1. Hello and Welcome to The Quality Forum Online...Continuing in the spirit of People Helping People !
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
You must be a registered member in order to post messages and view/download attached files in this forum.
Click here to register.

Being Audited By Your Competitor... Can I restrict what I show them?

Discussion in 'ISO 9001:2008 - Quality Management Systems' started by Nikki, Sep 8, 2015.

  1. Nikki

    Nikki Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2015
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    135
    Trophy Points:
    42
    Location:
    Maine
    Tomorrow we are being audited by a customer of ours. We have been doing business with them for 15 years and suddenly, they want to audit us.

    Come to find out, we have also discovered that 50% of their business is actually owned by our number 1 competitor.

    Because of this, we have decided to give a very vague tour of the facility, and not allow them into certain production areas.

    Along with this, we are not allowing them to see our lab - including our testing equipment.

    Can I restrict them from reading or reviewing our Quality Control Procedure?

    We plan on having them sign a confidentialty agreement when they arrive tomorrow morning, but my boss is still dead set on not letting them see certain things.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Nikki
     
  2. BradM

    BradM Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2015
    Messages:
    214
    Likes Received:
    192
    Trophy Points:
    42
    Location:
    Arlington, TX
    When I was taking my CQA class, the teacher told of when she joined the Navy. On her first week, her supervisor told her to go audit engineering. She was so confused. So, figuring she would receive less "yelling" by using humor, she returned to her supervisor and told him " I audited Engineering. It's still there!! " :D :)

    Point being, without some scope of the audit, it can be just a free for all. However, they are your customer, and you are producing product for them.

    I would clarify with them the purpose/point of the audit. Otherwise, you are going to have a hard time having the appropriate personnel there to answer questions.

    I would not recommend denying them access to production areas. To me, that would send a red flag up the pole. Why would you not want them to see that? Show them! Be proud of what you do. Show them the areas you are excellent in.

    Why would you not want them to see the Quality Control Procedure? It is not relevant to them? After all, it guides how you make their products.

    In the end... they are still your customer; and this customer can add (or take away) as much business as they like. I think you would do better being open and forthright with them. They may have some really great suggestions to help you improve in places.

    If you are going to have them sign a confidentiality agreement, I would notify them in advance (with good explanation of why). Having one stuck in your face when you arrive, is not a good first impression.
     
  3. Nikki

    Nikki Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2015
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    135
    Trophy Points:
    42
    Location:
    Maine
    We are going to allow them to look in the widow to the production area - but not go inside.

    Our competitor has been rather thirsty to find out how we run the products we do, and how we run QC tests on the product that we make - We are afraid if we give this information to the customer, they will run back and report our capabilities and processes to the competitor.
     
  4. BradM

    BradM Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2015
    Messages:
    214
    Likes Received:
    192
    Trophy Points:
    42
    Location:
    Arlington, TX
    I gotcha! I can understand your concern.

    So are they going to "audit" or take a tour? There is a difference. What exactly is their purpose? I think they should have the right to tour the facility. However, I do think there should be some purpose/ rationale given other than just out of the blue.
     
  5. Jim Hagenbaugh

    Jim Hagenbaugh Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2015
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    23
    Trophy Points:
    2
    Location:
    VA
    That is a bit strange and seems like a conflict but...

    Show them only what is theirs. We went as far a making sure the companies orders were the only ones being run. They should know their own specifications so nothing new is being disclosed. As far as CAPA we only showed them theirs and provided that others existed and categorized (usually from Management Review Charts). Anything truly proprietary was not operating that day. Didn't make them happy, but we made sure they understood that we treat all of our customers with that strict confidentiality so as to ensure we do not give their secrets away blah, blah, blah ,Yes it can be a pain, but if there is a lack of trust...
     
  6. hogheavenfarm

    hogheavenfarm Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2015
    Messages:
    179
    Likes Received:
    125
    Trophy Points:
    42
    [Show them only what is theirs.] that works, but if they are after process secrets it still gives them away. We have been audited like this and have lost entire sections of our product line as the 'customer' then manufactures themselves. Its a spy mission, and it is difficult to deal with. You can label certain processes 'proprietary' in a effort to protect them as much as possible, it is how we do it. They can see the product before and after the process, but the process itself is off-limits. If they dont like it , too bad, they cannot give your info away to another vendor or make it themselves if they do not know how, so loss of product business is unlikely.
     
    Nikki, Bazinga and GStough like this.
  7. Joe Cruse

    Joe Cruse Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    16
    Trophy Points:
    2
    Notification that no cell phones or cameras allowed outside of the audit meeting room, signing of a confidentiality agreement, and an audit scope provided by them. All before the day of the audit, so that all ground rules are established. Agreed that this is a sticky situation, but you certainly have the right to protect your business.
     
  8. Hansraj Sharma

    Hansraj Sharma Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2015
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    2
    It depends upon the type of product.
    If product design is your own and there is no competitor in the market you can restrict otherwise no.
     
  9. Jim Hagenbaugh

    Jim Hagenbaugh Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2015
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    23
    Trophy Points:
    2
    Location:
    VA
    Hi Nikki,

    How did it go? Was it a standard supplier audit or was it clear they we searching for you trade secrets?
     
  10. Nikki

    Nikki Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2015
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    135
    Trophy Points:
    42
    Location:
    Maine
    Based on what?

    Our concern was that this customer may have been looking to discover our process of making this material so that they could copy it.
     
  11. Nikki

    Nikki Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2015
    Messages:
    237
    Likes Received:
    135
    Trophy Points:
    42
    Location:
    Maine

    It went rather well - no nonconformances, only a couple of suggestions moving forward.
    I don't think they were coming here to try to steal our processing secrets - it was definitely a standard supplier audit.

    Although at the end of the month, we are in the same situation - but more extreme.

    My boss does not want them to tour our facility at all - and he wants them to remain in the conference room the WHOLE time. Is that even possible to do during an audit?
     
  12. Jim Hagenbaugh

    Jim Hagenbaugh Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2015
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    23
    Trophy Points:
    2
    Location:
    VA
    That has been my life long goal and I came within 5 minutes once. I had to walk the auditor out through the production floor as he was leaving. In all honesty is was more a poor auditor than anything I tried to plan.

    Most auditors I've encountered (myself included) will want to see the floor to some extent, if for no other reason to verify the story in the conference room has some fact behind it. Depending on your product some things have to be seen and not just searched through documents (pest control, housekeeping etc) .
     
  13. Vintage Goose

    Vintage Goose Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2015
    Messages:
    68
    Likes Received:
    33
    Trophy Points:
    17
    As suggested, I would have a SOP or similar documenting what they can and cant see and do within the audit. Best have this in place, not written the day of the audit!

    Having been through many similar audits, the key is managing what can be seen. Where possible "hide" equipment, processes or documentation that is not relevant or applicable, steer them away from sensitive areas and take control of who they talk to and how much time they have. There is as much as skill in be audited as being an auditor.
     
    hogheavenfarm likes this.

Share This Page