What is a Supplier Audit?

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What Is A Supplier Audit?

A supplier audit takes a comprehensive look at the supply chain performance to determine if the products supplied meet the required specification and quality.

A supplier audit is classed as a second-party audit as you have a relationship with your supplier. A second party is different from a BRC audit which is a third-party audit and is genuinely independent.

First-party audits are internal audits conducted on your own business.

Why is it important to audit your suppliers?

What Is A Supplier Audit?

A supplier audit is an integral part of the customer-supplier relationship. There are three main benefits to supplier auditing:

  • To satisfy your company that the supplier is operating to the correct standard and producing product for you that is safe, legal, authentic, and of the right quality.
  • To discuss requests you may have that sit outside the BRC standard. For instance, you may require the product to be labelled a specific way.
  • To build relationships with your suppliers. Physically meeting your suppliers generally improves communication and makes for a more open, transparent relationship.

How often should you audit your suppliers?

The frequency of the audit should be risk and performance-based. Generally, food manufacturers have too many suppliers to conduct annual audits.

The following factors are generally used and scored against to determine frequency:

  • 3rd party certification (e.g. BRC or equivalent)
  • Product category (high risk, high care for example)
  • Complaint levels 
  • Non-conformances
  • Volume supplied
  • Lengths of supply

In our Highfield Level 3 Award in Effective Auditing and Inspection Skills course, we discuss the process of effective auditing.

When should you do a supplier audit?

There are no hard and fast rules to determine when an audit should be conducted. Listed below are some reasons when supplier audits are necessary:

  • New supplier to the business, in which case it is essential to review the suppliers’ current standards as a benchmark going forward.
  • The product supplied is high risk (e.g. from adulteration) and high volume.
  • Performance against the scorecard (using the criteria above) is poor or worsening, for example, an increasing number of complaints month on month.

Who should conduct a supplier audit?

A member of the technical team usually completes supplier audits. Some companies have a dedicated supplier assurance team.

At the very least, the person should be technically competent (e.g. food science qualification, HACCP knowledge.) and ideally have an auditing qualification.

What documentation do you use?

There are a couple of different ways to conduct a supplier audit. 

Some companies like to utilise a structured audit similar in nature to a BRC audit. In contrast, others prefer a less formal approach and want to audit general topics, which makes the inspection much more fluid.

Following a supplier visit, the auditor should write a detailed report. The report should list all compliant and non-compliant items.

If you have a question or enquiry about food safety, please call the team on 01452 502113 or complete our enquiry form.

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