Auditing Multiple and Integrated Management Systems: Part 1

Auditing Multiple and Integrated Management Systems: Part 1

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The first topic, which will be provided in multiple installments, is Auditing Multiple and Integrated Management Systems. This first column will cover the background and importance of the topic, the advantages (and the few disadvantages) organizations accrue when integrating and when auditing their systems. And adjusting their auditing programs to fit the new reality of multiple and integrated management systems (intMS) increasingly prevalent today.

The background of this is quite simple and clearly demonstrated. Not only has the adoption of formal Management Systems risen dramatically the past few decades, but an increasing number of organizations have implemented multiple management systems. And more and more organizations recognize the advantages and efficiencies that accrue by their integration, whether it be full, or partial integration. Integration was more difficult prior to the harmonization of the ISO Standards, now guided by ISO’s Annex SL, the high-level structure that provides identical structure, text, and common terms and definitions for management system standards of the future. This will ensure consistency among future and revised management system standards and make their integration, and integrated use simpler. This is highlighted in the recent adoption of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001: 2015, and by the time you read this, ISO 45001, ISO’s Occupational Health and Safety Management System Standard, and ISO’s newest.

With the addition of each management system, auditing resources necessary to ensure their effectiveness could, without integration and streamlining efforts, roughly double. Therefore, those organizations with a QMS, EMS, and HSMS (not uncommon in large organizations) could potentially triple the auditing resources (including time) utilized over that of a single system. For the commonly used two-to-three auditors per system, six-to-nine auditors may, therefore, be necessary for those with a QMS, EMS, and HSMS. For those using three or more audit team members, imagine the audit army this creates, let alone the time necessary to audit separate systems, and the disruption to the organization. Considering all the other financial, customer, supply chain, and other audits organizations are subjected, and you can understand why many organizations are ‘audit weary’!

Professionals who have conducted integrated audits recognize how much more efficient they can be: The process under review, along with all its controls (environmental, health, safety, and quality) has to be evaluated only once. There is less duplication of effort during the planning, execution, and even follow-up phases of the audit. Other efficiencies, often unforeseen, are uncovered or revealed once an organization begins an integrated management system pathway, and is yet another advantage to integrated auditing.

Typically, management systems integration allows the organization to minimize duplication and redundancy of effort, streamline or leverage its use of its limited resources, and reduce or eliminate overlapping responsibilities. This is true of integrated systems in general and is especially true regarding the audit function. This translates to significant cost savings, productivity increases, risk reductions, and enhanced effectiveness and efficiency the intMS are designed to achieve. And when it comes to intMS registration, Registrars (should) confer savings when auditing and certifying intMS through the same efficiencies and streamlining efforts organizations achieve internally.

While there are many advantages to implementing and auditing intMS, it is important to recognize that there are disadvantages as well. One of the more notable disadvantages is that if an organization is seeking third-party registration to one or more standards, a non-conformance against a requirement of one standard may carry over to another standard. In the worst case scenario, if the non-conformance is major, all registrations could be at risk unless effective corrective action is taken.

Another disadvantage is the learning curve (and attendant training) that will likely be required for the
organization’s staff members, many of whom will not be familiar with the requirements of all the management systems involved in the IntMS. Quality staff, for example, may be intimately familiar with ISO 9001 requirements, while needing extensive (and perhaps costly) training on ISO 14001 and the same will be true of OHSMS staff, and vice-versa for each staff function.

In the next installment of this column, we will dive into the mechanics and logistics of intMS auditing, as well as provide tips and techniques to help improve intMS audit team effectiveness and efficiency.

About John Grosskopf: Since a Dr. Deming led quality and environmental paradigm shift at General Dynamics in the late 80’s, John has been a strong management systems (MS) advocate. He has pioneered advances in auditing, integrating MS, a chief contributor to two national MS Standards, and has led the development, implementation, and improvement of hundreds of MS in the public and private sectors. He is an accredited EMS, HSMS, and QMS auditor (accreditations pending), a published author, instructor/trainer, and has presented widely on MSs. Through his firm, DeepGreen Consulting, he is currently assisting clients to improve their triple bottom line through a combination of MS, best practices, collaboration, and leadership

Reference: Auditing Integrated Management Systems: Considerations and Practice Tips, November 2008, Journal of Environmental Quality Management, John Grosskopf, with co-author Jennifer Kraus.


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