"Picture Day" - Why Factory Audits Are Not Enough
I'm quite fortunate to be able to discuss compliance topics with multiple audiences which helps me to better understand the challenges many face when trying to meet their Fortune 1000 client compliance needs. My last blog entry addressed the topic of testing in The Golden Sample: Why Testing Alone Isn't Enough. There are many companies out there, suppliers and distributors alike, who rely on testing as the only component of their testing program. Other companies use factory audits as their only form of compliance program. Factory audits are an important tool to measure your factory's ability to meet social responsibility guidelines but factory audits alone do not ensure compliance and rarely address product safety.
I call factory audits "Picture Day." Remember back in the day when you combed your hair, brushed your teeth, put on your best pair of khakis and a new shirt—all for your classroom photo. I can tell you that the kid in my picture bore little if any resemblance to the same kid out on the playground 30 minutes later. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be the issue with factory audits. Factory audits are a snap shot in time and they may or may not be an accurate reflection of how the factory is performing on a day to day basis.
Factory audits and product testing are the most commonly used tools to measure product safety and compliance. Some would argue that they are the best tools we have available. They just need to be used as components of an overall compliance program that allows you transparency and control of your supply chain. Compliance and product safety are hard. They can't be an afterthought, and they can't be done for $500 a year. They are proactive daily commitments to being better. And they do not guarantee 100% safe products or socially compliant factories.