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Through which glasses do you look at your quality system? On the importance of independent and objective audits

16/06/2019 | Bart Bosch | Quality

Returning home with a sun-kissed skin is often your goal when you go on a holiday to a warm destination. However, it is important not to let your sunglasses colour your reality. With a pair of sunglasses on, your skin usually looks more tanned. 

The same applies to a company’s quality system. Too many quality managers look at their own quality system through sunglasses, which makes the image look more optimistic than reality.  

Which quality manager is not afraid to take off his or her sunglasses and look at their quality system and how it actually functions?

Which audit do I choose for assessing my quality management system?   

In practice, we see that many quality managers rarely take off their sunglasses and don’t look at their own quality system objectively. 

This phenomenon has several causes. Indeed, audits are carried out on a regular basis. Although in reality, the audits are often not carried out in an objective way.

We took a closer look at the most well-known quality audits. Are the performed audits really as objective and independent as one might think? 

Isn’t a certification audit the most reliable method?

With a certification audit, you pay the certification company to perform an audit of your quality management system. After passing the audit, you receive or get to keep your certificate. With this in mind, is a certification audit as objective and independent as you assumed? 

The certification company has an interest in you passing the audit, so your company receives or gets to keep the certificate. Every certificate comes with an expiration date, which means that when you pass the audit, the certification company assures itself of future revenue

What if you fail the audit? In that case, the certification auditor loses a potential customer. That’s why a certification audit can’t guarantee a completely objective and independent outcome

What about the customer audits and internal audits?

When we look at the practice of customer audits and internal audits, we have to conclude that independence and objectivity are not evident in these situations. 

In a lot of cases, the customer standard is based on GFSI standards and are audited on behalf of companies by auditors linked to a certification body and their contractors. In this way, the auditor is linked to your quality certificate and is hardly independant. Also, the internal pressure on the customer own corporate auditors can also play a role in the assessment.

As you might have guessed, internal audits aren’t the right assessment either, when you’re looking for a completely objective and independent analysis of your quality management system. In the case of internal audits, different internal departments assess each other. As you have to evaluate your own colleagues, it’s far from evident to critically evaluate and negatively assess each other.  

Which quality audit should I choose?  

If you really want to know the current state of your quality system, you should opt for an independent audit. An audit is only truly independent and objective when the evaluating party has no interest in the final result whatsoever. Otherwise, you’ll inevitably arrive at coloured conclusions. 

When we conduct independent audits, the previous results of the certification audits don’t match our results in no less than 40 per cent of the cases.   

Would you like to find out more about the importance of conducting an independent and objective quality audit? Contact Quontinuim