Internal Audit and Ongoing Maintenance
Internal audits are a part of any ISO standard and also affect other standards processes. An internal audit aims to locate the places where the business isn’t compliant to an acceptable standard with the ISO guidelines. The internal audit process allows a company to find these inefficiencies and propose corrections to implement them and determine if the process is now complaint. This process is in line with the ISO practice of Plan, Do, Check, Act, or the PDCA model of continuous improvement.
Unfortunately, as helpful as internal audits are to the process of compliance, many business owners don’t like them. Internal audits point out flaws in a business’s operations, and for many business owners, they see it as a personal slight to their effectiveness. Some business owners see internal auditors as a sort of “business policy,” but that’s not the case. Management should be fully aware that internal audits need to happen because they require certification in various ISO standards. Additionally, they give the business a chance to find and correct their non-compliance before submitting the company’s processes to an external audit.
The Internal Audit Process
The internal audit is designed to fulfill four primary goals:
- Assess how compliant a particular process is
- Check the performance based on stated goals
- Locate processes that may require improvement or are non-compliant with the current standards
- Prepare the business for external audits
These goals are achieved through a two-part audit methodology. The document review compares the process with the accepted ISO standards process listing. The process review looks at the actual business activities compared to what is represented on paper, with discrepancies noted for further investigation. Occasionally, a business may need to revamp its description of the process entirely to better reflect reality. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of operations within a company makes it possible for auditors to assess every single one. As a result, auditors are tasked with choosing a representative sample that best shows a cross-section of the business’s processes. These processes will then be audited for compliance.
Audits will happen regularly, with improvements being implemented to non-compliant processes. Over time, the process efficiency will improve, and further audits will note the progress in terms of efficiency and lowered cost. Ideally, a business should go through several internal audit cycles prior to its first application for certification. Since certification is only valid for three years(typically except ISO 17025), a company needs to ensure that its ongoing maintenance uses the internal audit as a tool to remain compliant. It’s far easier to retain compliance over time through regular audits than trying to correct non-compliant processes after three years.
Subcontracting Internal Audits
Businesses don’t have to subcontract their internal audits. Many companies have a dedicated internal audit team working to ensure that the business’s processes are compliant. However, these teams need training and seeking out tutors that can help them understand the nuances of ISO audits can be difficult. Sync Resource offers training for internal audit teams, allowing them to spot the problems a business may have with compliance before taking the next step to an external audit. However, auditing is something that one learns from, and some teams may require a lot of hands-on experience before being fully competent. Alternatively, Sync Resource can assign internal auditors to help your business reach compliance.
The internal audit is an integral part of the PDCA cycle. It is also an essential component for ongoing maintenance. If a business is to retain its certification over the long term, it cannot let its diligence in keeping its processes compliant lapse. Constant improvement of a business’s processes requires regular audit cycles during the year, with different processes chosen each time as a cross-sectional representation of its compliance. If you’re stuck with your audits or need professional support, contact Sync Resource today. We’ll be glad to aid you in reaching and maintaining your ISO certification.