Very few managers and business leaders like audits. Knowing you have to conduct one can trigger a range of emotions: from fear and anxiety to a strong desire to get the experience over and done with as quickly as possible.
But for manufacturers, a well-orchestrated audit of factory processes should be looked upon as a valuable experience. A manufacturing audit can deliver useful insights, along with peace of mind for the organization and its customers. And the good news is that software solutions can streamline the process and deliver better results.
In this post, we’ll walk through how manufacturers manage their internal audits and how you can streamline your audit processes with a digital solution that tracks every step along the way.
What is a manufacturing audit?
A manufacturing audit—sometimes referred to as a factory audit—is a process designed to ensure a factory is producing (and will continue to produce) high-quality products that meet the required specifications.
It will involve auditing a factory’s manufacturing processes, but is likely to also include a wider look at other factors pertaining to the organization, such as its production capacity, environmental practices, and security posture.
While a factory audit can be carried out internally as a quality assurance process, it may also be initiated by a customer of a manufacturer who wants to validate the production processes their supplier (or potential supplier) has in place.
Supplier audits are typically carried out in one of two situations:
When the customer is in the final stages of qualifying a new supplier, or
As part of an ongoing supplier quality management process. Many businesses require their suppliers to conduct and share audits on a regular basis.
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Types of manufacturing audits
Whether it is conducted by the manufacturer themselves, or at the behest of one of their customers, there is a range of areas a manufacturing audit can focus on, including:
Process: Process audits help ensure factory lines are operating as intended, including from both a quality and safety perspective.
Capability: Particularly relevant when a customer is qualifying a new supplier, a capability audit is used to confirm the factory has the capability to manufacture the required product within specified timelines.
Quality: An audit focused on validating that a factory has an effective quality management system in place, often based on the ISO 9001 international standard.
Environmental: An environmental audit checks a factory’s compliance with environmental standards and requirements, such as the ISO 14000 family of international standards.
Security: A security audit may focus on compliance with the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), a supply chain security program led by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Steps in the manufacturing audit process
While manufacturing audits can take a variety of forms, they generally follow a similar process:
Select the audit type: Determine which of the factory’s systems and processes (including those listed above) need to be audited, and identify any standards that need to be complied with.
Establish audit tasks and perform the audit: List and carry out the series of checks, measurements, data-gathering, and other tasks required to assess the performance and effectiveness of the systems and processes being audited.
Record the findings: The data and findings gathered through the audit (especially non-conformances) are recorded, categorized, and aggregated. This enables an audit report, documenting the findings, to be produced.
Take corrective action: Based on the audit report, determine what corrective actions need to be taken to improve operations and meet compliance thresholds. Implement the required changes.
Schedule a follow-up audit: Once corrective action has been taken, carry out another audit to assess and measure the changes that have been made.
Streamlining audit management using software
When carrying out a manufacturing audit, it can be appealing to adopt the simple approach of devising a paper-based checklist. But there are significant downsides to a system that literally involves just “checking the boxes”.
Paper-based audits are prone to error, are difficult and time-consuming to aggregate, and make it hard to put observations into context. As a result, items that may fail to be in compliance can be easily overlooked.
Digital solutions, including Tulip, can provide a much more effective way of collecting and aggregating audit data.
With the explosion in the amount of data being generated by factory floor equipment, not to mention other sensors and devices in use across organizations, it makes sense to invest in a digital audit management solution that integrates with the existing systems in use across your operations.
An audit application enables an organization to eliminate paper, gather data in real-time, and streamline the auditing process. These applications can standardize compliance procedures, track progress toward compliance, and collect audit results automatically. They also make analysis quicker and easier with customized dashboards that can report against KPIs and other metrics.
The audit process is also made easier when using a software application. Each time a new audit is created, the application pre-populates basic information such as title, location, and audit instructions. Pictures of items in the audit can be incorporated to give an auditor a point of reference.
Once an audit is started, the application—accessible from handheld devices such as tablets or mobile phones—can move progressively through each audit item, allowing the auditor to walk the floor, check on processes and equipment, and record their findings as they go.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Tulip can help you streamline your audit processes and reduce the burden associated with compliance activities, reach out to a member of our team today!
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