Protect Your Investments: Strategic Advice for Internal Quality Audits

Dr. Inderjit Arora
President & CEO of Quality Management International, Inc.

If you think completing an audit is just another box to check off for compliance: think again. Conducting an internal quality audit is a business investment that shouldn’t go to waste. If you’re not maximizing all of your business investments, you’re leaving money on the table.

In our webinar, Proactive Internal Auditing: The Key to Improving Your Quality System, Dr. Inderjit Arora, president and CEO of Quality Management International, Inc. (QMII), sets a strategic agenda for learning how to conduct internal quality audits that add value so manufacturers can make important business improvements.

How to Extract Value From Nonconformities?

Many businesses try to hide nonconformities because they’re worried that they’ll fail their audit, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. internal quality audits aren’t pass or fail, and identified nonconformities must be understood as the ingredients to an efficient production recipe that you’re continually perfecting. 

Nonconformities are opportunities

Identifying nonconformities drives corrective actions that ensure continual improvements. Without an honest assessment of nonconformities, businesses leave themselves open to risks. If you lack data that gives you an accurate perspective of your plant, then you can mislead overall production. Properly identifying nonconformities provides valuable data that companies can use to bolster their products and services for customers.

The only bad nonconformity is the one you do not know about.

Dr. Arora / QMII

A properly reported nonconformity is described by three primary components:

The Anatomy of a Nonconformity

  • Requirement: The requirement that the nonconformity is failing to fulfill

  • Evidence: Clear objective evidence showing the requirement is not met

  • Conclusion: Analysis of how and why the failure occurred

By properly writing and recording nonconformities, companies give themselves the opportunities to analyze the cause and apply corrections and corrective actions to make potentially lucrative improvements to products and processes.

Avoid Cookie Cutter Traps.

Having a system for a repetitive process is a good time-saver, in theory. But when it comes to internal quality audits, it’s best not to cut corners. Here are two critical areas where it pays to slow down.

Chuck canned checklists in the waste bin where they belong.

Much like canned food in the kitchen, canned checklists are a recipe for disaster. This is because they fail to take into consideration each unique situation. For example, ISO 9001 requires audits to be designed based on previous results, which would be impossible to fulfill using the same, rigid checklist as the year prior.

But how do you avoid canned checklists when you need to ensure you complete a list of requirements? By designing your own internal audit checklist --- every time. Here’s a helpful sample internal audit checklist you can use to create your own.

Digital Solution? Yes. Point Solution? No.

Similarly, a common mistake that manufacturers make when comparing software products is trying to find a one-size-fits-all point solution. 

When performing an internal quality audit, most companies incorporate software that can digitize paperwork and keep data organized and easily sharable between departments and leadership. While your software should be flexible to support evolving needs and requirements, it’s critical to study your company’s unique nonconformances and clearly define software requirements based on trends in your business, ISOs, and specific plant standards.

Overall, the right software solution will:

  • Make it easy to collect, organize, and store data 

  • Compile historical data to identify and compare trends

  • Strengthen your ability to create reports and follow-up quickly

  • Enable seamless interdepartmental collaboration and data sharing

TL;DR? SafetyChain Has You Covered.

Audits are complicated. That’s why it’s so important that everyone involved in the audit needs to understand what the audit process is looking for: it’s a big job that needs to be a team effort. After adequate training, quality and operations managers should collaborate with their plant managers to get the most out of the company’s investment.

There are four key factors to keep in mind to craft an internal quality audit:

  1. Don’t audit clauses; audit processes.

  2. Beware of fixed internal audit checklists.

  3. Avoid confirmation biases and prejudice.

  4. Write nonconformities clearly and specifically.

This is an oversimplification and there are many nuances to consider. Access the webinar for a complete education on how to get the most out of your next internal quality audit.

About the author: Dr. Inderjit Arora, president and CEO of QMII, serves as a team leader for consulting, advising, auditing, and training in management systems, specializing in several ISO and industry-specific standards. He is an Exemplar Global-certified lead auditor and a member of the US TAG to ISO/TC 176, the committee responsible for the ISO 9000 family of standards. Dr. Arora is a popular speaker at several universities and forums on management systems, conflict management, crisis communication, and leadership.