Obligation to accept customer audits?


Involved In Discussions
Good morning.
I begin by saying one opinion of mine: a lot of quality consultants or quality auditor are too theoretical men. They forget that companies have to bill and make profits, first of all. And they often forget that certifications and ISO standards are private rules not laws neither public regulations.
Finished introduction.
What do you think about a supplier (certified) which does not allow customers to perform audits?
OK, it's not "fine" but a customer is not a public inspection body: if a supplier does not want to be audited by customers, a customer cannot force him.
The only thing it can do is stop sending orders (if it can)
Am I right?
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Refuse pure compliance audits.
Allow customer specific audits like on special production processes, contracts or agreements, specific persisting issues such as yield or field failure.

I'm not in automotive but I think someone on elsmar once said they're hard to refuse but you can bill for effort spent or opportunity lost from your side, depending on whether you want that kind of adverse relationship with your partners.


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What do you think about a supplier (certified) which does not allow customers to perform audits?
I would not trust the supplier, unless they could give me a very good reason (e.g., because its assigned top-secret status by the government).


Involved In Discussions
In my case also, in the specific requirements of my customer it is defined that they can come to audit on site, when they see it necessary. In fact, 2 of my customer even have an audit program where my Customer A (every 2 years) and Customer B (Every year, and the result of this audit is reflected in the score card of a whole year)

Refusing to be audited by a Customer is very difficult, some also audit you in the initial phases of the commercial relationship and it comes by contract. So the only thing one can do is postpone dates

We also in the requirements manual for my suppliers, that when necessary, we will audit them on site.


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Is it a one or two martini audit? :)

Not sure why a supplier would refuse a customer audit. For us, it's just another contact point for customer relations. We rarely have any problems, so we don't meet the quality guys often.

Johnny Quality

Quite Involved in Discussions
How big is your organisation?

I've just thought about this and my organisation is about 30 people. I wonder what would happen if I asked the likes of 3M for an audit...


Looking for Reality
Staff member
Super Moderator
If it helps...I was in the opposite situation from JohnnyQuality ... a 55 person site (vendor) when a Tier I customer demanded an audit (Tier I never "asks").

We said OK...then at the end of the audit they tried to schedule the next "yearly audit"...we said no to that one, and negotiated how often was actually reasonable to audit, and what the scope of the audit would be should it exist.
Turns out, they always (tried to) come for the audit in early December because we had a much better mall and they wanted to do their Christmas shopping. Yeah....well...NO, you don't disrupt my company so you can go shopping on your company's dime.

Work together with the customer to define what is reasonable...if they want to disrupt 15% of your personnel for three days every year, figure out a nice way to say "no"...or limit the scope to one person for one day...or raise their prices to balance it.

Do this by finding out what they are trying to achieve with the audit...are they concerned about failures on their side, or are they checking a box on their checklist that no one really cares about?


Involved In Discussions
Thanks everyone, good opinions.

To those who have mentioned the CSR claiming the obligation of auditing for the supplier, I reply that the CSR can be modified or rejected by the supplier.

The reasons can be the most diverse (the owner of the company does not want, it is not part of the group's policy, we are too big for you, we are too little for you, we don't speach your language, the authorization of the parent company is required, we do not have time, we do not care, it is our business, your sector is not relevant to us, we have not signed anything, we ask the lawyer if we are obliged, because "no, we don't, thanks"...).

Basically what I meant is obvious but often forgotten by many "experts": a supplier is not obliged to be audited by a customer otherwise he has approved this requirement. And even if he has approved this requirement, he can change his position later every time.

In many circumstances, customers give up because they need that supplier. It is ridiculous to think otherwise.


Looking for Reality
Staff member
Super Moderator
You are correct in some or all of your assertions (correct in all the ones that I know true vs false in)...

IMO, these words should be fought against any and every time they show up anywhere in a business relationship. These words and their synonyms (must, shall, ought, should, ... ) make more enemies and break more relationships than any others.
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