Supplier Audits - Stop Wasting Everyone's Time!

Mike S.

Happy to be Alive
Trusted Information Resource
#1
Many companies audit their suppliers, or potential suppliers, by creating an audit checklist and sending it to the supplier or potential supplier for them to complete and send back to the purchasing company. So many of these audit checklists are basically a 10, 15, even 20 page restatement of ISO9001 or AS9100 requirements. Question, questions, and more questions, like, "Is documented information available and suitable for use, where and when it is needed?" Sometimes I'd like to answer "no" just to see if anyone even reads these things.

Why waste your time creating such a checklist, and forcing your suppliers or potential suppliers to complete such a checklist? If the supplier/potential supplier is not certified to a standard, I can see some possible value, otherwise, it is a huge waste of time.

Please, if your company has such an audit checklist, give the recipient the opportunity to attach their certificate and only ask them to complete audit questions that cover your requirements that are over and above ISO9001/AS9100 requirements. Otherwise you are wasting their time...and yours.
 
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Sidney Vianna

Post Responsibly
Staff member
Admin
#3
We've had a number of discussions here on the uselessness of supplier self audits and supplier self questionnaires/surveys. An archaic, meaningless exercise in the overwhelming majority of cases. A futile exercise in CYA by the purchasing organization.
 

Ralba

Involved In Discussions
#4
Agreed. I have been assisting in filling a number of these out recently, and one time the customer visited just to ask many of the same questions in person! He did not inspect the processes or our adherence to them, just asked the same questions again. He clearly did not even read it beyond yes/no, and their form required short answer format.

Now on-site process audits, those are pretty effective in my experience.
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#5
Now on-site process audits, those are pretty effective in my experience.
I have searched in vain for years for evidence that suppliers (or potential suppliers) who have undergone a formal customer audit perform better in the long run than those that have not been audited. Do you have any?
 

Ninja

Looking for Reality
Trusted Information Resource
#6
I do...but perhaps not in line with what you're asking...

on-site process audit on an underperforming supplier, resulting in findings, resulting in CA's, with follow up audits to ensure the corrections were maintained...
So, for a single supplier things got better through the audit/CA route... more of a "let us help you fix it before we buy elsewhere" thing.

You are asking across the board supplier vs. supplier I think...I have no evidence that auditing without direct cause has any effect whatsoever.
 

Ralba

Involved In Discussions
#7
I have searched in vain for years for evidence that suppliers (or potential suppliers) who have undergone a formal customer audit perform better in the long run than those that have not been audited. Do you have any?
Oh, my experience isn't that our suppliers perform better because of our on-site audit. Rather, when evaluating suppliers, we have eliminated some suppliers that managed to obtain ISO9001 while adhering to few of its requirements. Rather than them performing better, we perform better because we can determine the level of risk of our product or components going through their company.

An example I have is when I worked in plastics in the automotive industry. We were evaluating a service supplier that would dry our regrind and then return it to us. A cursory look at their facility showed plenty of concern, such as unlabeled boxes, good product and bad product being stored together, and poor contingency planning (they did not have replacement parts on many of their key pieces of equipment). We instead chose a facility that had none of those problems. Slightly more expensive, very worth it.

On the receiving end, we had a customer who assisted us in solving our failures, and OUR performance did improve. That was not just because of an audit though, they sat in on the CA/Root Cause process.
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#8
Oh, my experience isn't that our suppliers perform better because of our on-site audit. Rather, when evaluating suppliers, we have eliminated some suppliers that managed to obtain ISO9001 while adhering to few of its requirements. Rather than them performing better, we perform better because we can determine the level of risk of our product or components going through their company.

An example I have is when I worked in plastics in the automotive industry. We were evaluating a service supplier that would dry our regrind and then return it to us. A cursory look at their facility showed plenty of concern, such as unlabeled boxes, good product and bad product being stored together, and poor contingency planning (they did not have replacement parts on many of their key pieces of equipment). We instead chose a facility that had none of those problems. Slightly more expensive, very worth it.

On the receiving end, we had a customer who assisted us in solving our failures, and OUR performance did improve. That was not just because of an audit though, they sat in on the CA/Root Cause process.
You describe in your example "...a cursory look..." and not a formal audit. I think that visiting suppliers and potential suppliers is a good thing for a number of different reasons. Also, I didn't suggest that I was looking for evidence that suppliers perform better because of audits. The question is whether there is any evidence (data) to suggest that formal audits are useful in predicting supplier performance.
 

Ralba

Involved In Discussions
#10
You describe in your example "...a cursory look..." and not a formal audit. I think that visiting suppliers and potential suppliers is a good thing for a number of different reasons. Also, I didn't suggest that I was looking for evidence that suppliers perform better because of audits. The question is whether there is any evidence (data) to suggest that formal audits are useful in predicting supplier performance.
We did do an audit, but in the provided example the concern was pretty clear right off the bat. The lack of parts for key equipment, for example, was found in the audit.

I do believe that on-site audits can let you avoid very clear problems like this company, and that means the supplier you get instead will perform better. To do more than eliminating companies with a dysfunctional QMS would require an expertly crafted and utilized Audit Plan, in my opinion. With enough industry knowledge and a keen eye and ear for process gaps, I am sure you could choose suppliers with much better performance than their peers, but I don't know about getting any specific accuracy other than relative contrast or "not terrible".
 
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