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There are a lot of great reasons to undergo an ISO audit – not least of which the ability to make sales to clients who specify that suppliers must be ISO certified. You probably already know that the audit will be good for your business, but you’re not too sure what, exactly, you’re letting yourself in for. And we’re here to help, with a guide on everything you’ll need to know about the process!
Why an ISO Audit Helps Take Your Business to The Next Level
Apart from being able to meet the needs of customers who require you to have passed your ISO audit, certification gives you a strong marketing advantage. It says: “Everything we say about our products’ quality is true and has been independently verified.” That’s powerful stuff right there!
There are knock-on benefits too. Your employees will feel proud of ISO certification, and they’ll be eager to keep up the good work. Your sales force will have greater confidence in the products they’re selling too. Remember, if you can “sell” to your sales team, they’ll be passionate about promoting your products to clients.
But there’s more. Preparing for your ISO audit will help you to bring about greater consistency in operations. And it will motivate managers and employees to identify and attend to priorities that influence quality. In the process, you’ll reduce and even eliminate waste. After all, with greater consistency, there’s less chance of ending up with goods you have to trash because they’re not up to standard.
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Anyway ... sorry for the interruption! Let's resume the rest of the article.
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ISO Audit Basics: What is It?
So far, so good, but just what is an ISO audit, you might ask. Simply put, an ISO audit is a 3rd party examination that is intended to check on whether business activities and final products are what you say they are, and whether what you’re doing actually achieves the objectives you’re aiming for.
There are three types of ISO audit, and only one of them leads to certification…
You can carry out a first party audit in which your (trained) employees or a consultancy firm go through your business processes. Obviously, this isn’t the same as certification, but if you don’t have ISO certification yet, it’s a good place to start. This is pretty much self-audit – ensuring that from an objective, 3rd party view, the company is qualified for an ISO audit.
A second-party audit looks at your suppliers. Again, you would either use qualified staff or a consulting firm. And as before, it’s only another step on the road to certification. In most cases, you’d want this combined with a first-party audit, so that you’ll know for sure whether you’re ready for an ISO certification or not.
The third-party audit is the one that actually counts. A certification body auditor comes to check out your business, and if it passes muster, you finally get the coveted ISO certification you’ve been working towards.
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Anyway ... we'll continue from where we left off above.
How to Prepare For Your ISO Audit
No matter how efficient you think your business is and how sure you are that your company delivers on its promises, preparing for your ISO audit presents a golden opportunity for improvement. And since you don’t get what you don’t measure, having an internal ISO audit system with regular reviews will help you to keep tabs on your performance.
Getting these systems into place long before the third-party audit ensures that your staff is ready and able to face external auditing. After all, for your employees, the audit will just mean that they should do business as they usually do. To ensure that you really are getting what you think you’re getting in terms of ISO-compliance, you will carry out internal auditing. Ensure that your staff knows just how important this is and how seriously they must take it.
In most cases, business managers will find inconsistencies during the internal audit, and the next step is to implement corrective action. This is a process in itself, and once it has been completed, you will need a follow-up process to ensure that the corrective action really did address the problem it was meant to solve.
Whether or not processes or regulations have changed, annual management reviews will help you to determine whether the business has achieved satisfactory results. It also gives you an opportunity for continuous improvement.
A management review should result in a fresh action plan that will resolve any issues your management team identified. Schedule it with your next ISO audit in mind. By the time third-party auditors get to work, you’re already quite certain that the certification is a shoe-in.
Your ISO Checklist
Preparing for an ISO audit means that you’ll have to re-examine each and every one of your business processes. Without the right software or methodology, this can be a bit complicated. Going through all of your processes, after all, is no easy task.
Workflow management software can help make the process audit significantly easier, as it allows you to map your processes & analyze them from a top-down view. And as an added bonus, it also provides analytics and suggestions on improving the processes, a benefit that’ll last far longer than the ISO audit. So, why don’t you give it a try for free?