foam wrapping etc. and there are no item count records or charges exchanged?

Dan Larsen

Every registration audit I've been involved in considers packaging supplied by the customer to be customer supplied material and subject to controls according to 4.7. I've written around some items using a "low nominal value" approach and haven't gotten hit on it (yet). But most of the items you mention probably wouldn't fit in that class; I generally reserve it for non-customer specific cardboard boxes, generic plastic bags, etc.

As an example with respect to empties, I was in on a recent audit where the auditor "suggested" my client consider maintaining a documented inventory of empty containers provided by one of their customers. My client is resisting this primarily because it would have to be a new system and probably manual. I've suggested they rely on work instructions that involve having the receiving personnel visually inspect for damage on receipt, then clearly tag each container with the customer's name, and place them into proper storage. Release from storage is authorized by the packaging operation on the traveler. I figure if their customer demands an inventory at any point in time it could be constructed.

By the's also documented in procedures, work instructions, and training that if any customer container is found damaged, it must be reported to the Production Manager for notification of the customer and disposition of the container.

Greg Mack

I guess firstly, it is important to realise that yes the containers are customer supplied product. I don't think it is a topic to get too worked up over.

To put it easily, just think along the lines that everything which is supplied from the customer to your business is a 'product' supplied by the 'customer'. That way you would expect that everything is controlled and no arguements with auditors over the Standard or anybody else (particularly the cusotmer) can be warranted to take place.

An important point to remember is that the new Standard also now includes "intellectual property". Possibly some for of 'confidentiality agreement' may suffice in these cases. At least that is how I am treating it.

Jim Biz

After further discussion - in an effort to add a tracking system for"returnables"

Intersteing to find that "way back in the archives" there was an agreement made.

1)all onsite "returnalbe containers" were counted.

2) $X.XX each was priovided as acceptable "payment for returnable materials", onsite at that time.

3) The agreement includes a mechnism for recount and return if/when our business relationship has ended.

This information would not have been brought to light without internal audits and the insight you as contributors have provided. It appears that justification for not tracking them as Customer assets can be made.


Dan Larsen


You make a good point about the issue of "intellectual property", and the confidentiality agreement will probably be a good approach. I think most companies probably treated customer information properly in the first place, but the new standard does make it somewhat official.

An interesting note is that ISO 17025 (and ISO Guide 25 formally) did address the issue of confidentiality of customer information. My tack was to include a confidentiality statement in the Employee Manual that all new hires had to read (and sign!). Based on interpretations I've seen from A2LA, this is generally acceptable.
Top Bottom