How to Avoid a Common Weakness in Internal ISO Audits

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January 19, 2012

By Helmut Jilling, SQA Auditor

There is a common weakness in internal audits. The old element-based checklist method was easy to use - just a series of checklist questions and answers. But over time, the checksheets became less effective. Audits focused on the same few questions, again and again. They ceased to uncover other issues and improvements.

The ISO Process Approach is much better. It follows audit trails through the process and into related linked processes, but it is much harder to perform well. The major weakness is without checksheets, auditors have little guidance as to what to audit.

A solution is to develop tools and worksheets that provide auditors with guidance, but not specific questions. Worksheets should outline the necessary parts of a good process audit without limiting the auditor to a few specific questions and paths.

ISO/TS-16949 and other ISO 9001 based standards require audits be performed using a “Process Approach.” It is not enough to just audit the ISO standard, procedures or manufacturing. Audits must do more than check whether people “are following their work instructions.” Each process (Core and Support processes) in your Quality System should be thoroughly assessed for both conformance and effectiveness. Audits must assess how each process is performing to determine improvements.

For example:

  • Is the process meeting objectives?
  • Are customer needs being met?
  • Are there bottlenecks?
  • How effectively does it interact with other processes?
  • Do people have good skills?
  • Are work instructions clear?
  • Are there areas where you can save time or money?

Audits need to address these areas and more if you want to improve your company’s processes and performance.

For more details and specific “how to’s” for the specific stages of process auditing and what you should have on hand for the audit report and closing meeting, download our white paper.

Related Tags:Internal Audits, SQA