Audits are an integral part of most management systems and very much a requisite for quality standards like ISO 9001 or ISO 14001, which includes external regulatory framework such as SES or ICAO. Audits have now become a very powerful tool, driving conformance and compliance towards the effectiveness of the system.
In reality, most organizations do not use audits to their fullest potential. Audits are commonly used as a static tool for non-conformity identification and corrective actions. However, audits can also be used for improving systems and processes.
This article emphasizes 5 ways an organization can use audits to improve systems and performance.
1. Identifying growth opportunities, risks, and non-conformities
The predominant purpose of auditing is to verify the conformance of the system with the requirements. Along with the evaluation, the quality audit process should also identify various opportunities for improving the current processes and potential risks. Addressing these risks and opportunities lead to a robust system through a Risk-Based Thinking approach.
2. Linking audits with business goals
Ideally, business goals should cascade from and merge into the business processes. In order to do this, the efficiency of the processes needs to be evaluated using key performance indicators or metrics. The audit process should focus on the business operating system through the analysis of KPI results, thus assessing the effectiveness of BOS.
3. Using audits as management tools
Internal audits are a part of performance evaluation in most management system standards. The results of these audits include opportunities for improvement, non-conformities, and its corrective/preventive actions. These results can be used during management reviews, conducted at planned intervals. Top management should utilize the audit process to evaluate the effectiveness of the implemented system and initiate necessary actions to achieve the desired performance.
4. VA (Value added) audits
Typically, auditing is seen as a non-conformity generating activity and the quality audit process is crucial. Very few organizations use audits for improving systems, identifying cost reduction opportunities and process optimization. The audit criteria can be integrated with business goals and value additions to benefit the organizations. Parameters that affect the bottom line can be set and analysed, rather than just checking for conformance within the standard.
5. An effective audit programme plan
An effective audit programme requires audits to be conducted at defined intervals, based on the risk of processes aimed at effective evaluations. Thus the audit cycle has to be dynamic in order to mitigate any unseen risks in the process. Competent and capable resources also play a crucial role in ensuring the effectiveness of audits. It is imperative that Top Management should review and evaluate the effectiveness of the audit programme to support the performance and improvements of the implemented system.
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