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Do's and Dont's of an ISO Audit

The registrar is comming! You thought you were ready but as you enter the site this morning you see all the problems popping out. What can you do? Catch them at the gate and send them back? or endure the longest couple of days of your life.

You come in and find out that the President is golfing this morning instead of attending the openning meeting. The production supervisor called in sick. The minute you arrive, you see at the door a delivery truck sitting with a couple of loads of bad product returned by your customer. Your secretary that maintains all your procedures on the system had to go home for family emergency.

You open the back door, your car is sitting right there in the parking lot. You still have a chance to jump for it and drive home to call in sick. It would not be a lie, the way you feel right now could definitely qualify you for some major illness. You can hear the voices of the auditors in the reception area. You can still dive for it, oh no you hesitated too long, there is the receptionist with a nervous smile leading the auditors right for you.

Relax, yes relax you'll be fine. The purpose of the audit is to find out how the system is working for your organization. Are there enough backups in the system that can carry things on when employees are missing. You don't know how to get to the procedures on your system, are there instructions to help you do that? If not what's the worst that can happen? Your company will receive a non-conformance? It feels bad, but if you look at it as medicine that will help your system function better then it's not so bad. Most medicine tastes bad going down but helps you do better in the long run. Having an audit when people are missing is a great way to discover how well your system functions throughout the year.

There are always employees missing: vacations, illness, emergencies. Do you stop shipping product or servicing your customers when that happens? Obviously not, you would want your systems gears turning irrespective of employees absences. Of course if a lot of employees are missing things may not get done as effectively and as quickly as when the assignees perform the tasks. But your company should not stop producing product or service to the customer because a key individual is absent. So even under worst of conditions it may be beneficial to carry out an audit, unless of course your company is already resource-strained and audit would further restrict availability of the employees to perform critical operational tasks.

So what do you do during an ISO audit? Answer questions honestly and to the point. Make the auditor feel comfortable and at ease, they will be more effective in performing the audit. Be confident, you are the expert here, the auditor may be familiar with your industry but you do things your way here. Direct the auditor to other personnel if the question pertains to them, rather than trying to answer something that could be wrong.

Do not go into long explanations and topics that may be unrelated to the auditor's question. Remember auditors take a sample of your system, if you add extraneous information you may skew their audit process results. Try not to be nervous, nervousness gives the auditor the impression that you might not know what you are doing or that you are hiding things. Safety first, do not do something that the auditor asks you to do if you do not feel it is safe. Do not badmouth the organization or other employees, it only reflects bad on your organization and it does not add any points to your audit.

So even on that day from.... welcome the auditors, let them do their job and see what feedback they generate. Anything they find is fixable, it's your system! Anything they find is an opportunity to fix things before the customer finds it! So don't dread the audit, be enthusiastic about what new ideas and opportunities to improve your system can be generated by it.

Danuta Highet, Foqus, Inc.

Foqus, Inc. June, 2004

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