Internal ISO 9000 Audits
by Ron Kurtus (11 December 2006)
Companies seeking ISO 9000 certification or those simply wishing to be compliant to the standards should have internal quality audits to make sure all documentation is complete and in place. This is especially important before calling in the Registrar.
Once a company becomes registered or certified, it should perform periodic audits to verify their continual adherence to the ISO 9000 standards. Discrepancies should be documented and corrected.
The auditing process protects an organization from procedural slippage and misdirection of effort. It assures a company that the quality management system is functioning effectively and as required.
Questions you may have include:
- What are the requirements for internal auditors?
- What is the auditing process?
- What should be done in case of an audit discrepancy?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Requirements on internal auditors
Your company management should assign qualified and responsible individuals to perform internal audits. These people should be trained and certified in auditing techniques. Often internal auditors are volunteers who are interested in company improvement.
To prevent possible conflict of interest or questions on the validity of the audit, as well as to maintain complete objectivity, internal auditors should never audit areas in which they work. They should also not be assigned to audit areas where they know any of the workers. Objectivity may be questioned if the audit is in an area where a friend or rival is working.
The person in charge of performing an ISO 9000 internal audit in a specific company area should gather an audit team and have them develop an audit checklist. In some cases, this person may be the only one involved in the particular audit.
The lead auditor should notify the department manager at least two weeks in advance of the visit and ask to be assigned a guide. The auditor should state what he or she is looking for and ask what areas are off-limits to auditors.
The auditor should ask for permission to talk to the people who do the work and then politely introduce him- or herself to the workers and state the reason for being there.
The purpose of the audit is to see whether the workers are following written procedures in their tasks. If there are apparent discrepancies where workers are not following written procedure or there are no procedures to follow, the auditor should verify those discrepancies before leaving the area.
Then all the auditors in this area will conduct a closed door meeting to discuss their findings. A post-audit meeting is then held with department management and a a follow-up audit is conducted, if necessary.
Filling audit discrepancy reports
If discrepancies were found during the audit, they should be documented. Typically an Audit Discrepancy Form is used.
When filling out a discrepancy form, the auditor should try to stick to the facts, writing in conversational language that is easy to understand. A good method to use is to answer the "five Ws":
- Who did you talk to? Who was involved?
- What was found?
- When was it found?
- Where was it found?
- Why was it a discrepancy?
The auditor should use terminology that is relevant to the department being audited. It is also important to make the data retrievable by using names, numbers and such.
Finally, the auditor should not make suggestions. Instead, he should let the department find its own solutions.
Internal quality audits are important to companies seeking to follow the ISO 9000 standards. Auditors should be trained and objective, they should be courteous and fair in the auditing process, and should be complete in filling out any discrepancy form.
Improve the business from inside
Resources and references
ISO Online - International Organization for Standardization website
ISO Standards Translated in Plain English - Extensive listing
ISO 9000 Certification Information - Good listing of ISO 9000 resources
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