Three types of evaluation of factories purchased in China
More importers have discovered that they can appoint an audit agency to evaluate the factory before placing an order. But not all of these evaluation services are equally useful. I distinguished three types of factory evaluation, each of which is suitable for the different needs of importers.
1. The basic evaluation of the factory is to collect basic information about the manufacturer, such as: what is the address? What kind of building is this? What is this size? What kind of products do they make? brand name? How many people are producing? What equipment do they have? Have you checked the incoming materials/components? What kind of process quality control do they carry out? What final quality control do they implement? There are now more and more agents offering such services at a price of less than US$300. For small factories, I think this makes a lot of sense, because buyers don’t want a reliable quality system or a sound process—a simple report and many pictures can convey enough information.
2. Most factory audits in China are conducted based on international standards, such as in-depth factory audits. Large testing agencies encourage this because it seems objective. The most common common consumer product standards are ISO9001 (QMS) and SA8000 (social compliance). For example, an ISO9001 type audit will be based on the following checklist. Ideally, good manufacturers can obtain certification that meets these standards without requiring customer audits, so that "audits" can be avoided. Many such organizations feel "tired". However, since it is easy to obtain ISO9001 certification in China and difficult to obtain SA8000 certification, most buyers choose to "inspect themselves." It should be noted that some audit/engineering organizations list the most relevant work they (and their customers) do as needed. For example, ISO9001 does not require manufacturers to provide a set of perfect samples in all production workshops and quality management departments, but this is a good practice, and I think it should become one of the standards that affect the final audit level.
3. Process review conducted by engineers, most reviewers lack manufacturing experience. In other words, their conclusions about the reliability of the factory have certain limitations. For example, it is difficult for auditors who do not understand wood production to judge whether the factory is drying according to the correct steps. Almost all production processes, from the installation of injection molding machines to the maintenance of CNC machines, have similar key steps. As I wrote before, process audits are very useful for capturing poorly organized factories (because it also includes production-related checkpoints) quality systems, but they can also capture: factories that do not know what they are doing (For example, the operator puts the parts in the wrong place, the so-called engineer, he does not know the most commonly used polymer for melting temperature...) Factory accustomed to quality (for example, injection molding with recycled materials, shortcuts during installation...) Without paying attention to the long-term stability and reliability of its process (for example, highly adaptable maintenance procedures, fast-running machines...), the auditor’s findings will naturally give suggestions to make the work more wise: adopt the best Practices to improve productivity and quality. For example, add a problem discovery tool that is faster and more reliable than current methods.
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