5 Key Internal Control Principles Manufacturing Companies Must Consider!

If large manufacturing companies want to stay competitive in today’s business environment they need to continually work on improving production efficiencies, product quality and cost reduction.

Apart from the competitive business environment, large companies need to comply with a load of rules and regulations.  The Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws.  These include the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977e Occupational Safety and Health Act and many more.

In addition, publicly listed companies have to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.   The intent was to drive improvements in companies’ internal controls.  To comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act many firms adopted a recognized control framework.

The most common control framework that companies chose is known as the COSO framework.  The COSO framework was issued in 1992 by the committee of sponsoring organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO).  Their Internal Control – Integrated Framework was referred to as “COSO”, but on May 2013 COSO issued an updated Internal Control – Integrated Framework (the 2013 Framework) to incorporate the changes and technology advances that have taken place and effected the business world.

The 2013 Framework provides more guidance to large companies to effectively put in place a robust system of internal controls.  It adds 17 principles that are necessary for effective internal controls, but also introduces 81 focus points that are typically important to establish an effective system of internal controls for large companies.

Large manufacturing companies now have the opportunity to implement some of these “best practice” principles and focus points at the operations level to improve on their efficiencies and effectiveness of internal controls.

The following 2013 COSO principles and focus points are more relevant to large manufacturing companies:

1.    The organization selects and develops general control activities over technology to support the achievement of objectives. (COSO Principle 11)

With today’s advances in technology, management needs to consider which technology solutions fit their business models best.  It is important to understand the risks associated with the different technology solutions available. Assessing and documenting controls over technology would greatly assist manufacturing companies to make the best decisions regarding technology.

2.    The organization identifies and assesses changes that could significantly impact the system of internal control.  (COSO Principle 9)

Manufacturing companies are faced with more changes today than in the past that could affect the system of internal control.  These can be grouped into three categories:

  • Changes in the external environment, such as availability of raw materials, new laws and regulations.
  • Changes in the business model, such as better technology solutions and higher quality standards.
  • Changes in leadership.

Understanding, documenting and communicating these changes to management will assist the organization to better manage these changes and control the desired outcomes.

3.    The organization specifies objectives with sufficient clarity to enable the identification and assessment of risks relating to objectives. (COSO Principle 6)

For manufacturing companies to achieve their manufacturing goals, sufficient clarity and understanding of the risks associated with these is essential.  Once the risks are properly identified and ranked, management can implement actions to mitigate these risks.

Specific focus areas such as tolerance of risk and the required level of precision in performance measurements could greatly improve the effectiveness of risk mitigating actions.

4.    The organization obtains or generates and uses relevant, quality information to support the functioning of internal control. (COSO Principle 13)

Control systems need to provide accurate, relevant and timely information to enable management to have a more pro-active than a re-active approach towards internal changes in the business.

5.    The organization selects, develops, and performs ongoing and/or separate evaluations to ascertain whether the components of internal control are present and functioning. (COSO Principle 16)

As manufacturing processes and systems evolve and change over time, so should the internal controls and monitoring systems to stay current and relevant.   Regular evaluations and updating of internal controls are essential to ensure that internal controls are present and functioning.

Focusing on these key areas will enable large manufacturing companies to use their resources more effectively and help them to better define their operational goals and objectives to ultimately become more competitive and successful!

At LBA Haynes Strand we have a group of qualified and experienced professionals with internal controls and manufacturing experience to assist your manufacturing company to implement an effective and efficient internal controls framework. Click the button below for your no-cost consultation today!