An external audit is a measuring moment done by an external party. This moment has a defined duration. There is the beginning, the audit and the auditor leaves and the result is there. Afterwards, nothing can be changed. We find ourselves with the result and the actions to be taken:
- Communicate the results into the organisation
- Update the input for the management review
- Work to improve the non-conformities
- Send the corrective action reports to the auditor
Overall, this means that an external audit is a unique (measurement) moment. Only a few times a year, the organisation can show how the quality management has been implemented. From this point of view, the importance of an audit becomes primary.
If the result is satisfactory, the organization is certified or can retain its certificate. Often there is work to do for the correction of the non-conformities. Because of the daily routine, there is a risk that this goes to the background.
During the next audit these problems come back or new non-conformities appear. This is the reason why the quality process is often lived as heavy and complex, without added value. The following declarations are regularly heared:
- An auditor must find something anyway
- Once the audit is finished we go back to our routine
- About the non-conformity. What an exaggeration, to give a non-conformity about that
Audits are making part of a quality system and certificate. That is forgotten in almost 100 % of cases.
We like to show well to the outside how good we are. But with as little effort as possible. It shouldn’t disturb the relevant processes (sales and supply chain), not speaking about the processes which aren’t in the scope.
How can we break this negative vicious circle? By realizing that:
- A certificate concerns the quality of the whole organisation
- The regulation becomes more and more strict and therefor it’s more and more difficult to retain the certificate
- The focus of the certification schemes are more and more on the management responsibility and its processes
- The work on the non-conformities after the audits also costs a significant amount of time
- Only the resolution of the found non-conformities doesn’t necessarily lead to continuous improvement