Internal audits are important for companies to ensure that employees know their responsibilities and that procedures are properly documented, and even more importantly, followed. Audits can find discrepancies in documented procedures and help to improve efficiency, as well as continuity.
Here are some tips for internal audits.
View it as maintenance
View internal audits as an ongoing process as opposed to one-time projects. To maintain best-practices and keep procedures consistent, routine reviews can help find discrepancies and enable documented changes to be made.
It’s important to document changes in procedures for continuity’s sake. As personnel may change due to vacations or hiring changes, or even organizational changes, documentation is key to ensuring continuity.
“As a company, you are constantly going through and updating processes. Each year, or more often, we’re going in and asking, “How can we make this easier or more efficient, so it’s important to document those changes in addition to making them in the first place,” says Sandy Magura, AMSG Quality Coordinator.
As people make suggestions for process changes, management reviews those suggestions. After the Management Review Board decides how to proceed, then actions can be taken.
If there is a change in a procedure, there is a likelihood that there is a trickle-down effect impacting other procedures. When a procedure is changed, following up with those that may also be impacted allows changes to be made all at once.
Use internal audits as preparation for external audits, like ISO certification audits. “It’s hard to anticipate what an auditor will ask, so we prepare by gathering documents for review and having a very in-depth process for ensuring that the entire team is prepared,” says Sandy.
Dry run, internal audits are a way for entire teams to be prepared as auditors can ask anyone for documentation and procedures.
“We made our quality management system very large and robust for a business of this size. Each time we show an auditor our system, they’re blown away. Not only is it good for audits, it makes us a better company. We know where we are with each process, and we know how we can make it better. It makes our company better,” says Sandy.
AMSG uses external evaluations to prepare for upcoming external audits. By using an outside evaluator who is unfamiliar with your in-house procedures, you get a more realistic assessment of where you need to improve because there is no internal bias.
ISO certifications are particularly important for defense contractors due to the highly specialized and stringent nature of their work. ISO 9001 certification, for instance, ensures that defense contractors adhere to rigorous quality management standards, leading to the delivery of reliable and consistent products and services. The ISO certification process enhances transparency, accountability, and risk management. Achieving ISO certifications helps to demonstrate a commitment to excellence.
AMSG received their initial ISO9001:2015 certification in May 2020, and had a recertification audit last April. Preparations are underway for a surveillance audit in April 2024. In beginning to prepare for the upcoming audit, Sandy is confident that by staying organized throughout the entirety of the quality management processes and beginning internal checks and evaluations early, the results will be outstanding once again.
By: Sandra Magura, Quality Coordinator and Sheila Rupp, AMSGazette Contributor and Editor