My company has an off-site warehouse where we store surplus equipment and product that was sent in for warranty replacement. Must we include the warehouse in our ISO 9001:2000 certification audit?
The short answer is that you probably will have to include the warehouse in your third-party audit. The same goes for a TS 16949 audit.
Process audits dictate that you follow all linkages where product enters and leaves a site. While you did not indicate that you keep nonconforming product in the warehouse, you do indicate that you store product there that was sent back for warranty replacement. In this case the warehouse is storing a wealth of possible data for your company's design team.
Such linkages were not always picked up during the elemental audits of the 1994 standard, but they are not likely to go undetected by a good ISO 9001:2000 auditor.
Don't assume that because a facility is just a warehouse or because the warehouse is 100 miles away that it need not be part of the audit. If you own a warehouse and you send your finished goods there it must be part of the audit.
This can be an issue for growing companies in particular that may be short on space.
The International Automotive Oversight Bureau (IAOB), one of five oversight offices for TS 16949, recently put out an advisory on remote facilities such as warehouses. The advisory states that you must include warehouses in your TS 16949 certification if the warehouse accepts product from your manufacturing site.
The exception is if the warehouses stores products from several different companies or if it's a separate warehouse business.
If the warehouse receives product from your company and another company with a financial relationship to yours, then it may not be excluded from the audit warehouse under the IAOB advisory and probably not from an ISO 9001:2000 audit either.
The need to include a particular warehouse should be apparent when you complete a process map showing not only the internal relationships between each step in your manufacturing process but also external relationships.
At times companies store what they consider to be junk in their warehouses, but it's actually nonconforming product that needs to be controlled.
If you are uncertain whether to include a warehouse in your certification, try answering the following five questions.
If you answered "yes" to any of the questions, it's pretty clear that you cannot exclude the facility from your audit. Here are some tips to prepare a warehouse for an audit:
Finally, there is no need to have a separate management representative for the warehouse. The warehouse can be folded in the same certificate as the rest of your facility.