Internal audits are essential for any quality management system, and are as important as external audits when it comes to ISO 9001 standards. This can be done internally by delegated managers or even ISO 9001:2015 consultant specializing in organizational auditing. One of the many reasons internal audits are important is that they can help identify possible problem areas in preparation for the external audit process. Therefore, the best time to conduct this audit is a few months before the third party external audit.
The internal ISO 9001 audit focuses on the review of your quality management system, and although they are a necessity, they can also be a challenge in terms of the time, resources and capacity of those conducting the audit. Often, this task falls to several employees or managers in the case of larger companies, who have additional tasks to do along with the auditing tasks. To ensure that you get the most from this process, consider these tips for effective internal audits.
Best Practices for Internal Quality Management System ISO 9001 Audit
If you have a proper quality management system in place, then you should already have documentation such as an ISO 9001:2015 audit checklist drafted for this process. Audit management software will also help in the creation and implementation of audits. Once everything is ready to begin, consider the following tips for internal audit best practices.
1. Attitude – a positive, non-confrontational attitude is essential to prevent employees from feeling victimised or defensive. The auditor’s role is to provide clarity and feedback on processes and procedures, to find areas for improvement or identify potential problems. A fail in the internal audit offers the chance to rectify non-compliance before the official external audit, thereby preventing small issues from becoming bigger problems. Employees should be reminded that everyone has the same goal – to improve systems within the company. A good attitude towards the process and to employees is vital.
2. Organisation – employees must be notified in advance of the next audit and must be prepared for the process. People respond better when they have enough time to prepare and, therefore, will be much more likely to participate. Last minute notification is not helpful to anyone, and just like any other review or official process, the internal audit phase should be treated professionally with due notice and full cooperation from all involved.
3. ISO 9001:2015 Audit Checklist – as mentioned above, a ISO 9001:2015 audit checklist is essential to ensure that the quality management system can be audited properly. Keep questions concise and short, and unless further explanation is needed, do not go into excessive detail. The sooner each employee is finished, the sooner they can return to work. A standardised checklist will also help you keep record of questions, with notes taken along with responses.