What to look for in your ISO9001-2008 internal audits

What sort of things should you look for when conducting internal audits in support of your ISO9001-2008 quality management system?

Section 8.2.2 of the ISO9001-2008 standard says you “shall conduct internal audits at planned intervals to determine whether the quality
management system.” As the word “shall” is used, this means it is a mandatory requirement of ISO9001-2008. There’s no gray area that you can argue with an auditor. If you want to keep your ISO9001 certificate, you must have an internal audit program.

The standard goes on to say that your internal audit program must be effectively implemented and maintained, and you must consider the status and importance of your processes, and also take into consideration the results of previous audits. The audit criteria, scope, frequency and methods must be documented. You must also keep records of your internal audits. Records can be kept on paper, or can be kept electronically.

There are several areas that I look into when conducting internal audits for my client companies.

First, I look at previous audits for the area that I’m auditing. There may have been issues uncovered in previous audits that I want to make sure have been effectively resolved.

I also look at any documentation associated with a process. This could mean a section of the company’s quality manual, a documented procedure or work instruction. Are the documents properly controlled? Have they been reviewed and revised (or reapproved) periodically, as required by the ISO9001 standard? Are any obsolete copies floating around?

I look at the process itself, asking one or more of the people involved to walk me through the process, showing me what they do. Does reality match the documented procedure or work instruction? I’m often surprised how often the two don’t match. When I find such discrepancies, it’s usually the people actually doing the work who are doing it the best way. Management thinks it’s being done in accordance with their documented procedure, but sometimes the workers have found a better way. Of course, sometimes workers have been known to ignore work instructions and take shortcuts, resulting in nonconforming products or services, so it’s important that management and staff are all on the same page when it comes to how processes are performed.

It’s also important to look at any records associated with a process. Are purchase orders signed? Are inspection reports stamped? Are sales orders initialed? Are production travelers stamped? What do the company’s procedures require? Is it actually being done? A review of records is an absolute necessity when doing an audit.

If you do the above and keep good records, not only will your external auditor be happy with your internal audit program, but you’ll very likely discover nonconformances in processes or product, and/or ways to improve the company’s processes.

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