A Question of Competence

Jack West’s article “Output Really Matters” (October, p. 60) moves the debate on the challenges currently confronting ISO 9001 based conformity assessment one step closer to the key issue—the competence and performance of the management system auditor.

Through Jack’s analysis and commentary on what constitutes an effective audit program, one consideration (in addition to the effective tasking of the auditor by the certification body) is the fact that the auditor’s competency profile is continually changing to meet the industry’s demand for increased value.

The majority of auditors in the marketplace are deemed competent through a process that evaluates their training and education, experience, number of audit days, provision of an audit log and evidence of continuing development.

All of those are poor measurements of competence—the auditor’s ability to perform a range of definitive tasks, under specific conditions, to a measurable standard of performance. This does not mean today’s auditor is incompetent; it simply means we have no benchmark on which we can uniformly and objectively assess an auditor’s performance.

ISO 19011 has been the normative reference underpinning the qualification based approach to determining competence. The document (and inherent poorly defined statements on the auditor’s competency profile) has not been updated or subject to any form of serious review for the past six years.

ISO 17021, part 2, moves to address this issue, though it falls short on the key requirement—the need for a comprehensive review and job analysis based on today’s (and tomorrow’s) expectation of auditing performance. Those measures include the auditor’s knowledge, skill and personal attributes, as well as conditions and performance standards.

As an industry, failing to address this challenge reflects poorly on our ability to improve the auditing practice. An alignment of the auditor’s competence and performance profile within industry’s expectations is fundamental to the value and relevance of third-party conformity assessment, as well as the market’s confidence and assurance in conforming product and service.

From the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Council Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO) down to the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the accreditation and certification communities, the value and relevance of third-party assessment stands or falls on the performance of the auditor. This is where the rubber hits the road!

RABQSA International
Milwaukee, WI

On Closer Inspection

I just received the October issue of Quality Progress and read the Up Front column (“Inspections Aren’t the Answer,” p. 6), and I am greatly disappointed. We need more inspection because of the lack of inspection that has been performed in the last 10 years. This lack of inspection has caused many recalls, sickness and even people dying. In 2000, when ASQ, its chairperson, president and board of directors embraced Six Sigma as the “new standard,” it opened the floodgates for the reduction of inspection and inspectors.

It is my opinion that ASQ was a quality organization that supported quality products and services. It supported inspections performed by individuals who dedicated a lifetime to the principles of quality. However, those inspectors and quality principles have been sacrificed on the altar of the green goddess—money.

It is the inspector in the manufacturing areas who stopped the bad products from being shipped and helped improve the process so fewer rejects and less scrap were produced. It was the inspectors working in the labs gathering data who maintained and improved the process. Quality was not maintained by those sitting in the offices writing new standards and procedures, and those would who not belittle themselves by going into the areas where the manufacturing work was being done.

Quality is a process of getting your hands dirty by going where the work is done. This is what the inspector does better than all other quality professionals. We need to quit writing new standards and go back to what worked—sound inspection programs.

I will agree that “good” cannot be inspected into a product, but inspections can stop the bad. Would a sound inspection process by a capable inspector stop bad toys that are making our children sick? Could good inspection processes stop a bridge from falling? How many military personnel have been injured or killed because of poor or no inspection of their equipment? How many people need to become ill or die before proper inspections are done? How many babies need to die because of faulty cribs before we wake up? Have we forgotten that quality and safety walk the same path?

As I sit here writing this, there is a picture of my grandsons on my desk, and I cannot help but think of the tons of deadly consumable products that are on the market that can harm them. I struggle with the fact that ASQ—the greatest quality organization in existence—is selling its soul to the green goddess along with our future and our families’ lives. Please do not misunderstand, I believe in the foundation of what ASQ was built on, and I believe in quality. We just need to get back to it.

Aggressive Equipment
Rock Hill, SC

Standard Response To Food Safety

This food safety recipe (“A Recipe for Safe Food: ISO 22000 and HACCP,” October, p. 21) is a “tuna fish.” ISO 22000 specifies use of HACCP. So why say ISO 22000 and HACCP?

We have a list of the additional processes and controls specified in ISO 22000 beyond those specified by ISO 9001.

If the readers would like to download this list to ease their transition from ISO 9001 conformity, they can visit www.aworldofquality.com/food.

Quality Management International Inc.
Exton, PA

Author’s Response

John Broomfield’s point is well taken. Working group (WG) 8 to technical committee 34 (the WG that wrote ISO 22000) never intended for ISO 22000 to replace the international HACCP standard published by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The WG wrote the requirements for a state of the art definition of a food safety management system. HACCP is a term used in the U.S. food processing industry. Thus, it was included in the title.

In addition, WG 8 never intended that a food processor make a transition from ISO 9001 to ISO 22000. Instead, the WG intended that the food processor use ISO 9001 to describe the requirements for a quality management system and ISO 22000 to describe the requirements for a food safety management system. Both standards do share common elements.

In addition to the web link provided by Broomfield, readers might want to check the following web link: http://foodsqm.wordpress.com/2007/11/02/comparison-of-iso-9001-and-iso-22000. This provides a link to an extensive table describing the differences between the two standards.


Pet Food Crisis Recalled

Very good article, but there was one minor error. The pet food recall began March 16, not May. Being in the pet food industry, I remember it well!

Wellness Pet Foods
Chelmsford, MA

Following Instruction

I enjoyed reading Ronnie Foster’s article (“Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due,” October, p. 53) about how a quality professional can contribute to improving college business courses. One of the questions it raised is when is Foster going to take on instructing a business finance course? Providing an understanding of the cost of the quality approach and how it relates to financial statements could be useful and valuable learning. I would like to congratulate Foster on inspiring us ASQ members in getting ready for retirement.

One suggestion for Foster is to have a look at a classic video “Doing it Right the First Time.” This should be available from PQ Systems in Dayton, OH. It might be a good instructional instrument that will create discussion and be useful during the learning process.

Center for Training and Development
Calgary, Alberta

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