What Is an Audit?
An audit is a systematic, documented process designed to check compliance with criteria and guidelines. An audit is a comprehensive investigation and takes place as part of quality management. This measure is carried out in the form of a discussion with an inspector. During an audit, the target – and the current state is compared.
Audits are accomplished by a particularly trained inspector. They determine, among other things, whether an enterprise could reach provided goals. It is not the company itself that is audited, but the company’s system to achieve the company’s goals.
An audit generally aims to identify a need for improvement for processes and systems and to initiate appropriate measures. The inspector examines the company with their neutral eye and determines where hidden potential sits in the management system.
Three Primary Audit Situations
In quality management, a distinction is made between external and internal audits. The 1st party audit counts as an internal audit, and the 2nd party and 3rd party audits make up the external audits. Employees from outside the company carry out external audits. These can be, for example, employees of a certification company or a customer.
What Is an Internal Audit? (1st Party)
This audit is performed in-house. In this case, the inspector is an employee of the company. Here, non-conformities or gaps and needs for action within the company are uncovered. An internal audit’s main objective is to continuously improve the quality of processes, products, or services within an organization.
What Is a Supplier Audit (2nd Party)
Supplier auditing is a comprehensive review to select and evaluate new or existing suppliers. Two parties are involved in the supplier audit. A commercial customer conducts a comprehensive audit of a supplier or service provider. The customer or client decides on the composition of the audit team.
What Is a Certification Audit (3rd party)
A certification audit according to the standard: DIN EN ISO 9001 is an international standard for the verification of quality management systems. The certification company, which is an independent third party, determines the inspector. Successful audit procedures lead to the official certification of the company.
Process of an Audit Cycle
Audits proceed according to regulated procedures. Consequently, the four steps of a typical audit process are shown:
- Preparation of a plan for the audit examination and preparation for the examination.
- The auditor conducts the audit according to plan and documents all findings.
- Based on the report, all measures are derived and defined.
- The follow-up of the audit includes the implementation of the measures and the success control.
Types of audits
Audits are used in a wide variety of areas. The different types of audits differ according to the subject of the audit to be examined. For example, there are the following management systems in which audits play a central role. In the following three examples, the audit principles are the same; they vary only in the audit subject and results.
- System audit (e.g., quality management system)
- Process audit (e.g. Selected processes and procedures)
- Product audit (e.g. Selected products and its manufacture)
In these three cases, error causes can and should be found to discover the potential for improvement. This allows overriding to work on continuous improvement.