How to Prepare for an External ISO Audit

a white lightbox with the words external audit in black letters

ISO audits can be very stressful.

After all, your management system and all the hard work that goes into it will be under scrutiny by an independent body, and no one wants to let the team down. It’s only natural for nerves to be jangling. 

In a perfect world, all your files and documents are up to date. Training has been completed in line with your training plan. And your suppliers have provided you with copies of their certificates without you needing to chase them.

Additionally, your internal audits have been conducted on time. Any findings have been actioned and closed, rather than pushed back another month, thanks to the marketing department desperately needing some information, or the sales team deciding to bring a product launch forward a month.

But, time has a nasty habit of catching up. And before you know it, it’s audit time again!

Try these Useful Tips to Take the Stress Out of Your ISO Audits

A few months before your ISO audit:

  1. Check the calendar – Make sure dates for ISO audits don’t coincide with any company events or holidays of key personnel.
  2. Put the audit date into their diaries and also provide them with a copy of the audit schedule whenever possible.
  3. Assign tasks to key team members – Ensure they review their documentation and records in preparation for the big day.
  4. Co-ordinate your processes – If your processes start early in the day, and maybe finish early, request an earlier start time so the auditor can see your processes in operation.
  5. Conduct an internal audit if none or only a few have been completed.
  6. Address any issues – Review customer complaints and corrective actions.  An auditor will have a more favourable opinion where errors have been demonstrably identified, addressed, and actions put in place to ensure gaps don’t re-open.
  7. Know where your paperwork is – Make sure you know where your documentation is, to avoid a situation where you are unable to find information within your own system. After all, how can an auditor have confidence in the effectiveness of your system, if those responsible for it don’t know where to find the evidence? You don’t need to remember absolutely everything. But give yourself a fighting chance by having a good index document or making yourself a cheat sheet.
a calendar page with a hand circling the 18th in pink felt tip pen

A week or two before your ISO audit:

  1. Make sure you’ve cleared your commitments for the day – ISO audits can often go on past normal ‘home time’. So, make sure none of the relevant personnel have the added stress of the school run.
  2. Arrange for a meeting room or an adequate space to conduct the audit – Have a desk, a power source (with a PAT tested extension lead) and the Guest WiFi password (if your company policy permits this) ready.  In addition, why not arrange for lunch to be delivered? It’s not a requirement by any means. But it provides everyone with a welcome break halfway through the day.
  3. Ensure senior management are available for at least the opening and closing meetings.
  4. Brief the team about the upcoming audit – Let them know what to expect and what they need to do if the auditor asks them a question.
  5. Ensure you have the access keys for any areas that will be inspected as part of the audit. And check there isn’t a fire drill scheduled for the day. It can look highly suspicious if an hour of the day is spent outside at the muster point!

The day before your ISO audit:

  1. Gather together the necessary documentation the auditor needs to see.
  2. Sweep the premises for any housekeeping requirements – Make sure work environments are clean, tidy and safe. And make sure desks are clear and confidential information is safely stored away, especially if you’ve got a ‘Clean Desk Policy’.
  3. Reassure staff about the audit. Explain the auditor isn’t there to pick holes or trip them up.

And finally, try to relax.  Remember, the auditor is doing the job your company has asked them to do. So, build a rapport with them. It makes the whole experience much more congenial for all parties involved.

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