Author Archive

A New Way to Grade Findings

In GHTF, IMDRF, Internal Auditing, Uncategorized on March 24, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Grading Findings

Last November a new GHTF document was released on the topic of grading non-conformities: GHTF/SG3/N19:2012. This document is available on the new IMDRF website in the documents section. The 16-page document presents a new method for Certification Bodies to grade non-conformities and to communicate these findings to regulators such as the US FDA and Health Canada (e.g. – GD211 voluntary reports).

To download the guidance document, go to http://www.imdrf.org/.

To download the guidance document, go to http://www.imdrf.org/.

N19 recommends the same three-part structure for writing nonconformities that is taught in Lead Auditor Classes, and there is even a table of examples provided with poorly written findings and well-written findings with more specific references to objective evidence.

Section 4.2 of the guidance document, however, introduces a new concept for grading of findings. The traditional grading of findings is: Major, Minor, and Observations. Opportunities for Improvement (OFI) are no longer allowed in regulatory reports to avoid the appearance of providing consulting advice to clients. For internal audits and supplier audits, OFIs are still used by most auditors.

Figure 1 - Grading OverviewThe new grading process defined by the guidance document has a two-step process. The first step uses a grading matrix to quantitatively determine a grade for the finding based upon the impact upon the QMS and the frequency of occurrence.

The second step of the grading process is to review escalation rules that are defined in Section 4.2.2 of the guidance document. This section emphasizes the importance of using the word “absence” in the wording of findings if a required procedure is not present in the QMS. This type of finding should only happen during initiate certification audits where 100% of the required procedures are typically verified during the Stage 1 audit. If this occurs, then the grading is increased by 1 to a possible maximum of 5.Figure 2 - Grading Matrix

Another possible escalation event is the release of nonconforming devices outside the control of the manufacturer. If this occurs, then the grading is increased by 1 to a possible maximum of 5. If the required procedure is absent, and product is released that is nonconforming, the guidance states that the score should not be escalated above a 5.

In all of the Lead auditing courses I have taught, both of the above escalation events would be examples of a “Major Nonconformity.” Repeat occurrences of nonconformities would typically be escalated from a minor NC to a major NC, but in this new method the scores could be a “2” or a “4”—depending upon the impact upon the QMS.

Risk-Based MatrixI have had enough trouble in the past with training auditors to consistently grade findings during audits, and this is one of the most important sections of the exam for a Lead Auditing Course. Recently I suggested that a client consider using the risk analysis matrix that they were already using for process risk analysis and apply the matrix to grading of findings. An example of this type of matrix is shown below.

My client used semi-quantitative scores for severity (1-3) and occurrence (1-4). The two factors were multiplied to calculate a risk priority number (RPN) ranging from 1-12. The resulting matrix is also color coded to indicate the urgency of corrective action plans to be developed for the finding.

Has anyone implemented a grading system based upon this new guidance? If you have, please share your experiences here or on one of the LinkedIn Groups I have posted this question:

Medical Devices: QA/RA – http://bit.ly/SG3N19-QARA

ASQ – http://bit.ly/SG3N19-ASQ

Please share you own methods for grading findings?

How to Issue a Major Non-Conformity with a Smile

In Internal Auditing on March 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm


As an auditor, one of the most important (and difficult) things for you to learn is how to issue a non-conformity—especially a major. This is normally done at the closing meeting of an audit, but the closing meeting is not where the process of issuing the non-conformity begins. Issuing a non-conformity actually starts in the opening meeting.

ISO 19011:2011 is the official guidance document for auditors of Quality Management Systems. Section 6.4.2 of this Standard explains the best practices for an opening meeting. The last five items in this section are critical to preparing the client for potential non-conformities:

  1. the method of reporting audit findings including grading, if any;
  2. the conditions under which the audit may be terminated;
  3. time and place of the closing meeting;
  4. how to deal with possible findings during the audit;
  5. the system for feedback from the auditee on the findings or conclusions of the audit,
  6. the process for complaints and appeals.

Methods of Reporting and Grading

The auditor should be crystal clear in their description of minor and major nonconformities or any other grading that will be used. The auditor should also make it clear that they are looking for conformity rather than non-conformity. This is an audit—not an inspection. Typically, a minor nonconformity is described as “a single lapse in the fulfillment of a requirement” while a major nonconformity is described as one of the following: 1) “a total absence in the fulfillment of a requirement,” 2) “repetition of a previous nonconformity,” 3) “failure to address a previously identified minor non-conformity”, or 4) “shipment of non-conforming product.” When the auditor is in doubt, then the finding is minor and never a major. For a major non-conformity to be issued there can be no doubt.

Conditions for Termination

The option to terminate an audit is typically reserved for a certification audit where a major non-conformity is identified and there is no point in continuing. Termination is highly discouraged, because it is better to know about all the minor and major non-conformities now instead of waiting until the certification audit is rescheduled. The certification body will charge you for their time anyway.

Another reason for termination is when an auditor is being unreasonable or inappropriate. This is rare, but it happens. If the audit is terminated you should always being communicating this to upper management at the certification body and the company—regardless of which side of the table you sit. For FDA inspections this is not an option. For audits performed by Notified Bodies, there is the possibility of suspension of a certificate in response to audit termination. Therefore, I always recommend appealing after the fact instead of termination. Appealing also works for FDA inspections.

Closing Meeting

The closing meeting should be conducted as scheduled and the time/location should be clearly communicated to upper management in the audit agenda and during the opening meeting. Top management won’t be happy about non-conformities, but failure to communicate when the closing meeting will be conducted will irritate them further.

How to Deal with Findings

All guides and auditees should be made aware of possible findings at the time an issue is discovered. This is important so that an auditee has the opportunity to clarify the evidence being presented. Often non-conformities are the result of miscommunication between the auditor and auditee. This happens frequently when the auditor has a poor understanding of the process being audited. It is a tremendous waste of time for both sides when this occurs. If there is an actual non-conformity, it is also important to gather as much objective evidence as possible for the auditor to write a thorough finding and for the auditee to prepare an appropriate corrective action plan in response to the finding.

feedbackFeedback from the Auditee

I always encourage auditees to provide honest feedback to me directly and to management so that I could continue to improve. If you are giving feedback about an internal auditor or a supplier auditor, you should always give feedback directly before going to the person’s superior. You are both likely to work together in the future, and you should give the person every opportunity to hear the feedback first-hand.

When providing feedback from a 3rd party Certification Audit, you should know that there will be no negative repercussions against your company if you complain directly to the Certification Body. At most, the Certification Body will assign a new auditor for future audits and investigate the need for taking action with the auditor. In all likelihood, any action taken will be “retraining.” I never fired somebody for a single incident—unless they broke the law or did something that was unsafe. The key to providing feedback, however, is to be objective. Give specific examples in your complaint, and avoid personal feelings and opinions.

Complaints and Appeals

As the auditee, you should ask for the contact information at the certification body during the opening meeting. Ask with a smile—just-in-case you disagree and so you can provide feedback (which might be positive). As the auditor, you should always make the contact information for the certification body available. If you are conducting a supplier audit or an internal audit, you probably know the auditor’s boss and there is probably no formal complaint or appeals process. In the case of a supplier audit, the customer is always right—even when they are wrong.

During the Audit

During the audit you should always make the guide(s) and process owner(s) aware of any potential non-conformities as you find them. This is their opportunity to clarify the objective evidence for you and to explain why there is not a non-conformity. Often I will refer to the Standard that I am auditing to at this point. I will identify the specific requirement(s) and show the process owner. I will say, “This is what I am trying to verify. Do you have anything that would help address this requirement?” If the process owner is not sure of how to meet the requirement, often I will provide an example of how this requirement is addressed in other areas or at other companies.

If the audit is a multi-day audit, I will review the potential nonconformities at the end of the day and give the auditee the opportunity to provide additional objective evidence in the morning. If it is already the last day of the audit or it is a single-day audit, I will give auditees until the closing meeting to provide the objective evidence. Often I will use this opportunity to explain what would be considered a minor non-conformity and what would be a major non-conformity. Usually I can say, “This is definitely not a major non-conformity, because…”

closingClosing Meeting

At the closing meeting, the auditee should never be surprised. If an issue remains unfulfilled at the closing meeting, the auditee should be expecting a minor non-conformity—unless the issue clearly warrants a major non-conformity. Since a minor nonconformity is described as “a single lapse in the fulfillment of a requirement,” it is difficult for an auditee to argue that an issue does not warrant a minor non-conformity. Typically, the argument is that you are not consistent with other auditors. The most common response to that issue is, “Audits are just a sample, and previous auditors may not have seen the same objective evidence.” The more likely scenario, however, is that the previous auditor interprets the requirements instead of reviewing the requirements with the client and making sure both parties agree before a finding is issued.

A major nonconformity is usually defined as one of the following: 1) “a total absence in the fulfillment of a requirement,” 2) “repetition of a previous nonconformity,” 3) “failure to address a previously identified minor non-conformity”, or 4) “shipment of non-conforming product.” When the auditor is in doubt, then the finding is minor and never a major. For a major non-conformity to be issued there can be no doubt. If a finding is major, the auditee should have very few questions. Also, I find that often the reason for a major non-conformity is a lack of management commitment to address the root cause of a problem. Issuing a major non-conformity is sometimes necessary to get management attention.

Regardless of the grading, all audit findings will require a corrective action plan—even an FDA warning letter requires a CAPA plan. Therefore, a major non-conformity is not a disaster. You just need to create a more urgent plan for action.

What are the 6 New Essential Requirements?

In Essential Principles, Essential Requirements on March 10, 2013 at 12:48 am

European Regulatory UpdatesClick HERE if you want to receive future “European Regulatory Updates” by email. Just provide your Name, Company, Phone Number, and the email address where you would like to receive updates.

Annex I of the European Medical Device Directive (http://bit.ly/M5MDD) is titled “Essential Requirements.” Most companies demonstrate that their device meets the 13 Essential Requirements (ERs) by creating an Essential Requirements Checklist (ERC). I have no idea what the origin of the ERC is, but you know that regulators love tables and checklists. This particular checklist is so commonly used that the Global Harmonization Task Force (GHTF) included an example of an ERC, called an “Essential Principles Checklist” (EPC) at the end of a guidance document on how to create Summary Technical Documentation (STED) for In Vitro Diagnostic devices (http://bit.ly/STEDIVD)—which is now maintained on the IMDRF.org website.

On September 26, 2012, the European Commission released a proposal for new EU Medical Device Regulations (http://bit.ly/EUProposal). This proposal still includes ERs in Annex I, but there are 19 ERs in the proposal. One regulatory professional recently sent me a follow-up question in response to an audio seminar I conducted in November (). Her question was, “What are the six new ERs?”

A few of the early reviews of the proposal indicated that there were no significant changes, but I have learned the hard way that you should always go to the source and verify the information for yourself (i.e. – Genchi Genbutsu). Here’s what I found:

General Requirements (ER 1-6a)

  1. No real change to this requirement.
  2. This requirement was reworded to clarify the intent (see Annex ZA of EN 14971:2012 for more info @ http://bit.ly/ISO14971-2012changes).
  3. It appears as though the Commission thought the current ER 3 was redundant and the requirement was addressed by ER 1 and ER 5 already.
  4. This is now the new ER 3, and the requirement now clarifies how Notified Bodies shall apply this requirement in cases where a lifetime of the device is not stated.
  5. This is now the new ER 4, and there is no real change.
  6. This is now the new ER 5, and the wording has been clarified.

ER6a is conspicuously missing from the proposed ERs, but don’t get excited. Clinical Evaluations are still required as part of the Technical Documentation in Annex II, Section 6.1c: “the report on the clinical evaluation in accordance with Article 49(5) and Part A of Annex XIII.”

Chemical, Physical & Biological Properties (ER 7)

ER 7.1 has one new requirement: “d) the choice of materials used, reflecting, where appropriate, matters such as hardness, wear and fatigue strength.” ER 7.2 and 7.3 remain unchanged. ER 7.4 has been simplified to what is proposed as the new, shorter ER 9. ER 7.5 is now the new ER 7.4, and the changes reflect the current status of phthalate regulations and similar issues. ER 7.6 is now the new ER 7.5, but there is no change to the content. The new ER 7.6 requires that manufacturers address the risks associated with the size and properties of particles—especially nanomaterials. The changes associated with this section will impact certain device types more than others—such as orthopedic implants.

Infection & Microbial Contamination (ER 8)

ER 8 is still ER 8, but ER 8.1 is now prescriptive regarding design solutions and the current ER 8.2 is now the new ER 10. The new ER 10 is expanded and references the new EU Regulations regarding devices manufactured utilizing tissues or cells of animal origin: Commission Regulation (EU) No 722/2012 of 8 August 2012 (http://bit.ly/AnimalTissueReg). The new ER 8.2 is a new requirement that was an oversight of the MDD, and the new ER 8.7 now clarifies that the labeling must differentiate sterile and non-sterile versions of the product; packaging is no longer an acceptable mechanism for differentiation. The balance of ER 8 remains unchanged.

Construction & Environmental Properties (ER 9)

This ER is now identified as the new ER 11, and this section is expanded. This reflects the emphasis on the need to evaluate the safety of devices with accessories, compatibility with other devices, and the affects of the use environment.

Devices with a Measuring Function (ER 10)

This ER is now identified as the new ER 12, but ER 10.2 from the current Directive appears to be missing. What’s up?

Take a look at the new ER 11. ER 10.2 is now the new ER 11.6.

Protection Against Radiation (ER 11)

This ER is now identified as the new ER 13, but there is nothing new.

Requirements for Devices Connected to or Equipped with an Energy Source (ER 12)

ER 12.1 and 12.1a are now ER 14. This section is specific to software requirements and has more detail than the current Directive. IEC 62304:2006, “Medical device software – Software life cycle processes,” is the Standard that will be expected by Notified Bodies as a reference for ER 14. ER 12.2 through ER 12.6 are now ER 15, but there is nothing new. This Section ER 12.7 and its sub-parts are now addressed by ER 16. ER 12.8 and its sub-parts are now addressed by ER 17.

Information Supplied by the Manufacturer (ER 13)

This is now identified as ER 19: “Label and Instructions for Use.” This section is simplified from ER 13 (i.e. – there are fewer sections), but this ER does not seem to be any shorter. ER 19.1 has sub-parts a-g, and this ER section incorporates the concepts previously addressed by ER 13.1, 13.2, 13.4 and 13.5. ER 19.2 is a new and improved version of the previous ER 13.3 specific to labeling requirements. This labeling section is expanded from sub-parts “a” through “n” to “a” through “q”. The UDI requirement is sub-part “h”. ER 13.6 is now ER 19.3 specific to the instructions for use (IFU). This section is expanded from sub-parts “a” through “q” to “a” through “t”.

The number of sub-parts to ER 19.3 doesn’t reflect the additional requirements for IFUs that are proposed by the Commission. The sub-sections of this part warrant special attention. Items that frequently are found missing from IFUs on the market today include:

  1. ER 19.3c – performance intended by the manufacturer
  2. ER 19.3h – installation and calibration instructions
  3. ER 19.3k – how to determine if a re-usable device should be repaired/replaced
  4. ER 19.3m – restrictions on combinations with other devices
  5. ER 19.3o – detailed warning information
  6. ER 19.3p – information about safe disposal of the device
  7. ER 19.3t – notice to user/patient to report adverse events

ER 18 – Use by Lay Persons

This is a short section, but the requirement is new. There are now additional requirements for products intended for use by a lay person. The Risk Management Report, Design Validation, and Clinical Evaluation Report will need to include specific evidence to demonstrate conformity with this ER. The Post-Market Surveillance Plan for these products should carefully verify the accuracy of risk estimates. Post-Market Clinical Follow-up (PMCF) Studies would be challenging in the past, but the prevalence of social media and product registration databases may facilitate conducting PMCF Studies for these products in the future.

Australia & Canada

There is also an EPC that is required by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia (http://bit.ly/EPCTGA) and by the Therapeutics Product Directorate (TPD) in Canada (http://bit.ly/CanadianSTED). If you would like to learn more about the Essential Principles of Safety and Performance you should also review the GHTF guidance document on this topic (http://bit.ly/EPSafetyPerf) on the IMDRF.org website. This 2012 version of the document supersedes GHTF/SG1/N041:2005.

I have observed approval of products where the European ERC was submitted in lieu of an EPC for Australia and Canada. I guess they are a little more rationale than some other regulators, but if you have experienced any “push back” regarding this approach please share this by posting a comment or emailing me: rob@13485cert.com.

Long-time No Post

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Long time no post

My apologies for taking so long to get another blog posting out. I will be posting something big today, but follow the link below to see what I’ve been up to.

Medical Device Academy


What if your Notified Body Auditor is Wrong?

In SmartForm, Uncategorized on February 2, 2013 at 5:52 am

My first certification audit ever didn’t go so well. The reason it didn’t go well is that the auditor wrote nonconformities that my boss and our regulatory consultant didn’t agree with. At the time, I was too inexperienced to know how to handle it. My boss and the consultant, however, totally lost it. I’ve never seen veins that big in someone’s forehead–even in cartoons.

I asked them both to leave the room, because I was afraid to “push back” on the auditor. Many Management Representatives feel the same way that I did during that initial certification audit. The best way to summarize our concerns is with the following picture:

Don't poke the bear!

Don’t poke the bear!

This week’s entertainment is for a friend of mine. Thank you for all your help. You’ve made my year.

Recently another LinkedIn group member emailed me to say that they have seen several auditors for registrars identifying nonconformities that represented their own personal opinions rather than specific requirements of the Standard. For example: there is a requirement to assign management responsibilities and document it, but there is no requirement to have an organization chart.

Another common mistake is when auditors insist that a company must create a turtle diagram for every single process. I support the use of turtle diagrams 100%, but the only requirement in the Standard is to use the process approach–not turtle diagrams specifically.

My favorite is my own personal mistake. I wrote a nonconformity for not having a process for implant registration cards for a company that was planning to ship a high-risk implant product to Canada. There is a requirement for implant registry cards, but I forgot that Canada defines “implants” in this case as only a very short list of implant devices–not implants in general.

Auditors are human. These are audit findings–not a jail sentence. Everyone needs to remember that the worst that can happen is that you receive a nonconformity. If the auditor finds a nonconformity, then you need to develop a CAPA plan. If the auditor finds nothing, you still need to do your own internal audits to identify nonconformities and to continuously improve processes.

The question is, what should you do when an auditor is wrong?

I recommend that you “push back”, but you need to know how. Many consultants suggest saying, “Can you show me in the Standard where it says I have to do that?” That’s just like poking a bear. If you do it once, it’s annoying. If you do it multiple times, an auditor might just eat you.

One Management Representative did that to me after I had taken the time to review the requirements with him. I responded by holding the ISO 13485 Standard in front of him and reciting clause 7.3.2. He responded by saying, “Well that’s up for interpretation.” I offered to recite the ISO 14969 guidance document for him, but his boss told him to  shut up.

This certainly wasn’t the only time a client pushed back during a registration audit, but other clients have had the sense to argue about things they actually understood.

One of the clients I audited, said that he would change the topic to the auditor’s favorite sports team. That’s one approach. I’m sure that more than one client has taken the approach of asking me to explain where they can learn about best practices. I’m sure that they were somewhat successful. Another approach is to slide the lunch menu in front of them; I have only met one auditor that would not be distracted by a lunch menu.

Here’s my step-by-step approach to pushing back when you disagree with an auditor:

1. shut-up and look it up (before you open your mouth, grab the applicable external standard and look up exactly what you are looking for)

2. If you are still convinced that your auditor is wrong, then tell that you are having trouble finding the requirement. Show them where you are looking, and then ask them to help you find the requirement.

3. If the auditor can’t show you where you are wrong, or it appears that the auditor is interpreting the Standard as they see fit, then focus on asking the auditor for guidance on what they will be looking for in your CAPA plan.

4. If the CAPA plan the auditor is looking for is something you think is a good idea, then shut up and implement the improvements. If the CAPA plan is not acceptable to you, then you should ask what the process is for resolution of disputes.

5. No matter what, don’t start an argument with the registrar. They actually enjoy it. They like a challenge, and they resent people with less experience critizing them.

6. If you still disagree with your auditor, then you should ask if the auditor can explain the process for appealing findings and follow that process.

ISO/EN 14971:2012 and the MDD

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2013 at 1:45 am

Brigid beat me to it. She did a nice job of explaining her take each of the 7 issues that the EU Commission has with the ISO 14971 Standard.

QA Kiwi

Have you performed a gap analysis on your Risk Matrix against the MDD requirements?

No you don’t need to buy EN ISO14971:2012, but if you have an EU certificate and must comply with the EU Medical Devices Directive, then you must apply the EU requirements for risk management, spelled out in the new annexes. This version of 14971 was accepted as an EU harmonised standard in August 2012 and therefore applies now. The EU requirements aren’t new, but it has been common for companies to apply 14971 without noticing that there are some subtle differences in the Essential Requirements. The EN standard spells them out for us.

A copy of the annexes is available  here from the Danish Standards website. We are grateful to them for acknowledging that this is more about regulation than it is about standards.

While none of the requirements are new, they will impact on how your…

View original post 433 more words

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2013 at 1:45 am

Brigid beat me to it. She did a nice job of explaining her take each of the 7 issues that the EU Commission has with the ISO 14971 Standard.

QA Kiwi

Have you performed a gap analysis on your Risk Matrix against the MDD requirements?

No you don’t need to buy EN ISO14971:2012, but if you have an EU certificate and must comply with the EU Medical Devices Directive, then you must apply the EU requirements for risk management, spelled out in the new annexes. This version of 14971 was accepted as an EU harmonised standard in August 2012 and therefore applies now. The EU requirements aren’t new, but it has been common for companies to apply 14971 without noticing that there are some subtle differences in the Essential Requirements. The EN standard spells them out for us.

A copy of the annexes is available  here from the Danish Standards website. We are grateful to them for acknowledging that this is more about regulation than it is about standards.

While none of the requirements are new, they will impact on how your…

View original post 433 more words

Learn the Process Approach & How to Use Turtle Diagrams

In Internal Auditing, Supplier Audit, Supplier Audits on January 21, 2013 at 11:13 am

Example of Turtle Diagram provided by Jan Roovers

Example of Turtle Diagram provided by Jan Roovers

Checklists are great for making sure that all aspects of the regulations are covered, but is there a way to get more out of your audits? Imagine how nice it would feel to eliminate that “Control of Records” audit, and several other audits from your schedule that consist primarily of reviewing mountains of paperwork. Register for the audio seminar hosted by FX Conferences on February 19th and you will understand why separate audits of support processes are largely unnecessary. You will be able to complete turtle diagrams for any process in minutes, and you will learn how to strategically select auditors according to the process flow.

Audio seminar with FX Conferences on February 19th:

Click Here“Adding Value to Audits Using the Process Approach”

This seminar will demonstrate how to use turtle diagrams and the process approach to perform audits. The presentation materials include a blank turtle diagram template and a sample, completed turtle diagram for an incoming inspection process. You will also learn how to assign auditors differently in order get more value from your audits.

This audio conference covers:

  • What is the process approach to auditing?
  • Why is the process approach more efficient than audit checklists?
  • What is a turtle diagram?
  • In what order should you ask audit questions?
  • Who should you assign to each process and why?
  • How you can add more value during audits?

3 Tools for Qualifying Suppliers

In Forward to MDA, Process Validation, Supplier Audit, Supplier Audits, Supplier Qualification, Supplier Quality, Supplier Survey on January 2, 2013 at 2:59 am

This blog has been moved to the following location and the name has been changed: http://bit.ly/3SupplierTools.

This blog website and the blogs within it are gradually being transferred over to my new website: http://www.MedicalDeviceAcademy.com. The titles may change, and there may be minor revisions to the content as the blogs are reviewed and edited. There will be a subscription list created for the new blog site. If you would like to be added to the list for the new blog site, please email me directly at: rob@13485cert.com.

How to recruit, hire and train an auditor

In Internal Auditing, ISO 19011, Supplier Audit, Supplier Audits, Supplier Qualification, Training on December 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Part 3: Training

Passing a webinar on auditing does not make you competent.

Does your company ask incoming inspectors to update CAD drawings when there is a design change? Of course not. Your company has engineers that are trained to use SolidWorks, and it takes a new engineer a while to become proficient with the software. Auditing is a skill that you learn—just like SolidWorks.

My favorite holiday movie…I’ll be watching this later tonight!

I’ve never met a manager that wondered where the value was in having an engineer update a drawing, but many managers view internal and supplier audits as a necessary evil. Instead of asking the expert how few audit days you can get away with, ask the expert: “What is the purpose of auditing?”

The purpose of internal auditing is to confirm that the management system is effective and to identify opportunities for improvement. The purpose of supplier auditing is to confirm that a supplier is capable of meeting your needs and to identify opportunities for improvement. Therefore, if an auditor has no nonconformities and no opportunities for improvement were identified—what a waste of time!

To receive value from auditing, you need auditors that are competent. In clause 6.2.1 of the ISO 13485 Standard it says, “Personnel performing work affecting product quality shall be competent on the basis of appropriate education, training, skills and experience.” As the audit program manager, make sure you recruit people that demonstrate auditing competency.


First, educational background is important for auditors. You cannot expect someone who has never taken a microbiology course in their life to be an effective auditor of sterilization validation. Likewise, someone that has never taken a course in electricity and magnetism will not be effective as an auditor for active implantable devices. Therefore, determine what types of processes the auditor will be auditing. Then make sure that the person you hire to be an auditor has the necessary education to understand the processes they will be auditing.


Second, an auditor needs to be trained before they can audit. The auditor needs training in three different aspects: 1) the process they will be auditing, 2) the standard that is the basis for assessing conformity, and 3) auditing techniques. If you are going to be auditing printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturers with surface-mount technology (SMT), then you need to learn about the types of components used to make PCBs and how these components are soldered to a raw board. I know first-hand that anyone can learn how SMT works, but it took me a few months of studying.

If your company is only selling medical devices in the USA, then you will need to learn 21 CFR 820 (i.e. – the QSR). However, if your company also sells devices in Europe in Canada you will need to learn ISO 13485, the MDD (93/42/EEC as modified by 2007/47/EC), and the Canadian Medical Device Regulations (CMDR). I learned about ISO 13485 in a four-and-half day lead auditor course in Florida, I learned about the MDD in a three-day CE Marking Course in Virginia, and I learned about the CMDR in a two-day course taught by Health Canada in Ontario. A 50-minute webinar on each regulation is not sufficient for auditing.

Finally, you need training on the techniques of auditing. A two day course is typically needed. I took a 50-minute webinar and passed a quiz before conducting my first internal audit, but I was not competent.


Third, an auditor needs specific skills to be effective as an auditor. The most critical skills are: 1) communications skills, 2) organizational skills, and 3) analytic skills. Communications skills must include the ability to read and write exceptionally well and the auditor needs to be able to verbally communicate with auditees during meetings and interviews. The most difficult challenge for auditors is covering all the items in their agenda in the time available. The auditor rarely has more time than the need to audit any topic, and audit team leaders must be able to manage their own time as well as simultaneously managing the time of several other auditors. 


Last, but certainly not the least important aspect of auditor competency is experience. This is why 3rd party auditors are required to act as team members under the guidance of a more experienced auditor before they are allowed to perform audits on their own. This is required regardless of how many internal or supplier audits the person may have conducted in the past. More experienced auditors are also required to observe new auditors and recommend modifications in their technique. Once a new auditor has completed a sufficient number of audits as a team member, the auditor is then allowed to practice leading audits while being observed. After six to nine months, a new auditor is finally ready to be a lead auditor on their own. An internal auditor does not need the same degree of experience as a 3rd party auditor, but being shadowed 2-3 times is not sufficient experience for an auditor (1st or 2nd party). For more information about this topic, please read my blog posting on auditor shadowing.


If you are an audit program manager, and you would like to improve your own competency, please contact me to learn about a new advanced course specifically for audit program managers. I am teaching a course with Brigid Glass. The course is designed specifically for audit program managers—not for inexperienced auditors. It will be a two-day course, and we are offering the course in three different cities: San Diego, CA (April 11/12), Orlando, FL (April 15/16) and Las Vegas, NV (April 17/18). Please Contact Me if you would like to learn more about the course.

Click Here

I am also teaching a one-hour, audio seminar with FX Conferences on January 9th:

“Are Your Suppliers Qualified? Prove It.”

This seminar will cover the areas of supplier qualification, supplier evaluation and supplier auditing. We already have a large number of companies signed-up for the seminar, and I am looking forward to having you join us.

This blog started as a single posting, but I realized that the blog was much too long. Therefore, I split the blog into three separate postings. This is the final “Part 3 of 3”. I hope you have enjoyed it. If you have suggestions for my next posting, please let me know.

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