A message from our President: Throughout my career I have done many internal audits and taught many internal audit workshops to just about all FS and ISO standards. I always stress that internal audits should not be performed without a representative (i.e., guide) from the area accompanying the auditor. I get so much push back even to the point that a couple of quality managers justified it by stating that they understood the importance but did not budget for it. My response is always that it takes a larger amount from any budget to not have a guide with the auditor. The result is a much more effective internal audit if the representative or guide sees what the auditor sees. There may even be a legitimate explanation without which would end up as a finding.
Internal audits must be effective. It is much more effective if weaknesses can be identified and addressed internally rather than waiting for a third party or registrar to find a situation. In my book Food Safety Management Programs: Applications, Best Practices, and Compliance, amid other useful topics, I not only recommend having a representative/guide, but give 3 actual examples that I have experienced.
One of the most important aspects of an internal audit is for the person responsible for the area being audited (i.e., manager, supervisor, etc.) to accompany the auditor or assign a guide to be with the auditor throughout the entire audit. This person should be able to answer or lead the auditor to the correct place, procedure, or person for the answer. Nothing should be left to interpretation. Maintaining an effective audit program can be a huge undertaking depending on the needs of your business.
Check out one of the examples from my book: Food Safety Management Programs: Applications, Best Practices, and Compliance:
The audit team is auditing the receiving area. The scope of this audit is to review the incoming inspection process to confirm of all required evaluations are being completed. The auditee demonstrated positive knowledge of the required activities, including being able to access the document control software for the most current version of the specifications and requirements for acceptance. The auditor asked the associate if he used any calibrated equipment. He stated that his company did have a calibrated thermometer. The auditor asked the status of this calibration and the auditee stated she did not know but thought that the quality department checked it once a week. The auditor also asked how she was trained and if there were records maintained on the training. The auditee stated that she learned from the previous person and that she did not know of any records.
The auditor is accompanied by an area representative (guide): The guide stated that the quality department did perform the calibration process and recommended that they go there to find the record of this thermometer. The guide noted that they would need to review the calibration Standard Operating Procedure to confirm that defined requirements for identification of the calibration status were met. The guide also confirmed that records of training were kept in the supervisor’s office, leading the auditor there to confirm this, prior to visiting the quality lab to complete the calibration trail. The auditor was able to review all the related information to identify findings and observations. Results were documented and reported at the closing meeting. The audit was completed on time.
The auditor is not accompanied by an area representative (guide): The auditor was unaware of the required trail to follow, so she completed the audit writing nonconformances for calibration (one for the thermometer not being calibrated and one for not having the status clearly identified) and training (one for lack of training related to calibration and one for no training records confirming that the operator had been trained). The auditor presented these findings to the department manager who was quick to argue each finding. He stated that these were worthless and did not add any value because he was sure that they had all the required information. The auditor just didn’t know where to look or whom to ask.
(Taken from Food Safety Management Programs: Applications, Best Practices, and Compliance pg. 75-76 under the section “Audit Guides”)
For more examples and further information on how to conduct effective internal audits, please consult the above referenced book which contains other helpful sections on effective internal audits including, but not limited to, “Audit Frequency”, “Performing On-Time Audits”, and “Audit Checklist”.
Note: The above reference book contains a wealth of information on such topics as, “Management Responsibility”, “Corrective Action/Preventive Action (CAPA): Continuous Improvement”, “Document Control”, “Prerequisite Programs (PRPs)”, “Calibration”, HACCP, common audit findings and advice on getting started with a structured management system. We also include some great quotes from professionals throughout many industries sharing some of their experiences and “what they wished they had done in the beginning”. This content is based on years of experience as both an auditor and a consultant. Food Safety Management: Applications, Best Practices, and Compliance comes in paperback or hardcover.
I would also like to remind everyone of our upcoming Food Safety Course: