We continue the series from last week on ‘Understanding end user valve approvals’.
Many end users prioritize what to look for during the audit:
- First impressions are so important …
- Quality in action ….
- Ability to follow end user’s requirements ….
- Foundries that produce trouble free castings…
- Heat treatment that is correct…
- Welding that is under control…
- Assembly & testing that ensures good field performance …
When an end user first visits the manufacturers image is so important. Also what is the welcome like? I have seen welcome boards or large electronic screens displaying your name. You arrive at the reception area where you are greeted and are taken to a meeting room or even the board room for refreshments and introductions.
As a visitor your eyes are continuously looking around. Are the buildings poorly maintained or are they new and inviting? As you walk past open style offices what’s the first impression? Are they
In the meeting room certificates maybe displayed showing ISO 9001 approval or similar. These may be complemented with high profile photographs showing important visitors or clients. In some rooms there is nothing.
Safety: You have been in the building now for 10 minutes. Can safety notices be seen? Does the manufacturer give safety instructions? What personnel protection equipment is being provided, hard hats, safety glasses, ear protection, safety shoes? All end users expect safety for workers and for themselves as visitors. Instructions should be given as to where visitors can walk and where they cannot? Is there any fire evacuation practice scheduled during the visit?
In addition some end users prefer a “Safety moment” sharing an aspect on safety for example, on machining safety practices.
So the audit begins…
Has an “Agenda” been discussed? What are the reasons for the visit / audit?
The manufacturer will advise of their capabilities with regards to annual turnover, materials / types of valves supplied. The markets they supply and who are their clients are explained. This could be by a power point presentation, a DVD or a product catalog. Also you may be taken to a product showroom. As you gather this information the end user begins to position the manufacture in their mind of how they fit into the supply chain and if they can be acceptable or not. Does the manufacture produce their valve brand? If so, what’s the percentage of their production and to
whom? Knowledge of any western OEM’s presence at the manufacturer will be very informative. Have any other end users visited the manufacturer? Many manufacturers are keen to share their end user approvals. These have to be vetted as to their validity and scope. I have often been advised of a major oil company’s approval only to find that such approvals are limited to a specific geographic area with a project / contractor and a restricted scope of supply. They are often not endorsed by
the corporate centre of the major oil company. Or, when requesting to review approval letters or documentation, the manufacturer advises that they cannot be shown due to confidentiality. I am impressed with those suppliers who have all the main end user approvals and documentation. It sets
them up several levels above many manufacturers.
Some end users just want to go to the manufacturer’s plant for an audit bypassing documentation review. They want to see what is in the plant before committing time to review of documents. Others though start requesting to review documentation. They may have previously forwarded a questionnaire and will review the manufacturer’s response. A key question is who actually filled out the answers to the questions? Too often, the sales team answers without reference to their technical or QA departments resulting in misleading or incorrect information. Manufacturers must remember that these answers are reviewed seriously which can also decide whether or not to audit.
Smart manufacturers anticipate such documentation requests and have them ready in the meeting room. When they do not they need to retrieve the documentation quickly. When the waiting time exceeds 5 minutes the end user begins to wonder if the information exists.
When auditing manufacturers whose native language is not English the auditor team may have a member who speaks the local language. If the manufacturer desires to penetrate the international market then they will have to develop key English documents for review. There are many examples in the market where manufacturers have developed in this manner in the
early 2000’s and today they have a mature well controlled English document system. Some manufacturers are reluctant to invest time and money in what is a crucial area for end user audits.
So, first impressions are so important. It can determine how long or how short the end user visit will be. The discussions in this article are just a small sample of what happens. I am sure others reading this will have different experiences but all give “the first impression”.
Thank you for your time. Please contact me if you have any questions or comments. They are most welcome.
Barrie Kirkman, BSc CEng MIMechE, writes a regular column for Valve World, bringing his own personal views from inside the valve business.
Barrie can be reached on: email@example.com.