Auditing is an important part of ISO Certification as it compares what your business says it does to what you actually do on a day-to-day basis. External Audits ensure that your processes, systems and documentation are still appropriate and, more importantly, beneficial to your business.
During an External Audit, the Auditor will check that your business and your documentation still follows and meets the requirements of the Standard. Usually, an Auditor will visit your premises to perform an External Audit, but they can also be performed remotely.
Preparing for an External Audit can seem daunting, but here are some practical tips to make your preparations go a little smoother and ensure you get the most out of the visit.
Prior to the Visit
As a certified business, by default, you should already:
1. Identify and Fix Issues
Part of being ISO certified is that it encourages agility within your teams, especially when it comes to spotting potential issues and notifying those responsible.
Problems that affect the running of a Management System should be raised as non-conformities.
Non-conformities are where there is a difference between the documented and experienced process.
Identifying these issues quickly means you are able to act on them swiftly, finding the actual cause and remedying it before it becomes a larger issue. Often, small issues may highlight or lead to other potential issues that could have a domino effect if left unaddressed.
2. Maintain your Manual
As an ISO certificated business, the concept of continual improvement should be at the forefront of your mind in all activities.
Continual improvement is an overall aim to make small, incremental changes that will make a business more efficient and produce work of a higher quality, all with an end goal of increasing customer satisfaction.
To aid in this, you should be constantly checking that your Manual and processes are fit for purpose, with regular Internal Audits and Management Reviews.
Internal Audits will help you to spot any areas where your documented processes don’t match up with the actions your teams are performing. These should be performed at a system level, perhaps for a team at a time.
Management Reviews allow you, amongst other benefits, to spot recurring issues and review your progress as a business by examining the results of Internal Audits and any raised non-conformities. These formal meetings should be performed regularly.
For the Visit
Preparation for the visit is all in the planning:
3. Understand the Visit
It is important for you to know what the External Audit will involve so that you can make the preparations in advance. By knowing the people the Auditor will want to speak to, and what systems or documentation they will want to see means that you’ll be able to put everything together before the visit, ensuring the Audit runs smoothly.
During most External Audits, the Auditor will need time to:
- Understand current processes
- Test and observe processes being performed
- Write and present a report of their findings
At QMS, we provide a “What happens at the External Audit” leaflet that will break down the visit into sections so that you know what to expect.
4. Understand your role
It is important to note that the Auditor won’t be doing all the work – they are only there to highlight any areas that require improvement. Whether you are a manager, or a team member, it is the responsibility of the business to implement the Auditor’s advice.
Having said that, the Auditor is not just there to observe – they are there to help. If you’re not sure of something, do ask the Auditor to clarify, as this prevents miscommunication and ensures you get the most out of the visit.
At QMS, part of our Auditor’s role is to provide advice. They are experienced and knowledgeable individuals, so if you don’t understand something, please ask.
5. Prepare your Resources
To ensure a smooth visit, you should make sure to prepare the necessary resources in advance. Some items to consider are:
- Will the Auditor need to look at all of your documentation and processes, or a random sample?
- Are specific staff members that the Auditor may need to speak to available during the visit?
- Will you need to provide any special equipment or office space for the Auditor?
- Are there any special circumstances that the Auditor should be made aware of, such as known issues?
- Is there any specialist language that your business uses that you would need to explain to the Auditor?
If you require any further information regarding External Audits, speak to one of our friendly, experienced Consultants by calling 0333 344 3646 or emailing [email protected].