In Case of Emergency

Prioritize your inquiries when an audit doesn’t go as planned

by Cristobal A. Parra

Time management is one of the main challenges any auditor faces during an audit. When time is limited, knowing what questions to ask and evidence to seek is crucial for an effective and efficient audit. Careful planning and preparation will ensure the audit schedule is completed in a timely manner.

Traditionally, the average time allocated to audit a quality management system process is about one to two hours, depending on various factors such as audit days, number of shifts of the operation, audit team size and type of audit.

Most third-party audits are controlled, and the audit time spent on site must meet certain minimum requirements. Things may not always go as planned, however, resulting in possible changes to the audit’s focus and more time spent on one process compared with others.

Changing circumstances may include the need to review a particular process not included in the original plan, such as auditing the infrastructure maintenance process if an emergency situation—for example, a power outage—occurs during the visit.

Whatever the reason, the better prepared an auditor is for these situations, the more likely the audit will go well. A list of questions and statements used to gather information, which can serve as an aid when preparing for unexpected situations, can be found in Table 1.

Anticipating such situations should be part of every auditor’s preparation process. Because although auditors may not always control what will happen during an audit, they can control what questions to ask and what evidence to seek.

Table 1

Cristobal A. Parra is the president of Global Quality Processes Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He is a quality, environmental, safety and network consultant and auditor who conducts third-party audits for NSF International, Cisco and DQS. He earned a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Ottawa. Parra is a member of ASQ.

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