Supplier Audit Mechanics

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Supplier Audit Mechanics

Proper preparations must be made to successfully plan, execute, and follow-up on a supplier audit. Preparations guidelines as defined by NASA are as follows:

  1. Identification of an Audit Opportunity

    A driver or specified reason exists to perform an audit. The identified need starts the quality audit process. Identification of high risk(s) from the supplier is usually a driving factor for performing an audit.

    Next is the selection of the type of audit to conduct. This part of the planning stage gives direction and a path forward to proceed, and is broken into these components:

    • Identify auditor and auditee
    • Identify type (pre-award, post-award, or maintenance)
  2. Audit Planning and Scheduling
    1. After the selection of the type of audit, the audit checklist should be chosen/developed. (Sample checklists are available on the Examples page.)
    2. Select an audit team.
    3. Notify the supplier. This should be accomplished through a formal written letter. As part of the notification letter, attach a questionnaire to gain detailed information on the processes, procedures, and operations of the supplier.
  3. Conducting the Audit and Communication
    1. Perform an in-brief meeting on-site to ensure a common understanding of the purpose and scope of the audit.
    2. Conduct the audit.
    3. If the audit lasts more than one day, then conduct daily progress meetings.
    4. Perform an out-brief to discuss all findings and the supplier questionnaire that was sent during the notification of the audit. Findings can be positive or negative.
    5. Gather feedback.
  4. Reporting the Audit Results

    After the out-brief, formally document and send the supplier the results as discussed in the out-brief. There should be no surprise to the supplier upon receipt of the formal findings documentation.

    NASA uses the following methodology for audit results:

    • An analysis is the conversion of raw data into useful information. This information can then help in managing and improving the performance of the quality system being audited, whether the information has to do with the overall organization, a particular product, or a specific service or process.
    • The audit report is the product of the audit activity, with all other audit activities simply being means to this end.
    • Ensure the audit report is concise and in-line with the scope of the audit.
    • On-site verification of results should be performed for “high impact” Non-Compliances (NCs).
  5. Tracking Supplier’s Corrective Action Report

    There are four possibilities that allow the change in the supplier’s status in the event that NCs have been written. They are as follows:

    1. The Supplier submits completed Corrective Action Responses that are evaluated as acceptable for the closure of nonconformance(s). The Supplier's Status is changed to "APPROVED."
    2. The Supplier submits Corrective Action Responses that are evaluated as unacceptable or incomplete for the closure of nonconformance(s). The supplier status remains the same. Either "APPROVED WITH DEFICIENCIES" or "WITHHELD" and receives a Finding / Response Tracking Record Continuation Form with a new Response Due Date.
    3. The Supplier submits Corrective Action Plan(s) with an Estimated Completion Date (ECD) and requests an extension. The supplier status remains the same, either "APPROVED WITH DEFICIENCIES" or "WITHHELD" and receives a Finding/Response Tracking Record Continuation Form with a new Response Due Date.
    4. The Supplier fails to respond by the Response Due Date.
    • The supplier submits all NC corrective action responses back to the auditor with estimated completion dates (ECDs).
    • The auditor reviews the report to determine if the corrective action for each NC is acceptable.
    • The supplier submits all NC corrective action reports back to the auditor.
    • The auditor reviews the report to determine if the corrective action for each NC is acceptable. A path forward shall be established for all NC responses that are deemed unacceptable.
    • If the supplier fails to respond:
      • A courtesy reminder after 30 days is sent out.
      • A second reminder is sent out after 60 days.
      • Failure to respond within 90 days results in a status change to "WITHHELD" and the audit will be closed with no further business until a response is received.
  6. Professional Aptitudes
    • The professional aptitudes needed by a quality auditor are a blend of technical knowledge and personality traits that allow him or her to carry out the audit activities competently and with integrity while creating in the auditee’s mind a feeling of confidence and trust.
    • Pleasant and respectful
  7. Audit Closure
The final outcomes of the audit can be:
  1. Audit Report indicates the audit is closed due to no nonconformances being identified during the audit. The Supplier's Status is "APPROVED."
  2. The supplier had nonconformances but provided an acceptable Corrective Action Response or the auditor conducts On-Site verification and deems nonconformances closed. The Supplier's Status is "APPROVED."
  3. The supplier did not respond in the allotted time and was provided with reminders to submit corrective action responses, but chose not to respond to the subject audit. The Supplier status is "WITHHELD."
  4. Properly review and bring closure to all outstanding actions, documentation, and communication with the supplier.

Summary Process for Supplier Audits

In summary, as stated in the IASS Quality Assurance Course, supplier audits will follow the following process:

  1. Pre-audit questionnaire and visit
  2. Audit team selection
  3. Audit notification
  4. Opening (in-brief) meeting
  5. Audit performance
  6. Debriefing (out-brief) meeting
  7. Report and follow-up

The Examples section in the Supplier Audit Maintaining Information section contains sample checklists.