Supplier audits; how do you go about it?

Supplier audits are an important part of a quality management system and essential to ensure business continuity. Incidents in recent years have emphasized this even more. Consider the Salmonella incidents in the chocolate industry and ethylene oxide contamination across a range of commodities. Resulting in disruptions in the production chain and recalls from the market. Supplier management therefore plays an important role, but how do you tackle this as an organization? That is exactly where KTBA can provide support. From our Business Assurance services, we also advise and support the implementation of supplier audit programs.

Mapping food safety hazards

A supplier audit program helps your organization map food safety hazards at your suppliers. Based on this, you as an organization can assess how your supplier controls hazards. The end goal, of course, is to prevent the contamination of your own plant and end products, and the associated reputational damage and business continuity disruption. At the same time, a supplier audit is also an excellent opportunity to assess the maturity of your supplier’s quality management system. This allows you to make a good assessment of how the supplier is dealing with possible new and emerging threats.

Risk analysis

A supplier audit program can consist of a limited number of audits with a specific trigger or a comprehensive screening of all suppliers. Usually, supplier audits are selected based on a risk analysis. This includes several elements such as the inherent risk of the purchased raw material (e.g. dairy products or meat), the history of complaints and recalls, results of previous audits and certification of the supplier.

Supplier audit roadmap approacht

Regardless of the scope of the program, an audit always follows the same steps:

Leveranciersaudit voorbereidingpreparation and planning of the audit

Leveranciersaudit uitvoerenconducting the audit

Leveranciersaudit Resultaatfollow-up of corrective actionsn

Preparation for supplier audits

During the preparation of the audit program, we determine in consultation with you, the scope of the audit and how it will be assessed. A good overview of all requirements to be assessed is therefore important in order to be able to perform a thorough audit. And to be able to compare results of multiple audits. Based on the audit planning and scope, we contact suppliers to schedule the audit. Depending on company size and the number of products delivered, the audit takes one to two days. In some cases, it may be an added value to conduct the audit unannounced. In that case, make sure your supplier is explicitly aware of the possibility of unannounced customer audits.

Audit Day

On the day of the audit, we start with an opening meeting where we once again address the scope with the supplier. We will also go over the agenda and the follow-up process after the audit with possible implications of deviations. Because the vast majority of suppliers today have GFSI certification, a second system audit of your supplier is usually not necessary. The focus is primarily on specific product risks. Most of the focus is usually on controlling critical control points, product and environmental analyses and general GMP requirements.

Feedback of results

We always conclude the audit with a closing meeting. Here we give an overview of the positive points and possible points for improvement that emerged from the audit. In addition, we explain the further follow-up steps. The added value of a supplier audit stands or falls with the further follow-up. Based on the audit report, the supplier should submit an action plan including a cause analysis and a description of the planned correction and corrective action. The auditor is responsible for assessing the relevance of the proposed actions and, if required, requesting evidence (possibly through a follow-up audit).

Result remains a sample
No matter how thoroughly an audit is conducted, the result remains a sample. A traceability exercise is an effective way to gather a lot of information in a short period of time. We can easily link such an exercise to other registrations such as critical control points, cleaning, calibration, inspection of raw materials and finished products. In this way we perform a vertical audit where we collect information from different departments.

Also improve your quality system?

If you follow the above steps systematically, you can continuously improve your suppliers’ quality management system. This will significantly reduce the risk within your organization and you will be able to keep the quality high.

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