Your certification audit is due, but who is the person that is going to conduct the audit really?
You have the right to approve an auditor for the purpose of conducting the audit!
Yet in very few instances do businesses take the time to select their auditor, this is probably because they don’t know they can.
Auditors are a mixed bunch without a doubt, we have spectrum of people from those who are extroverted and perceptual, conducting the process in a laidback manner and at the other extreme we have people who may be introverted and judging. This said we are all part of the Human Race and that is the way of it all.
The most important factor in this equation; is subject knowledge!
Just because an auditor is in attendance this does not mean they know the subject matter they are dealing with. A certification body will employ or contract people who have a qualification in auditing (ISO9001:2015 Lead Auditor), this is the skill of looking at a compliance situation and making a conformity judgement. The Certification Body will normally attempt to send an auditor that has relevant experience, unfortunately this is not always possible, so they send the best match they have. The let-down in this process is that a Certification Body doesn’t take the initiative to send the client the CV for the auditor being sent to conduct the audit. Effectively the “You” get what you are given.
A small business that operates within the Nuclear Energy sector as a contractor providing gas containment systems as a safety critical function. The business repairs and supplies gas containment, transportation, monitoring and control panels using 100% certified and traceable materials and valves. They are audited by one of the top 3 UKAS certification bodies in the UK.
5 Years ago they had an auditor who was from the nuclear energy industry, he had a thorough understanding of the requirements of the product, required traceability and in-depth knowledge of the supply chain requirements. He completed three audits without significant issue then retired.
2 Years ago a new auditor with an electrical windings background was sent with no relevant industry experience who focused 100% on the documents of the QMS.
Currently the auditor is from an automotive IATF16949 background once again with no relevant industry experience.
In the first instance we have someone who does know what they are dealing with, in the second and third instance we have two people with little understanding of the subject matter, conducting audits the best they can using the experience they have. These audits had commonality, they lead to “minor” confrontation as the questions raised were out of context to the subject matter. Non conformances were raised during the audit which on appeal during the audit were withdrawn, once again due to lack of under standing on behalf of the auditor. The directors of the business were often left in a state of bewilderment with regard to some of the questions raised.
In all three instances none of these auditors had held a role other than as a quality inspector, ISO9001:2015 and other standards all place significant emphasis on business strategic management; questioning the experience a quality inspector would have to audit business strategic direction.
- The Certification Body is a service supplier and has a duty to supply an auditor with relevant knowledge and experience.
- The Client has the right to know who they will be audited by and if not happy reject that auditor.
- An external auditor may be qualified but lack valuable experience and knowledge of your business sector and operations.
In a large organisation the people who are representing the business in the audit are often more knowledgeable, they will have the confidence to challenge an auditor on their findings if they feel them not to be justified of correct. This due to knowledge, a higher degree of the structure of standards and often as they themselves are qualified lead auditors.
In a small organisation where the day to day control and development of the business is paramount often we find the knowledge of the standard structure to be to a lesser extent. The result of this being there is less confidence to challenge findings as there is an assumption the auditor knows what they are doing.
Unfortunately auditors do not always know what they are talking about and Certification Bodies exist to make money.
Always take the initiative to investigate the background of the auditors being sent to you, often a more knowledgeable individual will facilitate a more straightforward audit than someone stabbing in the dark.