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All about audits - pt. 1: Internal audits

20/12/2019 | | Quality

This blogpost is a part of a trilogy about audits. There are 3 different types of audits I would like to discuss: the third party audit, the second party audit and the internal audit.

In this first part of the blogpost series, you will learn more about the several aspects of the internal audit. 

Different types of internal audits

Internal quality audits, done with the right mindset, will always be useful and add value to your company, even when not certified. 

An internal audit can be performed in three different ways:

1) The compliance audit
This type of internal auditing will add the least value to your company. The compliance audit is just ‘checking if your procedures and instructions are compliant with the standard requirements’. This is more a box ticking exercise. 

2) Improvement audit
This internal audit looks for improvement opportunities. This audit challenges your way of working. It already adds more value than the compliance audit and on top of that analyses steps you’re missing in your procedure. In order to obtain a more efficient process, the steps that aren’t adding any value can be removed. 

3) Combination audit
The best way to conduct an internal audit is to combine the compliance audit and the improvement audit. By combining these internal audits, you will create the most added value for your management system.

The internal audit in practice

When I was still working as a quality manager in a factory, I once had to perform an internal audit of our maintenance department. 

Before starting the internal audit, the head of maintenance approached me, telling me the maintenance department would never comply with the ISO standards. Not the most positive way to start an audit, but his attitude challenged me to get the most out of the audit and help him add value to his process.

During my internal audit, I looked into the preventative and curative maintenance and eventually figured out his biggest difficulty during his maintenance process. His biggest challenge was staying within budget when buying spare parts

Luckily, the problem could be easily solved by investing in a software programme. After finishing my internal audit, he was the happiest person in the entire company. Because not only did we find the problem, we also presented him an achievable solution which would improve his way of working. 

Should I let an external auditor conduct an internal audit? 

Not all internal quality audits are performed by internal people. Sometimes you see external auditors performing the internal audit as well. And in the beginning, when I wasn’t working as an external auditor yet, I was very sceptical towards external auditors performing an internal audit. I was convinced that internal audits could only be performed by people within that company. 

Sometimes my sceptical attitude towards external auditors brought me in very challenging positions. I couldn’t always follow the internal audit plan, which once resulted in a non-conformance of the audit during an ISO 9001 audit. 

In order to comply with your own internal audit plan, external auditors can be a great resource for internal audits. And during the years, internal audits by external auditors started making more sense, besides helping to be more compliant with your own audit plan.

The benefits of an internal audit conducted by an external auditor:

  1. External auditors don’t know anything about your company, processes or the used procedures. This means external auditors are more challenging. Auditors ask ‘stupid questions’ about everything you do in your department, which makes you rethink your entire process and how you do things.
  2. External auditors don’t have any interest in the outcome of the internal audit. Whether they find many non-conformances or not, they don’t care. They want to find as many non-conformances and opportunities for improvement as possible. This way, they can add value to you. 
  3. Because they don’t have a professional relationship with you or your company, they will be more blunt in their reactions, questions and the audit report

If you’re interested in an internal audit performed by an external auditor, make sure to contact me for more information

Make sure to also check my article on why I will never give you a perfect score on a quality audit