Wow, I have yet to see any terms and conditions that involve allowing people to have access to our suppliers. We can't even get access to some of our suppliers. That would definitely require a challenge.
We're actually seeing it fairly regularly, across a growing number of customers...
It seems to have snuck in under the guise of the "supply chain transparency" that is currently British retailers' favourite topic - if you say yes, you can't possibly follow it up as none of our suppliers want our customers turning up unannounced, and if you say no then the customer infers that you've got something to hide in the supply chain, and thus by implication are almost certainly using slave labour to make adulterated products. If it's happening here then you may see it start appearing elsewhere, as it so often feels like the big brands and retailers are permanently looking for daft ideas to borrow from each other
We have those too. Usually when we challenge their ideas, they become testy. If they do try to make something a finding that isn't based on regulation and is more of the "I would personally prefer" type response, I will submit justification in the corrective action report, and state why the finding is not valid. I've not had one come back from a customer stating the answer wasn't good enough.
I'm just struggling with the customer's customer, because more times than not, they are a large corporate base, where they feel what they say is final. If you don't comply then they'll move on (even if the volumes aren't high). Then you risk issues with your customer relations as well. As Scampi said earlier, there aren't enough people pushing back. I push back where I can, but I don't exactly know where to draw the line.
Get your commercial colleagues involved - work out roughly what it'll cost your business to implement whatever it is that's been requested, add a healthy extra chunk for it generally being a PITA, and offer them the choice via your sales team. This can get your direct customer on your side, as they aren't likely to want to pay a higher price and will often struggle to be able to pass on the same increase to their customer. If nothing else, the potential for a higher price can sometimes cause other people at the customer / customer's customer to become involved, and this can lead to an outbreak of common sense. Not always, but occasionally at least
Also be aware that if you're supplying ingredients to the big corporates, many of them will have gone through a long product development/ingredient approval process, and this will make them disinclined to change supply routes unless there is an actual genuine problem. One auditor saying "we'll need to look elsewhere" can be a useful lever to try to get you to jump through the hoops, but if you push back you will sometimes find that the overall considered corporate position is actually somewhat different because the non-compliance isn't actually on anything significant, and they don't want to go through all of the trials, benchmarking, focus groups etc to get an ingredient change approved.
I've sometimes found that saying "no" will lead to being passed up the chain of command, until eventually you have the discussion with someone who genuinely has sufficient seniority to make a call on it, and 90+% of the time the reason they have the seniority is that they have the experience and intellect to see what does/doesn't actually make sense, so they can agree with you. Or at least if they still disagree, they may even provide a legitimate basis for the request. Either is fine, I guess.
Should we have a separate "off topic" thread for light-hearted discussion of our favourite ridiculous non-conformances that IFSQN members have received over the years?