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Suneel Kumar


Auditing Your QMS During Pandemic Times

A defense R&D organization runs the remote-audit gauntlet

Published: Wednesday, November 4, 2020 - 13:03

Remote auditing (RA) has become a norm during the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote auditing is one of the audit methods prescribed in ISO 19011:2018—“Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems.” Although RA has surged due to pandemic constraints, this method of operation will surely gain ground as a routine audit technique.

During a remote audit, auditors engage with a company via technology to assess its QMS as per ISO 9001:2015. The audit covers the usual steps, including a documented information review, interviews, and presentation of the findings, by using various information and communications technology (ICT) platforms.

Remote audits can be divided into:
• Fully off-site remote audit
• Partial off-site remote audit
• Onsite remote audit

In the case of a fully off-site remote audit, the assessment audit is carried out completely away from the site. Partial off-site audits are conducted through a combination of remote and onsite checks to verify compliance. For onsite remote audits, the audit is carried out at the site but through synchronous ICT platforms.

In its general recommendations for remote auditing the ISO/IAF document “ISO 9001 Auditing Practices Group: Guidance on Remote Audits” has sections for each of the remote audit’s program, planning, realization, and conclusion.

Onsite remote surveillance audit

An onsite remote audit at our facility was chosen for a surveillance audit during Covid-19 by the certification body (CB). Being a defense establishment, confidentiality, security, and data protection were of prime concern for our organization; hence, the onsite RA was considered.

The operational setup for the onsite remote audit established a main auditor station with appropriate ICT, including a computer, camera, and a virtual conference application. Other stations were created for the auditees to link with the CB auditors over the ICT platform. Another station was created as a control center from which the QMS coordinator oversaw the activities virtually. The setup is depicted in the figure 2 below.

An operational validation for the RA setup was carried out through a mock audit drill among the QMS coordinators, organizational lead auditors, and auditees on the synchronous virtual platform through the local area network.

This rehearsal revealed challenges related to the ICT platform, including training and awareness sharing critical documented information, and bandwidth issues. These challenges were identified and confirmed before the actual audit.

The bulk of the clauses were audited through the remote process, starting with a virtual opening meeting. The desktop review, virtual live meetings and interviews, audit trails, previous audit results, and internal compliances were also part of the virtual audit process. The interviews included appropriately sampled representatives of management and departmental members. The audit closure and presentation of findings were also conducted virtually. Finally, the CB issued a positive certificate with no nonconformities identified.

The overall schedule that was followed is shown in table 1 below:

Concluding remarks

The remote/virtual audit proved to be a boon for our organization. It was an effective audit, keeping the Covid-19 safety norms intact by ensuring social distancing and no personal contact, but still allowed relevant information for the audit process to be shared.

The RA method reduced audit costs and proved to be time effective. Looking at these advantages, our establishment is definitely considering remote audits as a viable option in the future.

1. ISO 19011:2018–“Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems”
2. IAF ISO 9001—“Auditing Practices Group Guidance on: Remote Audits”
3. IAF ID 12:2015—“Principles on Remote Assessment”


About The Author

Suneel Kumar’s picture

Suneel Kumar

Suneel Kumar is working in the area inspection, Quality and Metrology for Aero Engine development at GTRE, Bangalore. He has more than 16 years of experience in these fields. He is ASQ certified CQE, IRCA Certified QMS Lead Auditor, CMM certified, ASNT NDT Level II (MT, PT, UT, RT). He has presented various technical papers in conferences conducted by Metrology society of India (MSI), Indian Society for Non-Destructive Testing (ISNT) and Coordinate Metrology Society (CMS) etc.