Audits: An Effective and Practical Management Tool

Article

Sawyer, John E.   (1997, ASQC)   OEC Medical Systems Inc.

Quality Audit Conference, February 27-28, 1997, Los Angeles, CA    Vol. 6    No. 0
QICID: 11034    February 1997    pp. 305-313
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Article Abstract

Author's abstract:
When you're not feeling well, you usually have a checkup. One of the first things the medical professional does is take your pulse. What about an organization? How does it have a checkup to ensure the Quality System is adequate and effective? One of the best, most effective methods is the quality audit.

Of all the continuous improvement tools available fo ruse, the quality audit is by far the best way to take an organization's pulse. Firms believe the quality audit to be a regulatory requirement aimed at compliance versus a self-assessment aid to Executive Management. They often rely on third party audits aimed at only determining compliance with appropriate regulations and/or ISO (International Standards Organization) Guidelines. This approach is reactive and often inappropriate.

Many firms use third party audits only to satisfy a regulatory requirement rather than using the audit as a method for improvement. The primary disadvantage of third party audits is they check only your level of compliance and not the system itself. Third party auditors are not likely to be thoroughly familiar with the quality system, the way it works or the product or service produced. Also, only performing annual audits of a firms quality system maybe late to avoid serious problems that could have been easily detected and corrected earlier which now may be critical to the health of the organization. Third Party audits should be used only as a sanity check to your own audit (self-assessment) program. They should not be used as the vehicle to determine the health of your organizations quality system. Some firms are being proactive in this area like OEC Medical Systems, electing to implement a comprehensive audit (self-assessment) program to take the pulse of the organization as a whole.

This audit program not only consists of the normal system and process audits but also audits, which we at OEC, call Management Directed Audits. Executive management utilizes these audits to investigate areas of concern or interest to them. These audits can be requested by any member of Executive Management to look at or investigate what may be considered a potential problem or problem to the organization you've lost? Events resulting in problems or discrepancies happen every day. Only through effective audits can these type of problems be minimized or eliminated.At this point you may be saying to yourself, OK, I'm convinced but how do I get started? Basically, an audit program consists of four phases. These phases are: Preparation or Planning Phase, Performance or Execution Phase, Reporting Phase and the Closure Phase.

Keywords

Quality system,Quality audit


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