Simplify audit, inspections and non conformance management
audit piece of cake

What if the audit was a piece of cake?

Practices and advice to streamline and speed up non-compliance control operations, audits, inspections and tests

Are audits and inspections a quiet path? Surly not! But it is possible to reduce it to a flat, marked and productive course, without turning into an infinite, exhausting and expensive marathon. There are solutions and protocols that make the internal and external inspection process less onerous.

First of all, starting from the basics and defining what is meant by audit processes and how many and which business areas they concern.

What is an audit and which departments affect

Audit is an analysis of particular business operations that generates a report of the results and verifies compliance to predefined standards. Commercial, manufacturing or distributive activities, and many others, can be scrutinized in relation to established terms. These protocols are settled by governmental or regulatory agencies or by the corporation itself, in the latter case, they are defined as internal audits.

However, the most dread are external inspections which are driven by independent auditors and are not discretionary like internal ones. These kinds of audits aim to ensure that a company’s procedures are complete, accurate and comply with legal or certification standards.

So we can assume that the principles of inspection and control of non-compliance apply to all company stakeholders, from board to consumer.

The 5 phases of the audit process

The inspection and control activity is normally divided into the following 5 steps:

  • Criteria
  • Condition
  • Cause
  • Consequence
  • Corrective action

How to be prepared

Here are a series of behaviors that can facilitate, streamline and speed up inspections tasks:

Define and Record

A process is a series of activities combined to achieve a result. Every business operation can be reduced to a flow, for example by using a simple fishbone diagram. This first step is useful to define all procedures and constitutes a fundamental resource for identifying which ones need continuous inspection or observation.

The audit is also considered a process, consisting of a series of steps adopted to analyze particular company procedures; if you learn to monitor the actions involved in inspection activities in advance, you will always be ready to receive auditors.

Remember that companies with defined and documented procedures have a 280% higher success rate than those that do not adopt this approach, a stat that perfectly expresses the many advantages offered by the study and monitoring of company activities.

Schedule a kick-off meeting

Once you have defined information such as the company organization chart, process flows and who is responsible for each activity, it is time to share information such as the functioning, duration and objectives of the audit to all company stakeholders.

It is very important to share information, because the group is able to monitor the same object more effectively and under different aspects. Furthermore, sharing increases the sense of belonging and therefore the proactivity and efficiency of human resources.

Prevent with continuous monitoring

The best way not to be stunned is to never stop observing. Obviously, no one can continuously examine every phase of business operations, although examples in the analog world are not lacking and are the basis of today’s tools.

These days, the use of customized digital solutions such as management software makes it possible to control all events in real time, store and analyze data in order to provide historical reports and even forecasts of possible future problems.

If you still haven’t equipped yourself with a process control digital tool, think about it, or get ready to invest in resources that can observe the flow for as long as possible, always considering a margin of error.

Stay updated on progress

The kick-off meeting is not the only important one, planning periodic meetings to check the progress of the work is equally, if not more relevant.
It’s the perfect opportunity to know how many and which goals have been achieved and which ones need further or new attention.

Use graphs and charts

Many free spreadsheet programs can also generate graphs from grids of data. The use of graphs and diagrams facilitates the understanding and analysis of the results and is able to summarize the information in an intelligible way for everyone.

Periodically check the risks of non-compliance

Recurrent checks should be scheduled with criteria, in order to anticipate inspections and prevent any potential problems or non-compliance issues.

Identifying the managers of each area and acquiring audit management software would also make this type of activity quick and easy, allowing automatic scheduling and attribution of periodic inspections.

Organize your files

Whether your business is analog or digital, order is the basic rule.
If you’re a paper addict, make sure you have space to keep all your business documents and information organized and cataloged. It’s quite a volume so don’t underestimate the size.

If you’re ready for the digital revolution, feel free to use the archive to make a nice relaxation room for your employees and put everything in the cloud or on your servers, but always in order!

Follow established document flow protocol

Generally, external auditors have preferred formats in which to receive the documentation they request. Try to respect them, if the auditor asks you for an Excel file, avoid showing up with ten boxes of paper or a USB stick full of files in other formats. Familiarity with the format will help make the audit tasks quicker and easier and therefore save time and money.

Familiarity with the format will help make the audit tasks quicker and easier and therefore save time and money.

Share results at all levels

The outcome of the sessions must always be disclosed to all company resources and stakeholders, even and above all in cases where the results have not been as expected.
Responsibility towards achieving a goal vanishes if we don’t communicate the result of that effort. Communicating, analog or digital, remains essential for the success of a company of any sector and size.

We hope that these tips will help you speed up and streamline your processes, inspections and tests.

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