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ISO 9001

All management systems require organizations to conduct internal audits in order to obtain information that will evidence the degree to which requirements are being met. In other words, internal audits check practice against policies, processes and procedures and thoroughly document any differences.

Although internal audits are an important tool for organizations to evaluate their management systems and to uncover areas that are in need of attention, for many, this process induces an enormous amount of stress. For audits to serve as a means to identify gaps and effective solutions, it is essential that these are formal, planned and organized. Other key characteristics internal audits should have are:

They are scheduled. Surprise audits are not welcomed by anyone. A schedule should be set and communicated to everyone, preferably at the beginning of the year. There’s no need to audit all processes at once; different processes can be audited at different times throughout the year, organizations just need to make sure that at the end of the year all processes have been audited.

Auditors are competent. Auditors need to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the standard which they are auditing against and they should have an understanding of the processes being audited. They should be objective and impartial; this means that they can’t audit a process which they manage or control. Large organizations usually have a team of trained auditors, but that is not necessary; an alternative is to hire the services of an external consultant to perform the internal audits.

They are planned. The audit needs to be confirmed with the process owner. At this stage the auditor should review procedures and previous findings or issues related to the audited process. A checklist with a pre-determined list of questions can be sought to be used during the audit; this checklist should be provided to the auditee so they have time to organize any information.

It’s conducted in an objective and friendly manner. An audit should start with an opening meeting with the auditor and the auditee(s). It’s recommended that the auditor works systematically through the checklist or procedure, while reviewing records, observing the process, analyzing process data and talking to employees. During the audit, the auditor must discuss the findings with the auditee before recording it.

Audit findings are recorded. A closing meeting with the auditee is fundamental so information is not delayed. Here the auditor should point out possible weaknesses and areas for improvement. Findings and their details (these include non-conformities, positive areas and improvement areas) need to be recorded and communicated to the auditee(s) and management.

Findings are monitored. The auditor is responsible for ensuring that corrective actions have been taken to fix any problems found during the audit.

If everyone takes advantage of the positive results internal audits can bring, and if these aid organizations to improve their processes and management system- whether is a quality, environmental or any other system- an internal audit can be considered a success.

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PAS 99:2012 is based upon the structure of ISO Guide 83, and now sets a common structure to be followed by all management system standards moving forward.
PAS 99:2012 is based upon the structure of ISO Guide 83, and now sets a common structure to be followed by all management system standards moving forward.

All management systems require a periodic review by the organization’s top management. The purpose of such a review is to evaluate if the management system is performing as intended and if it’s producing the desired results as efficiently as possible. While in review, there are steps that can be taken to make sure your organization’s management review process goes smoothly.

The management review inputs may vary from standard to standard; however, there are some key characteristics that all management reviews should have to ensure its success. These are:

Top management is involved. In order for this process to have the expected outputs, top management needs to attend; they are the ones that decide where the resources – people, time and money- will be placed to improve the management system.

All the required inputs are presented in a simple and clear manner. Every standard is specific about the review’s inputs. This information can sometimes be extensive, therefore, it’s fundamental that it’s presented in an easy to follow way and that it gives an overview of the systems current status, its weaknesses and possible areas for improvement. Here are some examples of the information that needs to be highlighted:

  • Internal and external audit results. Number of audit findings. Their current status. Are audit findings increasing or decreasing compared with the year before?
  • Corrective and preventive actions. Current status of corrective/preventive actions. Are resources available to effectively close them? Possible trends (are there fewer corrective and preventive actions compared to previous years?)
  • Legal compliance. Is the organization complying with all applicable requirements?
  • Process performance. Are targets/objectives being reached and maintained?
  • Communications and complaints. Has positive or negative feedback been received from interested parties?
  • Upcoming changes. Are there any changes that can affect the effectiveness of the system (staff changes, new projects or standards, efficiency improvements, etc.)? What actions/decisions need to be taken?

Outputs are recorded. It is essential to record, as a minimum, the date of the review, participants in the review, decisions taken, deficiencies found in the system and recommendations for improvement or corrective actions. The actions and recommendations to be taken should stipulate deadlines, resources needed and the individuals responsible for the actions.

Management review outputs are monitored. The results of this review should be monitored over time, and if problems persist, more frequent reviews should be scheduled.

Management review is held frequently enough. This review is required at least once a year. It is recommended that during the first two years of the management system, this review is held more frequently (twice a year), and after the system has “matured” it can be performed once a year. However, if it’s considered necessary, a specific topic (audit findings, corrective actions, process performance, etc.) can be reviewed on a more frequent basis.

Broadly speaking, a successful management review process provides top management and everyone responsible for the effectiveness of the management system, a diagnosis of the system’s current situation so deficiencies can be identified, changes and/or actions can be established to correct these deficiencies and recommendations for improvement can be made.