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What would you do if a supplier won't complete your questionnaire?


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#26 Miri

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 01:54 PM

In my experience, we would send a cover letter with the questionnaire stating that completion of the questionnaire was necessary to remain an approved supplier - and that failure to complete it could result in an in-person audit.  Given the choice of less than an hour's time (questionnaire), or a day's time (audit) they most often would choose the questionnaire.  

 

Regarding your questionnaire, I noticed that you used a small font.  I recommend that you use a larger font, even if it results in your questionnaire extending to five pages or more.  I have trouble reading small text, and it frustrates me as soon as I see it.  Maybe your supplier is visually impaired.  Or not.  Just a thought.

 

On a side note, do you have a supplier expectations manual?  You could send one that outlines the requirements that they are to have (procedures, policies, activities, documentation, etc.) and ask them to read it, sign it as confirmation of compliance (noting anything they are not in compliance with on the signature page) and return the signature page.  That could take care of most of what you need except for product-specific information.



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#27 QAGB

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 02:10 PM

In my experience, we would send a cover letter with the questionnaire stating that completion of the questionnaire was necessary to remain an approved supplier - and that failure to complete it could result in an in-person audit.  Given the choice of less than an hour's time (questionnaire), or a day's time (audit) they most often would choose the questionnaire.  

 

Regarding your questionnaire, I noticed that you used a small font.  I recommend that you use a larger font, even if it results in your questionnaire extending to five pages or more.  I have trouble reading small text, and it frustrates me as soon as I see it.  Maybe your supplier is visually impaired.  Or not.  Just a thought.

 

On a side note, do you have a supplier expectations manual?  You could send one that outlines the requirements that they are to have (procedures, policies, activities, documentation, etc.) and ask them to read it, sign it as confirmation of compliance (noting anything they are not in compliance with on the signature page) and return the signature page.  That could take care of most of what you need except for product-specific information.

 

 

Good point. I have gotten really angry at questionnaires with improper formatting (no I am not suggesting this questionnaire is improperly formatted). Nothing is worse than a document with form fields that can't be edited but I'm required to input information that exceeds the field's allowances. I'll put minimal effort into improperly formatted questionnaires. 

 

Supplier expectations manuals are nice, but I also became annoyed with those because every customer then starts imposing their own mandates for products (and inserting fine print wording in places you least expect). If you have a stock product that 600 food manufacturers buy, you can't agree to every customer's whims. I started having to read through those documents very carefully before signing and then pushing back or getting senior management involved in some of the questionable parts of those manuals. I'd rather fill out a questionnaire than to sign a supplier expectations manual



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#28 The Food Scientist

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 02:12 PM

I agree with VickieLew...but I also agree with your supplier, rude as the email was, it was pretty specific about why you had the information you needed already.

 

I've come around on questionnaires, they're not helpful when filled out by the customer, it's much more helpful if YOU fill them out based on an interview/review of their documentation. Otherwise it's a paperpushing audit-checkbox exercise that wastes everyone's time. Especially under FSMA where your suppliers controls are your controls (ugh), it's much more effective from an actual risk standpoint for you to complete an internal review of the supplier and their processes, rather than receive back a questionnaire that you're really just reviewing for completeness.

 

I actually agree with you and like that idea since we are really controlling our suppliers and we should be reviewing and filling things to better understand whats going on.


Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#29 The Food Scientist

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 02:15 PM

In my experience, we would send a cover letter with the questionnaire stating that completion of the questionnaire was necessary to remain an approved supplier - and that failure to complete it could result in an in-person audit.  Given the choice of less than an hour's time (questionnaire), or a day's time (audit) they most often would choose the questionnaire.  

 

Regarding your questionnaire, I noticed that you used a small font.  I recommend that you use a larger font, even if it results in your questionnaire extending to five pages or more.  I have trouble reading small text, and it frustrates me as soon as I see it.  Maybe your supplier is visually impaired.  Or not.  Just a thought.

 

On a side note, do you have a supplier expectations manual?  You could send one that outlines the requirements that they are to have (procedures, policies, activities, documentation, etc.) and ask them to read it, sign it as confirmation of compliance (noting anything they are not in compliance with on the signature page) and return the signature page.  That could take care of most of what you need except for product-specific information.

 

Yes! I have a supplier expectations manual! I agree with you about the small font though. There are many questions on there that are also redundant that need to get removed and making the test slightly larger. Thanks :)


Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#30 The Food Scientist

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 02:17 PM

Also to point out... This questionnaire was really done by the previous person before I got here. so this is "slightly" reviewed by me. It was so much worse. The thing is I have no had much time to focus on it until this supplier sent us that respond! 


Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#31 TimG

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 08:55 PM

I'm going to approach this from the other side, as this topic is a bit of a sore spot for me and I have felt your suppliers pain.

I typically receive questionnaires from customers of customers (seeing as how most of our actual customers are large distributors) that occupy disproportionate amounts of my time. To help put this into perspective, we produce product by the ton in 12-14 day campaigns and typically sell by the truckload. I have MANY TIMES (I'd say routinely) received a 10+ tab questionnaire from the end user that takes days to complete and then found that they purchase around 1-50lb bag of that product from my actual customer every other month. After looking at it from a profitability standpoint, I've begun to be more selective in time spent on these. I've even gone so far as to REFUSE several requests for facility audit. I have told customers that facility audits are reviewed on a case by case basis and purchase history is factored into that decision.

I have no idea if that's the case in you situation, however sometimes I feel there is a huge disconnect when it comes to pricing/purchasing and then time sink caused by requirements set out by various quality departments.



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#32 QAGB

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 02:50 PM

I'm going to approach this from the other side, as this topic is a bit of a sore spot for me and I have felt your suppliers pain.

I typically receive questionnaires from customers of customers (seeing as how most of our actual customers are large distributors) that occupy disproportionate amounts of my time. To help put this into perspective, we produce product by the ton in 12-14 day campaigns and typically sell by the truckload. I have MANY TIMES (I'd say routinely) received a 10+ tab questionnaire from the end user that takes days to complete and then found that they purchase around 1-50lb bag of that product from my actual customer every other month. After looking at it from a profitability standpoint, I've begun to be more selective in time spent on these. I've even gone so far as to REFUSE several requests for facility audit. I have told customers that facility audits are reviewed on a case by case basis and purchase history is factored into that decision.

I have no idea if that's the case in you situation, however sometimes I feel there is a huge disconnect when it comes to pricing/purchasing and then time sink caused by requirements set out by various quality departments.

 

 

Hi Tgoss11,

 

I've been in your situation too. We took on a lot of customers of customers requests for documentation, questionnaires, and audits. Our department spent a lot of time on unnecessary requests; but often complied if the requests weren't too over-the-top. Because we were an older company with an underutilized ERP system, it was hard for the QA department to discern volumes, so we generally complied to most requests. There were times where I found out the volumes some companies bought were super small. I'd sigh, shake my head, and mutter a few words of frustration. A questionnaire the size of the OP's document shouldn't take too long if you have the systems and documents readily available. However, I can see where you would not want to fill out a 30 page document for a company that only buys 1-50 lb. bag every other month.

 

I have found there are roundabout ways to try and make a customer happy. I've seen suppliers that supply their own completed questionnaires to be shared, and I've seen suppliers that send full technical document packets with specs, statements, policy summaries, HACCP flow diagrams and docs. Personally, as a customer, I am more than happy to receive technical document packets rather than questionnaires. I only find questionnaires useful if a supplier isn't GFSI certified.


Edited by QAGB, 02 December 2019 - 02:50 PM.


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#33 BostonCream

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 08:00 PM

Hi Tgoss11,

 

I've been in your situation too. We took on a lot of customers of customers requests for documentation, questionnaires, and audits. Our department spent a lot of time on unnecessary requests; but often complied if the requests weren't too over-the-top. Because we were an older company with an underutilized ERP system, it was hard for the QA department to discern volumes, so we generally complied to most requests. There were times where I found out the volumes some companies bought were super small. I'd sigh, shake my head, and mutter a few words of frustration. A questionnaire the size of the OP's document shouldn't take too long if you have the systems and documents readily available. However, I can see where you would not want to fill out a 30 page document for a company that only buys 1-50 lb. bag every other month.

 

I have found there are roundabout ways to try and make a customer happy. I've seen suppliers that supply their own completed questionnaires to be shared, and I've seen suppliers that send full technical document packets with specs, statements, policy summaries, HACCP flow diagrams and docs. Personally, as a customer, I am more than happy to receive technical document packets rather than questionnaires. I only find questionnaires useful if a supplier isn't GFSI certified.

 

Hi QAQB, 

 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that supplier questionnaires sometimes are only useful when the supplier isn't GFSI certified. 

 

Do you think it's reasonable to design a questionnaire like this: Q1) are you GFSI certified? Please attach most recent audit report and skip this questionnaire. Q2) If you are not GFSI certified, or the certification has expired, please complete all questions in this questionnaire.



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#34 The Food Scientist

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 08:04 PM

Hi QAQB, 

 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that supplier questionnaires sometimes are only useful when the supplier isn't GFSI certified. 

 

Do you think it's reasonable to design a questionnaire like this: Q1) are you GFSI certified? Please attach most recent audit report and skip this questionnaire. Q2) If you are not GFSI certified, or the certification has expired, please complete all questions in this questionnaire.

 

 

Was just about to type that same idea you had in response to you & QAGB's posts. I do believe since the supplier is GFSI they already do (assuming) comply with all those questions asked. So really if they attach their certificate, perhaps their audit report (if some want to disclose), it would save a lot of time. 

 

Edit: And asking them of course to attach other documentation besides GFSI like product specs and such?


Edited by The Food Scientist, 02 December 2019 - 08:06 PM.

Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#35 SQFconsultant

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 08:05 PM

We skip the questionaires and go right to asking for specific documents from each supplier/broker.


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Glenn Oster
 
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Serving the New Republic of the United States of America, Costa Rica, Panama & Caribbean Islands

 

 


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#36 QAGB

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 08:22 PM

Was just about to type that same idea you had in response to you & QAGB's posts. I do believe since the supplier is GFSI they already do (assuming) comply with all those questions asked. So really if they attach their certificate, perhaps their audit report (if some want to disclose), it would save a lot of time. 

 

Edit: And asking them of course to attach other documentation besides GFSI like product specs and such?

 

 

Hi QAQB, 

 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that supplier questionnaires sometimes are only useful when the supplier isn't GFSI certified. 

 

Do you think it's reasonable to design a questionnaire like this: Q1) are you GFSI certified? Please attach most recent audit report and skip this questionnaire. Q2) If you are not GFSI certified, or the certification has expired, please complete all questions in this questionnaire.

 

 

Yes - this is how I handled working with suppliers. If GFSI certified, they did not have to complete the questionnaire; just needed the requested documents. If not GFSI certified, they had to complete the questionnaire as well. 



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#37 The Food Scientist

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Posted 02 December 2019 - 08:25 PM

Yes - this is how I handled working with suppliers. If GFSI certified, they did not have to complete the questionnaire; just needed the requested documents. If not GFSI certified, they had to complete the questionnaire as well. 

 

AH! You & Bostoncream hit the nail on the head! I just discussed this with my purchasing manager and she was like YAY thats a looot better!  I guess we tend to overthink things a lot. Thank you!!!!!! 


Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#38 QM-OS

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Posted 03 December 2019 - 12:35 PM

We have four different questionnaires depending of what type of supplier; raw materials/food stuff, agents, transporters and a "generic one".

 

All questionnaires are made up like this: 

1 page for all contact and company information etc.

Depending of what type of supplier, approx 10-12 general questions (about allergens, foreign material detection, product specification (attach please!) and what type of certifications that are valid (attach please!) 

And 8 questions about social responsibilities.

If supplier have GFSI certification, that's it!

 

I feel this is an OK level that I, myself, can answer in questionnaires about our own company before it becomes too tideous. It's four pages, with large font and lots of space!   :spoton: (so basically, barely three pages)

 

If raw material supplier have no GFSI certification then there's additional 27 questions/3 pages (regarding hygiene, cleaning, transport/storage, environment and what type of PRP they have in place).

(27 questions isn't that much either, IMO.)

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

What I find most bewildering are suppliers who complete the whole questionnaire but don't send copies of certificates/specifications!  :huh:  

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

We do however, also have certain high-profile customers that require more information, not really regarding food safety, but CSR, so for their products/suppliers we have one more page for answering.

Also transporters and storage companies have to sign a declaration for those specific demands that our BRC Food certification have.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

We have received questionnaires from customers, consisting of 20 pages or more, and even though we have GFSI certification we still have to answer ALL the questions! 

Sometimes I wonder if the people working in Quality deparments really know what they're asking for?

If there is a GFSI certification, how do you think the company managed to go through audits without a quality management, traceability system, cleaning programe etc in place?  :doh:



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#39 The Food Scientist

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Posted 03 December 2019 - 01:45 PM

 

If there is a GFSI certification, how do you think the company managed to go through audits without a quality management, traceability system, cleaning programe etc in place?  :doh:

 

EXACTLY! As I said before, we tend to overthink too much when it's really that simple! Thank you for your insight! :)


Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it. - Alton Brown.


#40 FurFarmandFork

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Posted 03 December 2019 - 06:54 PM

 

If there is a GFSI certification, how do you think the company managed to go through audits without a quality management, traceability system, cleaning programe etc in place?   :doh:

 

EXACTLY! As I said before, we tend to overthink too much when it's really that simple! Thank you for your insight! :)

 

 

This is the big one. If we all want GFSI to be of value, QA people need to treat it like it has value! In my upplier approval scheme a GFSI approved certification automatically approves a supplier, as I have used a contract auditing service to ensure that they meet all of the same standards my plant does. Everyone wins.

 

Then check into stuff you really care about, like specs.

If there is a GFSI certification, how do you think the company managed to go through audits without a quality management, traceability system, cleaning programe etc in place?   :doh:


Austin Bouck
Owner/Consultant at Fur, Farm, and Fork.
Consulting for companies needing effective, lean food safety systems and solutions.

Subscribe to the blog at furfarmandfork.com for food safety research, insights, and analysis.

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#41 oigdaym8

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 06:26 PM

Would anyone be willing to share their list of documents requested from a supplier? I am looking to get rid of our questionnaire all together and move forward with a simple letter requesting GFSI audit report, product specifications, etc and would love to cross reference our list with others in the industry.  



#42 QAGB

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Posted 31 January 2020 - 07:15 PM

Would anyone be willing to share their list of documents requested from a supplier? I am looking to get rid of our questionnaire all together and move forward with a simple letter requesting GFSI audit report, product specifications, etc and would love to cross reference our list with others in the industry.  

 

The list depends on your needs. Depending on what sector of the industry you are in, certain documents will be more applicable than others.

 

  • Product Specifications
  • Allergen Statement
  • Letter of Guarantee
  • Kosher and/or Halal statements
  • 3rd party audit certificates and reports
  • Lot Code Explanation
  • Traceability Policy
  • GMO Statement
  • Heavy Metals and Restricted Substances information
  • Packaging Test Reports (specifically migration reports and/or other analyses as required per CFR standards)

I always requested HACCP statements or flow diagrams, so I would know our supplier's CCPs. This helped to conduct risk assessments and complaint investigations. 



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#43 Ryan M.

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 06:24 PM

Alright, I think everyone over complicates this process.  It is on the customer (YOU) to assess the real risk with the product / ingredient in your process.  Risk needs to be based two-fold:

 

  1. Specific ingredient risk
  2. Specific supplier risk

 

You write this out in your supplier management policy / program.  You can assign "low risk" and then not require as much from your supplier.  You just need to justify this during your regular audit.

 

I absolutely abhor documentation requirements based on "checking the box" or "because my auditor said so".  This is not a valid reason to have lengthy documentation requirements, questionnaires, etc.  I've been in previous positions where I flatly refused to complete their form and I instead provided them with our audit, and our program documents.  I had nothing to hide, but I wasn't going to waste my time on their boiler plate forms.  Of course, I've also had CEO's of previous companies I've worked at tell me I had to do it which was fine.  I always refused first, and then if I got a lot of push back or was requested to do it from sales or the CEO then I would do it.  I've also experienced a few times where a chat on the phone clarified expectations and honestly, like Fur, Farm, Fork mentioned more was gained from the phone conversation than completing documents or customer forms.

 

So please...if you are thinking of requiring your suppliers to complete forms for you please rethink the process and see if you can do it in a more meaningful way to obtain the information you truly need.

 

Remember when we all thought this whole GFSI auditing scheme would reduce auditing load and customer audits and customer requests?  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH


Edited by Ryan M., 20 August 2020 - 06:24 PM.


#44 El Molino

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Posted 20 August 2020 - 08:16 PM

I love this thread - I have had a large corporation provide me with a"policy" of supplier information - but really did not provide any documentation to back up their statements. Yes, if you're GFSI certified it means I have only a few specific documents to be submitted I send a letter of information I need and have a checklist for our evaluation - lot code explanation is like pulling teeth - I need to be able to track the ingredients I use - I need allergen data - I need COA for labs and authenticity against food fraud. I you are GFSI certified you already have the information in a customer request file ... 

 

Here is my evaluation sheet I use for each of my suppliers

 

Attached File  SOP 41 Approved Supplier Evaluation.doc   44.5KB   14 downloads






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