Internally Audit an Internal Audit
It may come as a surprise to some, but it’s important to ensure that an internal audit program is effective in achieving its goal of providing a solid quality management system health check.
This means all aspects of the program should be scrutinized at a level much deeper than a second (customer) or third party auditor would undertake, especially since they are only sampling your system over a day or two.
Evidence of both conformity and nonconformity of each requirement should be clearly documented. Additionally, responsibilities, timescales, objective evidence, corrections, corrective actions, and verifications should all be reconciled. Are those conducting the internal audit knowledgeable about auditing techniques? This could include writing an audit plan, interviewing techniques, understanding body language, following an audit trail, understanding the difference between subjective and objective evidence, report writing, etc.
The most common mistake is to consider an internal audit another chore to complete and then file it until an outside party asks to review it. Another common mistake is to think that nonconformities raised will be used against you. This should only be the case if they are raised but have no follow-up, or if there is a pattern of repeating the same nonconformities without resolution.
Remember, it is up to you and your internal audit team to review and ensure that a robust process is in place. This will create the best outcome for your organization, and when external parties review your quality management systems your organization will excel.
About the Author:
Evan Rosen is Vice President, Food Safety & Quality Assurance at PacMoore. He is an American Society for Quality (ASQ) certified HACCP and Quality auditor as well as a BRC Approved Training Provider.