When a 3rd party inspector inspects a licensed plant, what exactly are the auditors looking for? And what can the fabricator get from the experience?
What the inspection is NOT, and why that matters:
- The part 1 audit of the in-house paperwork is not a grade on neatness. It’s an evaluation of the process. This is why it’s important the paperwork reflects actual work progress. It needs to contain spontaneous notes, reflections, and information from the actual in-house inspection. A typed report with crisp, clean print may seem like the professional solution, but unfortunately it does not provide the auditor the “fly on the wall” view they need to make sure the process is effective and thorough. As an auditor, we want to see the creases, dirt, oil, and weather the paperwork experienced more than data. Distant managers thrive on pages of tabulated data with crisp pie charts, but that’s not what’s as helpful to auditors. To truly understand the merits of a Quality Assurance Program, the actual process is what one should evaluate, not the end result nor the summary data captured.
- Quantity does not beat report accuracy. Complete and precise inspections which meet the 3 inspections per station, per week, per shift rule are time better spent than doing more inspections partially or inaccurately. If the in-house inspections are random and complete, our experience shows that more inspections don’t necessarily improve quality. The completeness of the inspection and resultant feedback to the shop impacts quality the most.
- There is no expected ratio of perfect vs. imperfect quality. When reviewing the plant’s in-house inspections, the auditor is not calculating a value based on errors and problems identified by the in-house inspector. In actuality, the auditor is comparing their findings (or lack of problems) with the frequency and effectiveness of the in-house inspector’s findings. Does the auditor’s Part 2 inspection of the product manufactured resemble the in-house’s inspections? If they don’t, then does the auditor’s report show more or less problems? If the answer is less, then maybe the in-house inspector is not familiar with the TPI requirements and needs additional training. Or maybe the in-house inspector is too strict. Keep in mind, the auditor should be using the same criterion as detailed in the Quality Assurance Manual the facility has adopted. If the Auditor finds more issues compared to the weekly inspections, then possibly the in-house inspector needs additional training so they will understand what the requirements mean and how they are applied. This is why it’s important for the in-house inspector to follow along with the auditor to see firsthand and better understand the requirements. This is a training opportunity that should be taken advantage of whenever possible.
- The part 3 audit is not meant to only be an evaluation of the inspected truss. It’s an opportunity to observe the in-house inspector using their normal patterns and methods, so the auditor can view the process the in-house inspector uses to create their weekly inspections.
- The auditor is not only there to deliver accreditation. Our job is to instruct, train, and develop our clients to facilitate improvement. Using a process often referred to as the EDGE method, we help our clients grow. Each step is important and should be done in order.
- E – Educate
- D – Demonstrate
- G – Guide
- E – Evaluate
A great 3rd party provider should be contributing the following:
- Validation. An audit provides verification of compliance to ANSI/TPI and OSHA regulations and guidelines.
- Perspective. The inspection brings another set of eyes on your operations from a person with a broad perspective. The auditor has an advantage that is improved with compliance audits experience in multiple environments and styles.
- Risk control. The process can detect potential issues or problems that can escalate and lead to losses for the component manufacturer.
- Objectivity. An auditor’s basis is a standard of quality. It is a series of best practices that are shared among the auditor’s group of clienteles. This sharing strengthens each individual’s quality program.
- Knowledge base. An auditor’s knowledge of the codes and requirements are to a level of detail that is not reasonably obtainable for a component manufacturing manager.
- Uniqueness. Audits are inherently unique to each plant and personnel. They are specific to the plant’s safety and quality program.
- Accuracy. Due to its objective position, the results of a third-party audit often provide a more accurate view of what is occurring within a plant environment.
- Graded results. While initial results often show lower audit scores, many fabricators realize that the results and evaluation can uncover long-standing issues of non-compliance and opportunities for loss that can be immediately fixed, thereby leading to a positive ROI for the audit program.
- Targeted. Audits conducted by third parties should not be taxing on time and labor resources. However, unlike an in-house quality review, a third-party auditor enters a location for the sole purpose of conducting the audit. They are not interrupted by the need to complete a job, conduct an employment interview, or deal with a customer situation.
More than just accreditation, your 3rd party should be a resource for continuous improvement, helping to identify opportunities, streamlining work and improving results, therefore reducing waste.
Glenn Traylor is an independent consultant with almost four decades of experience in the structural building components industry. While he is a TPI 3rd Party In-Plant Quality Assurance Authorized Agent covering the Southeastern United States and performs 3rd party safety auditor services, these articles represent his personal views, knowledge, and experience. Glenn serves as a trainer-evaluator-auditor covering sales, design, PM, QA, customer service, and production elements of the truss industry. He also provides project management specifically pertaining to structural building components, including on-site inspections and ANSI/TPI 1 compliance assessments. Glenn provides new plant and retrofit designs, equipment evaluations, ROI, capacity analysis, and CPM analysis.