Conducting a factory audit – some things to look for

When visiting a factory to see if a vendor will be the right match for you there are a few things it behooves you to do. These are as follows:

1.) Does the vendor have a dedicated QC area or check-in station for sub-contractors ? This is especially important because it prevents the bad product from getting mixed in with the good product. I am always surprised , however, to see how many factories do not have a QC area or check-in station set up. A good factory will always have this checkpoint as well as a procedural/quality checklist that the factory will review with subcontractors who are delivering product. Ask about this.

2.) Are machines/equipment in working order ? A vendor may take you around his factory and boast of his state-of-the-art equipment. But that doesn’t mean everything necessarily works. I once visited a factory to observe the dyeing of bamboo for a product I was working on. The dye had to be at the right temperature so as to bond to the bamboo and there was, as one would expect, a heater by the dying tanks. The heater however was broken and when I asked the workers how they knew when they had the right temperature, they just shrugged at me and grinned. I discussed this with the vendor who admitted this might be a problem and he promised me he would have the heater repaired. 6 months later when I returned the heater was still not working and this may be one reason we were not happy with the consistency of the finish on our product. Always ask the vendor to demonstrate some of the equipment and especially the machines that might conceivably be used in production of your product.

3.) A final trick. Let the vendor do all the talking and see how much he says about QC when he gives you a tour of his facility. If he doesn’t say much then chances are quality is not really important for him and you really need to look for another vendor.


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