Making Your Internal Audits Useful
Internal Audits can provide companies a truly effective way to ensure processes are running as documented, they are meeting customer requirement and are best practices based on quality standards. However, internal audits are often completed to check the box before the ISO Auditor arrives and do not any real value. The following steps will help to ensure that your audits are effective:
- Use a qualified auditor: Inexperienced internal auditors will often not dive deep enough to truly understand if a process is effective. Ensure the individual is outside of the system that they are auditing and that they understand that this process is to help the system and not penalize employees.
- Be careful with checklists: Checklists can be helpful tools in completing an audit but can often lead to just filling in a box without appropriate probing questions. Process audits often lead outside of the area being audited which can make checklists difficult to maintain.
- Not including customer specifications or requirement: Utilize this as an opportunity to ensure you are meeting your customer’s quality requirements not only the quality standard to which you may be registered.
- Not diving deep enough: ISO Auditors will only be able to look at higher level documents and a sampling of records. Internal auditors have more time and knowledge of the system allowing them to review in detail documents, work instructions and quality records.
- Findings are not a bad thing: If you identify an issue and take appropriate action during the auditing process your 3rd part auditor will likely not write a finding during their visit.
- Not asking enough questions: Internal Audits are designed not only to ensure that you are meeting quality standards and your own procedures but also to take the opportunity to review a process and make it better.
- Not involving enough staff: Internal Audits can serve as training for employees that are outside of the system being audited. Diversified employees are critical to growing companies and if your staff has an understanding how the other processes work they can make company wide improvements.
Plan for internal audits that are tougher on your system then the auditor will perform so you will be ready come audit day. Consider utilizing qualified outside resources if you do not have anyone trained or if you want a second look. Internal Audits are your opportunity to improve your system, make the most of them instead of just checking the box.
President, Ledge Inc.
Adam is a Penn State engineer that has served as a Data Analyst and Engineer at St. Onge Company for 5 years, prior to establishing Ledge Inc. While maintaining a focus on simple solutions, Ledge Inc. has provided quality system implementation, process design, database development, quality tools, quality training, and data analysis to over 35 companies in South Central Pennsylvania and throughout the country. Adam currently serves as the sitting Chair for American Society for Quality Harrisburg Section 503 and as a member of the board for The Manufacturers’ Associations of South Central PA.
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