I wrote 2 articles about the similarities and differences between product inspections and factory audits on the SynControl blog.
I thought it would be interesting to mention this here, too. Here are the main points I mentioned.
- They are done on-site, at the production facility. There are exceptions to this (e-audits, review of a few samples…), but they are exceptions.
- There are bribery risks. Following a code of conduct is a must.
- A checklist is usually the basis of the dispatched employee’s work. They tend to be more details for inspections.
- Facts and data need to be pulled from real-world evidence, as a basis for judgement and decisions.
- They often work in a team when there is too much work for 1 person.
- Reports highlight negative findings. This is a little less true for auditors who can also highlight good practices.
- Business decisions are made on the basis of audit and inspection reports.
- Inspectors need to follow their checklist strictly. Some experienced auditors follow a more ‘free style’ approach, based on principles alone.
- Auditors need better social skills, in order to extract information tactfully from the auditees.
- Inspectors often work in stressful circumstances. There are often disputes with the factory staff.
- A single failed audit might be enough to stop, or prevent, a business relationship. It usually takes a succession of failed inspection reports to have that impact.
- Audits usually drive long-term improvement through corrective action plans. Inspections drive short-term fixes through correction plans.
- Inspectors need to take many photos. This is not always the case for auditors.
- Inspectors need to be familiar with the product being checked. Many auditors have no clue about the processes at play in the organizations they visit (and in some cases that’s a problem).
- Many auditors are certified.
Granted, these are broad generalizations. There are more commonalities between some second-party ‘tick-the-box’ audits and some inspections, than between those same audits some types of third-party audits. Different companies have different views of how a ‘factory audit’ is to be conducted.
As I wrote last week, some companies like their auditors to suggest improvement actions, while others don’t like that idea. Similarly, some companies want the inspector to follow up on corrections while he is in the factory and guide the factory staff on what to do, while others believe this can lead to undesired side effects.