As a sales agent representing component suppliers, I engage in the exercise of the quality audit routinely. The word audit has somewhat of a harsh connotation most likely related to the activities of the IRS. However, the purpose of the quality audits performed by this agent are not to find mistakes which end up costing the party on the receiving end, but rather to analyze production techniques and offer recommendations for process improvement which can end up saving money in the long run.

  • So what is a quality audit? It is a comprehensive review of a manufacturing process from start to finish. In a quality audit,
  • The condition of the equipment is observed.
  • Settings on the equipment are checked including variables such as temperature, pressure, speed, and air flow.
  • The quality and compatibility of materials and cutting oils is also evaluated. It’s also important to check the water’s purity (PPM), temperature and pH level.
  • Human elements such as manual application techniques are noted and evaluated.
  • Storage conditions and storage conditions/inventory management of materials and components are also observed; and
  • Product labeling procedures are evaluated to make sure they are in compliance with industry standards.

How can a quality audit save money? Well for one it will point out equipment issues that if left unattended could result is huge quality problems in the field. For instance, I have found defective heaters in glass washers while checking the wash temperature. On an insulating glass line, water temperature should be at least 120F to clean glass properly. The glass may look clean when it comes out of the washer but if it is not truly clean then IG sealants will not adhere properly in the long run. The IG unit made in this instance may look fine as it is glazed into the sash, but the chances are high that it will not pass the test of time. I have also pointed out PM issues on equipment that if left unattended could result in complete breakdowns, more costly repairs, shutdowns, delayed orders and lost business. My favorite audit of all time was the one where I discovered that the gas filler was accidentally using propane instead of argon! Thank the Lord I was there on that day or some lucky homeowner might have ended up getting more “bang” for the buck than they bargained for!

IG component suppliers are not the only ones conducting quality audits. NFRC-accredited independent certification and inspection agencies (IAs) are responsible for reviewing the simulation and test reports for fenestration manufacturers, conducting in-plant inspections, and issuing certification authorization reports (CARs). According to Steve McDowell of Keystone Certifications Inc., audits are conducted by Keystone field auditors twice per year and are designed to evaluate many aspects of IG production including quality manuals, quality manual forms, raw material evaluations, process procedures for final inspections, machine maintenance and material and component inventory management.

Most of the time, these quality “evaluations” are welcomed with open arms by door and window fabricators as they appreciate the opportunity to have a “third set of eyes’ view their manufacturing process and offer helpful suggestions and corrective actions. Sometimes these visits occur at inconvenient times, like when a window company is operating at full bore at the peak of the season – like now!

But as one plant manager put it, “As far as audits go…now’s the best time for an audit if you ask me! We want to see how well we are doing when we are stressed to the limit. If we can pass the mustard test this time of year, then the rest of the year is gravy!”

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