:) You just said the magic words"un-scheduled or unannounced visits" . Managers prefer don't follow the audit rules because with this way they earn time and money. For the staff is the same and sometimes it is better for them to follow the audit rules.
For example if you follow the service rules that the service company say you can maximum repair 15-16 mobiles phones per day. It is pity that some managers as you said they prefer to do the maximum per day without give the necessary attention in the quality of the service and of course they dont follow the audit rules.
When you say "mandatory system and reporting in place", do you mean from factory worker to company or from audit team to audit instigating company?
Both terms are far to "wooly" to be used effectively, personally I would break them down into:
No bonded labour.
No withholding of personal documents.
No Physical or verbal abuse.
No withholding reasonable toilet breaks.
The reason I would expect such a breakdown is so that any necessary corrective action could be clearly targeted. But yes you are correct they can be difficult to interpret and grade correctly.
Unfortunately some companies insist on grouping them together as a general term, sometimes to hide minor infractions, other times because they do not have a deep understanding of the cultures, production procedures or because it looks good as a buzz word. (I see that a lot)
Most factories have some sort of policy for reporting such matters, either formally or informally, however the real issue is getting workers to come forward.
We can usually trace most infractions of this sort to lack of training/education, but it can come from either direction (not just the factory to the workers)
Certainly in China it is a bigger issue with the ethnical mix of peoples, most outsiders consider China as one big country full of 'Chinese' happily squirreling away on production lines to make goods for western countries. That is a stereotype.
Unfortunately this is not even close to the truth and a good factory manager has to really have his wits about him if, ethnic problems are not to kick off in a production facility.
Some ethnic groups would not 'work well' if supervisor or manager was from a different ethnic mix and there would be continual friction and misunderstanding,even some villages from the same area will not work well together!!
Generally you would try to keep ethnic groups together and with a cross language translator.
(yes I know your not supposed to consider this when hiring staff, but for safety it is a necessary requirement, in some cases you are dealing with groups of people from the countryside where village feuding is still common practice. So sometimes the political correctness has to be placed to one side, generally I would not penalize a factory for such behavior if it was in the interests of safety and security)
Again this comes down to an in-depth knowledge of systems, peoples backgrounds and cross-discapline audit staff.
Thanks for the insights, Hardcore. Good information. You mention ethical auditing and the article talks about facets of this company's policy dealing with 'humane treatment' and " working with dignity and respect", terms which I find would be very difficult to practically evaluate through an audit visit. What processes are in place for evaluating big companies on this scale? Is there a mandatory system and reporting in place for such violations, if at all they occur?
Yeap! This is the reason why good auditors in service industries have in their contract un-sheduled or unannounced visits. Workers and their managers often return to old ways of doing things if they know they are not being watched. Good supervisors however make the attempt of sticking with the design for improvement even when the workers are kicking and screaming. The latter often come back to accept the changes as good for all, but it requires the nerves of steel by managers to stay on track. Hopefully we will have more managers that want to do the right thing and are willing to stay in it for the long haul.
Yes 'multi-disciplined', for some reason I have an issue with letters being missed and changed, or sometimes complete posts going missing, generally I spelling check a post as well.
One issue we see time and time again, is that 'some' 3rd party inspection agencies, train the staff to tick boxes in a mechanical way, very few have a background in anything else other than paperwork many are not even aware of how the factory processes come together and work as a whole.
Lets take for example an audit in an Electronics factory.(unfortunately I cannot embed pictures)
Many ethical auditors, on walking into the production area would not even notice the 'sweet smell' in the air, they would then carry on with the audit.(lets not forget that there were multiple prior audits at Wintek that failed to pick up the problems.)
Whilst our inspectors would not be trained in chemistry, they would be trained to know that air should not have a sweet smell.
As a result they would NOT enter the area, instead they would short circuit the audit to the 'Dangerous goods area', identify the materials in the stores, THEN they would go to the purchasing department, at this point they would cross-reference the markings on the containers with the purchase orders.
They would do this because some factories deliberately get their supplier to mis-label containers so that audit teams/local government inspectors cannot easily identify the chemicals being used on the shop floor, generally the purchasing dept. shows the material as it should be marked, with a cross reference used in the factory.
To all intents and purposes the audit would go-off track, but still cover all areas needed without subjecting the audit staff to potentially hazardous materials.(many independent audit companies will not allow this)
The 'production area' would then be marked as a fail, for EVERYTHING, purely because we would be prevented from auditing it safely.
So by multi-disciplined I mean that we would expect the inspectors to centralize their knowledge in a given area, but at the same time have reduced back ground in Chemistry, Electronics, Metal working, Cleaning, First-aid and obviously Employment law, plus also understand that an audit can go off the rails to chase down a problematic discovery. Many audit teams are far too ridged in their inspection procedures as a result it gives the supplier a framework to 'work-round' so that the supplier looks like they are highly compliant but in reality it is just smoke and mirrors.
Well its really good on behalf of Dell to respond immediately to issues of labor practice standards. But I feel its very difficult for companies in US to bringup the standards of their outsourced partner to their level unless the outsourced partner have the executive directors that have lived in US and then got settled in those parts of world. And practically there is vast difference in the way human rights are dealt with in US and in other parts of world. Anyway I agree it would be good for everyone if labor laws and human rights are followed in outsourced partner's day to day functioning as they are in parent companies.
I think the surprise visits are highly important in audits. As you said, it is very easy to fix things up on a planned visit and make everything look proper. Besides this, I have felt that the visits generally last for a day or two. I don't think this time is adequate enough to properly assess things. The visits do not have to last for whole days, they can simply be for a couple of hours but should be scattered over several days. This is one way the management will be under pressure to follow and maintain the standards at all times.
I have a lot of experience on Ethical auditing, and have yet to see any audit at a suppliers premises that is unplanned or a surprise.
The closest I would get to 'unplanned' would be two days notice to the factory, who would usually 'cancel' or have people off sick.
However I had the habit of still turning up for the audits, fortunatly I'm experienced enough that even with 2 weeks notice a factory would be very hard-pushed to 'clean up' its act if they were not performing in line with the requirements, some cannot even manage it with one months notice.
Sometimes if I am in the area whilst on another audit, I would just pop in for 'tea'.
That said,even the big 'independent' audit companies do not operate on a surprise visit system, because invariably they have leaks and the information gets back to the suppliers, because the information is worth money.
A "walk-thrugh", is rather an unfortunate term, because walking can be conducted at a range of speeds, and generally may indicate 'eyes-front', some suppliers even take this as a set expression to mean "i'm not here to cause you problems, just filling in the boxes"
Ultimately it matters not one jot, the level of paperwork or training a audit company can give, but all comes down to the individual inspector, who MUST be multi-discaplined (which is why Wintek has the problem with the cleaning fluid, the previous audit teams were NOT multi-discaplined which is possibly why it happened)
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.