What the Internal Audit Entails and Why ISO 9001 Training is Beneficial
The internal audit process is often a dreaded process. Many firms see the process as something that has to be done simply to stay in compliance with the ISO 9001 requirements. Some even see it as duplication of the certification audit process without ever realising that the internal audit helps the firm to identify potential problem areas and thus helps to maintain a high standard of quality throughout the firm.
ISO 9001 internal auditing training, as available from WWISE, helps to provide the people conducting the internal audits in their firms to understand the process, follow the correct procedures, and lead auditing teams. Indeed, ISO 9001 internal auditing training should form an integral part of ensuring compliance of the firm with the requirements of ISO 9001 in order to set up and maintain a compliant Quality Management System.
The main steps in the internal auditing process are briefly discussed below, giving you an idea of why training is so important to ensure the correct procedures are followed. When done correctly the internal audit can help to streamline processes and prevent the misrepresentation of information.
Step 1 – Auditing Schedule Planning
It is important to draft an audit schedule that is distributed to everyone involved in the processes of the firm to notify them when they will be audited in the next audit cycle. This can be an annual schedule. Surprising employees with audits can be counterproductive and you give them the impression that they are not trusted.
By being transparent about the dates and intentions of the internal audits, you give the process leaders the time they require to complete improvements on the projects they have been working on before the audit. This enables them to get the information they need regarding implementation. They can also enquire from the internal auditor what information is needed to ensure that they can make the necessary improvements to ensure full compliance.
Step 2 – Process Auditing Planning
It is important to confirm the dates with the various departments regarding when the audits will be done. It should be seen as a general guideline on how each of the processes will be audited. The auditor can assess the previous audits, check for follow-up needs, address previous issues and work with the department head or process leader in identifying information needed. With such a plan in place, the department or process division actually benefits from being internally audited, instead of perceiving it as a policing programme.
Step 3 – Actual Audit
The internal auditor should meet with the department head or process manager to discuss the audit plan. The audit takes the form of information collection and revision. This can entail conducting interviews with employees, assessing the records, analysing the data, and observing processes. The idea is to collect information to show that the process is functioning in compliance with the plans of the Quality Management System and that it is leading to the desired results. During this audit, the internal auditor also collects information to show where the processes are not functioning as needed. This should not be seen as a policing activity, but rather a step to help the process leader identify areas where improvement is needed.
Step 4 – Auditing Report
The internal auditor conducts a closing meeting with the department or process leader to avoid a time delay in providing information. The audited division leader will appreciate the speediness of information procession as it enables immediate addressing of areas where improvement is needed, while also showing immediately where compliance is already in place. As such, the necessary time and effort can be channelled in the right direction to ensure on-going improvement.
Step 5 – Following Up on the Audit
Following up on the findings of the audit is essential as this helps to identify areas where problems have been identified and not yet fixed. It also serves to confirm improvements made and can therefore be used to identify just how much improvement has been achieved. It can be seen as a motivating step.
How the Company can Use the Internal Auditing Process
When the above steps are followed, the company is able to improve on the various processes rather than just focussing on staying compliant with ISO 9001 requirements. The QMS actually begins to save the company money, improves the customer satisfaction level, increases employee morale and ensures improved efficiency.
Making sure that the people conducting and leading the internal auditing team understand the nature of the audits, the spirit in which such audits must be conducted, the purpose of the audits and desired outcomes is essential. This is where the ISO 9001 internal auditing training as provided by WWISE becomes indispensible. Armed with the necessary skills and knowledge the internal auditors are empowered to plan, implement, report and follow up on audits for best results.
Difference between the Internal and External Audit
Companies often mistakenly regard the internal audits to be the same as the external audits. Here is the good news: internal audits are aimed at identifying areas where improvement are needed and those where no improvements are needed. The follow-ups help to ensure that what had been discussed has been addressed.
The internal auditor actually helps the process manager to ensure quality improvement. The external audit for certification purposes is intended to determine whether all the requirements of ISO 9001 have been met. The auditor is not there to assist the company. For that the GAP analysis is performed first and the company makes the necessary improvements. The external auditor comes in and reviews these improvements and the certification process is completed.
Internal auditing must be performed on a regular basis to not only ensure compliance with ISO 9001, but to motivate, provide feedback, keep the company on track, and ultimately help to ensure on-going improvement.
WWISE offers an extensive range of services to help with preparation for certification, maintaining compliance and ensuring improvement. One of our services is that of ISO 9001 internal audit training. With various courses available, we enable your relevant employees to develop the needed skills to conduct such audits as required.