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Attention Auditors! – Have you read ISO 19011?

In Audit Schedule, Internal Auditing, International Standard, ISO, ISO 19011, PDCA, Procedures, Quality Management Systems on July 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm

If you have ever taken a lead auditor course, one of the critical handouts for the class should have been ISO 19011. The title is “Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems”. In November of last year, this standard was updated and the changes were not superficial.

The background entertainment for this week is one of my favorite modern rock songs, but it never seemed to get much air time. I hope you enjoyed the 90’s.

ISO 19011 covers the topic of quality management system auditing. This Standard provides guidance on managing audit programs, conducting both internal and external audits, and how to determine auditor competency. Improvements to the New 2011 Version of the Standard include:

  1. Broadening the scope to all management systems
  2. Clarifying the relationship between ISO 17021 and ISO 19011
  3. Introduction of the remote audit methods
  4. Introduction of risk as an auditing concept
  5. Confidentiality is a “new” principle
  6. Clause 5, Managing an audit program, was reorganized
  7. Clause 6, Performing an audit, was reorganized
  8. Clause 7, Competence and evaluation of auditors, was reorganized & strengthened
  9. Annex B is new and the contents of the help boxes was moved to this Annex
  10. Annex A now includes examples of discipline-specific knowledge and skills

One of the most common points of confusion in the lead auditor course is the difference between 1st, 2nd and 3rd party audits. In the previous revision of this Standard, this was just a note at the bottom of page 1 and the top of page two. The note was not very clear either. The new version of 19011, in Table 1 (reproduced below), the difference between these three types of auditing is crystal clear:

The above table is just an example of the improvements made to ISO 19011, and of course there is little value-add to clarifying a definition. Figure 1 from the new version, “Process flow for the management of an audit program, is a better example of a “value-add”. This vertical flow chart is reminiscent of Figure 1 from ISO 14971:2007. It categorizes the various stages of audit program management into the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle. I highly recommend this style for presenting any process in your internal procedures as an example of best practices in writing an SOP. The flow chart even references each of the clauses in the Standard. Unfortunately Figure 2, “Typical audit activities”, does not categorize the stages of audit activities (Clauses 6.2 – 6.7 of the revised Standard) into the PDCA cycle. I guess they needed to leave some improvement for the next revision.

The new version retained the opening meeting checklist that was in the previous revision (Clause 6.4.2), and Clause 6.4.9 has a brief closing meeting checklist. Figure 3, “Overview of the process of collecting and verifying information”, is a poor example of a flow chart. Should I make a better one? (Send me an email if you think I should.)

The most valuable changes in this revision are Clause 5.3.2, “Competence of the person managing the audit program”, and all of Clause 7. Most of the audit procedures I read neglect to define the qualifications and method for determining competency of the audit program manager. Clause 5.3.2 tells you how. Put it in your own procedure. Most of the procedures I read include qualifications for a “Lead Auditor”, but I seldom see anything regarding competency. Unfortunately, this Standard only specifically addresses “Lead Auditor” competency in a two-sentence paragraph—Clause 7.2.5. When I teach people how to be a lead auditor, I spend more than an hour on this topic alone.

The Standard would be more effective by providing an example of how 3rd party auditors become qualified as a Lead Auditor. 3rd party accreditation requires the auditor to be an “acting lead” for audit preparation, opening meeting, conducting the audit, closing meeting, and final preparation/distribution of the audit report. This must be performed for 15 certification audits (i.e. – Stage 2 certification or recertification), and another qualified lead auditor must evaluate you and provide feedback.

The last big additions to this Standard were the Appendices. Annex A provides examples of discipline-specific knowledge and skills of auditors. This section is a little on the boring side. I prefer to tell a story about the internal auditor that was auditing incoming inspection—but they had no idea how to check for calibration or how to measure components. Appendix B, the finale, has a table (Table B.1) that provides some guidance on how to conduct remote audits (i.e. – desktop audits). I was pleased to see that conducting interviews is a major part of remote auditing in this table. Section B.7 provides some suggestions with regard to conducting interviews, but if you exhibit all 13 of the professional behavior traits found in Clause 7.2.2 then you really don’t need any advice on how to speak with people. For the rest of us mortals, we could use a five day course on interviewing alone.

Additional guidelines are available on the ISO website.

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