There's Safety in (Audit) Numbers!


We recently re-audited a contract manufacturer located in eastern China for a design/build client. The CM was tapped to fabricate complex formed metal and molded plastic sub-assemblies that were to be shipped to the USA for final assembly and testing.

They had selected this CM after meeting with its local representative.

On the first go round, our engineer carried out the on-site general audit and awarded a One… That’s a One on a twenty-two point scorecard. We’ve actually awarded a Zero before, but it’s the first time in our history that we’ve given a One on an audit.

Our client (and the rep) couldn’t accept that the vendor was “that bad”. “You had to have missed something. The local rep said that they’re really good”.

They didn’t have an IQC (Incoming Quality Control) function to confirm the quality of components and materials before putting them on the shop floor. There were only a handful of work instructions on the floor, there was no In-Process Quality Control (IPQC) or record keeping and the instrument and machine calibrations were nonexistent. 1/22. What we saw is what they got.

Well… The local rep was so convinced that the result was the combination of the vendor having a bad day and our auditor not doing his job, he proposed that we re-audit at his expense. So we did.


They’d given the factory a quickie makeover, posted a few charts and work instructions and smiled a lot. All meaningless window dressing. We still couldn’t advise our client to place an order there.

Here’s how we rank factories:

>20: Qualified

18~20: Accepted

10~17: Requires review on case by case basis

<10: Unqualified

It doesn’t matter if the supplier is molding rubber, die casting aluminum alloy, providing electronic box build or building dental instruments. Good factories have processes and procedures in place that provide the necessary framework for control and predictability. Our experienced engineers know this and can sniff out a fraud in minutes.

We rely upon and trust the numbers generated during our audits. I recommend that you utilize a similar discipline in qualifying new vendors. If you’d like a copy of our audit template, please drop me a note.


Jack Daniels

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