interviews Featured image

System Auditing and Innovation

Written by Tim Banicevich  Quality Support Manager at Quickstep

Auditing management systems and business processes is an important part of any modern organisation. This activity allows you to check if you are meeting your legal and compliance obligations, customer needs and whether your business is running as it should.

When these audits are done well, they can reveal where a process is performing to expectations, where it might be starting to deviate from its intent and where there might be serious shortcomings that need to be addressed immediately. Thus, auditing baselines your management system or process and once you know what’s going on in the here and now, you then have the power to improve.

Auditing also brings the benefit of a new set of eyes looking at your business. It is typically human to grow accustomed to the environment that we live in, day in and day out. This familiarity allows us to ignore certain risks or opportunities, simply because they become invisible. Internal auditors will generally come from another discipline or another part of the business entirely. External auditors come from outside the business and they generally audit multiple businesses from a number of industries. Both of these auditor types hasten business evolution and improvement with the cross-pollination of ideas from differing and often disparate sources.

Another area of innovation is in how the audits themselves are conducted.  In a post COVID-19 world with restricted travel, certification auditors (e.g. ISO9001, AS9100, ISO14001, ISO45001) have had to perform remote audits in lieu of on-site audits.  Certification Bodies are allowing a higher percentage of audits to be conducted remotely, with some being allowed to be performed 100% remotely.

Remote auditing brings both risks and benefits. There is a risk that the auditor may not get a true view of the operation if they are not on site. They might miss signs and nuances in the business or process that would normally direct an auditing line of inquiry. In my experience as an auditee, our auditors were still able to direct useful lines of investigation and I’m certain that this risk will wane as all parties gain more experience with remote auditing. The benefits are many and include, reduced cost due to less travel, lower business impact due to better auditing efficiency and a more thorough evaluation of documentation and objective evidence is possible with reduced disruption. Special Process Audits in the aviation industry have been postponed and certifications extended where individual risk assessments have permitted.

Depending on how this pans out, it may prove that we can increase surveillance intervals, giving a cost saving to the industry whilst still delivering all the quality and safety benefits that we have come to expect.