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Tackling 'cowboy' suppliers: a day in the life of CHSA's auditor
Through its Manufacturing Standard Accreditation Schemes, the Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association is tackling industry cheats head on and is relying on the Schemes' auditor, Gordon Butt, to show them up.
The Manufacturing Standard Accreditation Schemes cover soft tissue products, plastic refuse sacks and industrial cotton mops. They are supported by all the major manufacturers in the industry, each of whom has been audited and cleared to join the relevant Scheme.
Gordon's role is two-fold. Firstly it is to monitor member companies' products, testing for and then quickly remedying any irregularities. Each member company is checked regularly and in this way, customers can be certain that by buying from a company with the stamp of the Manufacturing Standard Accreditation Schemes they are getting what they are paying for.
Secondly, Gordon takes samples from the marketplace, including non-members of the Schemes - and it is amongst this group that he consistently finds deficiencies, some of up to 25%!
"It is difficult to spot by eye or cursory examination product that is shorter in length, width or number, or plastic sacks and mops not fit for purpose; even seriously short length rolls look similar to full length products. It is, therefore, very easy to be deceived and detailed and targeted test are necessary to be certain a product is as specified. The Schemes make sure customers are not ripped off."
The Schemes set out labelling and dimensional requirements and a system of production control and inspection that ensures accurate product description and so guarantee:
* Consistency of supply: customers receive what they order
* Accurate labelling: customers get what they pay for
* Fully audited manufacturers: our standard, your guarantee
Gordon conducts both planning and reactive site visits, taking samples randomly from distributors and in response to customer complaints and feedback. "It's important that the sampling is valuable and we respond appropriately to any concerns flagged by customers," he confides. "I also carefully check the labelling on which the dimensions are specified and where I can find the information required to trace to the manufacturer and the batch."
Factory visits are generally unannounced and samples are taken both from the warehouse and the production line during conversion. The number of rolls or packs making up a sample varies depending on the production run or stock size, but it is never less than three and is often greater.
Gordon uses several testing methods, selecting the one most suited for the product in question. These include a calibrated re-winder, a gravimetric test, or unrolling the product onto a flat surface of known measurement. However, his favourite is the British Standards drop test for the plastic refuse sacks! All these methods are specified in the Standard.
Gordon concludes: "These Schemes are a good example of self regulation. Through their requirements and the level of monitoring, buyers of products from companies that are members of the Manufacturing Standard Accreditation Schemes can be certain they are not being short changed."
Prior to his current role as an independent consultant assessing and monitoring a number of trade associations' accreditation schemes, Gordon worked for the Trading Standards Service enforcing and advising on Weights & Measures and related legislation, factory control and quality assurance procedures.
16th June 2011