The word, audit, has been derived from the Latin word “Audire” meaning to hear. The definition of an audit is a systematic, multidisciplinary assessment of a process, system, or facility. International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines audits as “Systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining audit evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which audit criteria are fulfilled.”
Quality audits are necessary, not least because ISO 9001 demands that a program of audits is conducted. Audit became a widely accepted business function in the day-to-day world. Each organization for each of its processes should create thorough, controlled procedures and methods which should deliver the quality that is sought. A series of quality audits should start as soon as possible, approximately two or three months after the quality management system are in use.
An audit has basic characteristics which contribute attain the goal of the audit.
1. Unbiased – This means auditor has to report all deficiencies found in spite of pressure from auditee and he/she will not show favoritism to particular individuals or facilities.
2. Independent – Audit team or auditor does not be accountable for any part of the audited system.
3. Periodic – This is about auditor returning on a regular schedule.
4. Systematic – it means all parties have agreed to the conducting audit.
5. Documented – The essential findings and recommendations are documented and introduced auditee management in order to analyze the results of the audit.
6. Efficient – it means the audit will achieve its goals on time and within existing resources.
7. Qualified Team – This characteristic means that audit team members.
knowledge and experience have to be in the efficient degree to make correct judgments during the audit process.
There are three types of audits: first-party, second-party, and third-party. These types established on the basis of proximity for the relationship of the auditors to the audited organization:
First-party audits are internal audits. An internal quality audit is a systematic and independent examination in order to verify whether quality activities and related results comply with planned arrangements and whether these arrangements are suitable to achieve the quality objectives. It should not be confused with inspection’ or ‘surveillance’ that is performed for the purpose of process control or product acceptance.
The audits tend to expose the teething problems of the quality system so that they can be speedily resolved. The audits also evaluate the quality system in practice: its strengths and weaknesses as well as its acceptance by the staff. In other words, internal quality auditing leads to continuous refinement of the quality system.
Objective evaluations of quality system activities by competent personnel should include the following activities or areas:
(a) organizational structures;
(b) administrative, operational and quality system procedures;
(c) personnel, equipment, and material resources;
(d) work areas, operations, and processes;
(e) products being produced (to establish the degree of conformance to standards and specifications);
(f) documentation, reports, record-keeping
The internal quality audit provides evidence on how much the staff understand and follow the quality procedures; it also gives an idea of how well the quality system fits in the operations of the company. Through the auditing process, deficiencies of, and deviations from, the documented procedures are revealed. It is often found that certain procedures are not strictly adhered to, and some other procedures are impractical or difficult to interpret.
Departure from a documented procedure noted in the audit provides an opportunity to streamline the process— either by changing the way of working or by educating the staff in the way the work should be done. Through corrective action that follows, the quality system is improved. It should be noted, however, that an audit of any kind deals only with a sample: absence of irregularities in the sample does not necessarily mean that they do not exist, but if they are found they would probably occur again unless appropriate action is taken to prevent their recurrence.
Internal quality auditing can be rather sensitive if not managed properly. The auditees may feel that it is a check by management on their performance. To ease their nervousness, management should assure the staff that the audit is carried out to evaluate the quality system but not the individuals. Furthermore, the audit is performed to establish facts rather than faults. After they get used to it, the staff will welcome the audit as a stepping stone to improvement. Sincerity and cooperation are central to an effective audit.
A second- party audit is typically an audit of a supplier against predetermined criteria that is usually commissioned by a customer. It helps to increase in mutual understanding of customer’s requirement and improve company quality management system.
Third party or external audit is conducted by an external independent agency to assess compliance usually for the purpose of certification. Regardless of audit types, it will enable the organization to understand where there is compliance with a set of standards and where there is non-compliance with chosen standards.
If you are auditing right now or if you are an auditor, please share your comments and suggestions below.