The Basics Of Internal Auditing

Are you conducting internal audits to catch issues before they become issues, prevent customers from receiving nonconforming material, or ensure that the business practices and processes are being followed? If not, here's how to get started.

Internal auditing is performed for a variety of reasons and some of the major benefits include:

  • To catch issues before they become issues.  
  • To prevent our customers from receiving nonconforming material.
  • To ensure that the business practices and processes are being followed.

Normally companies will have a schedule that is written to audit their entire quality system on an annual basis. Usually the quality manager or engineer is responsible for creating this schedule. The schedule consists of the elements of the standard to be audited, who will be auditing and when the results are due.

An internal auditor is the person who will be asking the questions at the audit. The auditee is the person who is answering the questions and providing evidence that they are in compliance to the established criteria.

The internal auditor will contact the auditee to schedule a date and time for the audit. The auditor will prepare a checklist in advance of the audit. The checklist will include questions to ask and documents to be viewed as evidence of compliance. The auditor must also review the previous audit and any corrective actions that were issued. The corrective actions must be implemented and closed.

The auditor will start the audit with an opening meeting and will:

  • Introduce their team.
  • Briefly explain about what they will be auditing.
  • Be taking notes to prove compliance.

It is very important that the auditee knows that the system is being audited and not the person. At this point make sure that there are no issues with conducting the audit on schedule.

During the interview process, the auditor needs to use open ended questions. Good ice breakers include the following: Tell me about how you do your job? What is the quality policy and what does it mean to you? How do you know if you have the most current blueprint? How do you know if the previous operation has been completed?

The report is written after the questions have been asked and the data and evidence has been collected by the auditor. The auditor then writes a report and using the evidence collected determines the degree of findings if anything was found to be non-conforming. A minor nonconformance is written if minor issues are found. If many things are found to be not in compliance, a major nonconformance is written.

A minor finding is a failure in an element, clause or section of the standard, areas of the system or as they might relate to customer requirements. Typical examples include a form that is incomplete, incomplete step on the traveler, inspection data that is incomplete, unidentified product. A major finding is given when there are more than five minor findings in the same area, clause or element, systemic issues in a business process or complete failure of a key customer requirement. It is given when there is a total system breakdown, such as nonconforming product shipped to the customer (that has “passed” all inspections), a department not following work instructions or a key customer requirement not being met.

The auditor conducts a closing meeting. The closing meeting is held to present all of the information and evidence to the team. The auditee, their manager and the quality representative must be present. If there are any findings, the quality manager or engineer will issue corrective actions to prevent any reoccurrence.

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