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My Audit Observations

Yesterday I was part of a small audit team, in fact just myself and the Lead Auditor, who went to a potential subcontractor to perform an audit as part of our contractual requirements to our Client. Our scope was to audit the QMS for its compliance to ISO 9001:2008 standard and also to determine the organisations preparedness to complete a SOW to the required specs and within the agreed schedule and budget. A couple of days earlier, our technical team had spent two days on site to evaluate the organisations technical ability and their findings will eventually be incorporated into the final audit report, all fairly straightforward thus far.

We met with the Auditees QA/QC Manager and the Project Manager who would be responsible for any SOW awarded and these two gentlemen would be our hosts and information providers throughout the day, calling on additional support as and when required. We held the standard opening meeting and laid the foundations for a full day ahead. The aim of this article is not to go into detail about the audit findings but more to open up on a couple of observations I made during the audit which further confirms my theories on two areas I have discussed in previous LinkedIn published articles.

One of the first things I noticed was how stretched the ‘Q’ department of the organisation was. The QA/QC Manager was very open, honest and approachable but it was crystal clear that he was ‘fighting fires’ and moving from one area of focus to the next without sufficient time (or support) to complete any given task. As an example, he was busy compiling the PQP (which is already behind schedule for submission) for our potential SOW, whilst simultaneously developing the ITP, hosting the transition audit, hosting our audit, managing and allocating QC resources on and off site, dealing with internal NCRs, internal audit schedule and, well, the list goes on and on! ISO 9001:2015 clause 7.1.2 states “The organisation shall determine and provide the persons necessary for the effective implementation of its quality management system and for the operation and control of its processes” but whilst we were not auditing against the 2015 standard, it is important to remember that the organisation has just completed a transition audit. In my opinion, this organisation cannot yet demonstrate it has fulfilled this clause but perhaps during the transition the organisation has realised it requires additional resources and will take action accordingly. As I was speaking to the QA/QC Manager it was the usual tale of “well I’ve asked for additional support but you know, budget, industry downturn etc. etc.”. I have my own thoughts on the ever present ‘industry downturn’ statement but I’ll leave that for another day. To further support my observation, once we scratched the surface of a very good base QMS it soon became clear that the attention to detail was not there. Again, I won’t go into the findings but, as they say, the devil is in the detail. I do hope the QA/QC Manager gets the support he requires at this busy fabrication facility, he is certainly doing his best to manage a heavy workload and an enormous amount of responsibility.

Now the second thing I noticed was that during review of their NCR register, and a couple of their recent internal NCRs, there was a theme to their RCA findings. The organisations people seem to suffer from a great deal of ‘minor oversight by operator’. The LA and I spent quite some time explaining why this approach to RCA was a) not good practice in the first place and b) was not actually helping to resolve the problems and improve the processes. This links back to my first observation that there appears to be insufficient resources within this organisations Q team. A simple exercise using the ‘5 WHYS’ tool is an effective way to conduct an RCA (it’s actually my favourite) and usually leads to some solid findings which, in turn, will allow the organisation to make changes to processes and procedures which will enhance and improve their QMS.

Sadly it’s another tale from my world of Q where organisations appear to make the right noises but then fail to take the right actions. My journey as a Q professional will continue – “onto the next one” as they say. I will certainly do my part to keep preaching the good message and assisting others to understand the benefits of not only having a good Q system but also utilising it to its full potential.

On another note, I hope my connections across Europe are keeping warm amidst the ‘Beast from the East’. We had some rain here in Abu Dhabi on Friday and the temperature dropped to a mercury freezing 21 degrees (brrrrrrrrrrr) it was total CHAOS!!

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