Have you ever felt anxious about something that was about to happen at your workplace.? Imagine if the “something” was called an audit, increasing your anxiety to a stratospheric level regardless of the preparations you have made for it.
Well, Product Audit, Process Audit, System Audit, Safety Audit, 5S Audit, Internal Audit, External Audit, certification audit, re-certification audit, surveillance audit, environmental audit, energy audit… the list goes on and when it’s an ISO certified site it gets worse. People working ISO Certified facilities get familiar with all different audit types mentioned above and in some way all of the different types of audits types can be addressed by using an effective QMS system.
In quality management the audit is considered as an indispensable activity which fits perfectly into the ‘Check’ stage of P-D-C-A cycle which is actually the heart of the Quality Management System process.
Once an audit is complete; the findings can be reported in terms of positive outcomes and also some negative outcomes that you may not have been expecting.
So, what should you do next? This article will help you to know what to do after an audit.
Though there cannot be just one absolute answer, but all audit findings must be looked at and evaluated for appropriate next steps.
Some audit outcomes are more critical than others and therefore need immediate response while some may be limited to just re-education.
Starting with post audit activity, you must put together an overview of negative findings that document all deviations that the auditor observed along with any other problematic findings noted during the audit. We do not want to forget these findings as possible recommendations for improvement regardless if they are not part of the formal Audit Report. You may also include other important remarks made by auditor during the audit closing meeting.
So, let’s break down some of the possible audit findings and next steps:
If your audit findings were spectacular with no serious observations; then the obvious next step can be a congratulatory communication which may be announced as a “way to go” in your next release of the company newsletter!
The first level of audit outcomes can be serious nonconformances (NC) which must be dealt with using a proper NC handling process. We would suggest involving your compliance team and the external consultants (if any).
The next level of audit findings can be defined in terms of minor deviations which may not be a compliance issue or significant breach of policies however they require a CAPA to identify the root causes and effective action plans. This prevents reoccurrences even if findings are considered ‘minor’ deviations.
If you have been informed of an undesirable issue then you must address it properly, regardless of its severity. Having knowledge of a problem and not remediating, is worse than never finding it in the first place.
So, here are five ways that will surely help you in your post-audit journey:
- Build an eye for details:
Having the staff cooperation with the auditors for a healthy flow of information between the staff and auditors is important. If it is missing, then try to find out the reason and fix it properly.
Also, have a review for any serious disputes or difficulties encountered by the auditors during the audit. It is very common thing if some tension was created between the auditor and auditee, during the audit. However, make sure that such issues if resolved during the audit were not in favour of the auditor to just hush up the issue without a proper justification.
Apart from this, you should also share your candid feedback with the audit program manager, if you have any concern about the scope, nature, and timing of the audit. After all this is also a post audit activity!
- Build your analytical muscles:
During the audit, the auditors rely heavily on the availability of objective evidences and thorough analysis of data. Sometimes you miss the audit score not because data was not there but, it was not easily available to show during the audit or the integration/interrelation of data could not be established between the different functions.
Building latest technology in analytics and have a data-centric approach to problem solving will help make audits shorter and improve your performance in future audits.
- Need for Change Management
You many come across personnel who tend to block the audit fieldwork or provide insufficient information during the audit. They may resist or disregard the audit findings because they may not like to be told what to do especially by auditors who they consider an outsider and complicating their job routine. Or it may be just a case of they may not like being under scrutiny.
Hence, during implementation of the action plan; a change management considering a cultural change can handle the objections without damaging long-term collaboration.
- Keep on Learning
For both the auditor and auditee, the audit compels to acquire the needed skills and attitude concerning their functional areas. Hence broaden your mind, evolve your thinking and always take audit points as an opportunity to improve which often requires you to acquaint yourself with industry standards best practices for your operational area(s); thereby, you always keep on learning!
- A CAPA is more than just a CAPA
And finally, understand that a CAPA is more than just a CAPA!
The CAPA is an essential element of ISO compliance through which risks are addressed, problems remedied and permanently eliminated from reoccurrence.
Many companies fail in ‘closing the loop’ for a CAPA. For example, while executing CAPA many tasks are defined and needed to be implemented. But during the manual deployment of actions, often it is experienced that there is no method to check the effectiveness or even the completion of these tasks, without which the loop cannot be closed.
And this is where Qualityze closed-loop EQMS system helps you ensure an effective problem-solving system in place.
The embedded functionality for creating various types of audit programs and their processes of execution ensures audit processes are completed as intended and the same incidents are not repeated in the future.
The Qualityze product suite ensures an Effectiveness Review task is followed to document the verification plan, objective evidence and success of action plan being implemented, by making it a ‘true’ CAPA.
It also separates the reporting of the CAPA in terms of correction, corrective action, risk-based analysis and even ensuring best practices are followed.
Hence, audit is a great role to bring improvement into organizations and a lot is needed to help you through your post-audit process. What do you think?
So, all the best for your future audits and let us know if we can help in any way.
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