Tuesday, 12 October 2010

ISO 9001 Audit Checklist

Understanding the ISO 9001 Audit Checklist

If an organization has recently embarked on the journey of implementing ISO 9001:2008, a generic ISO 9001 audit checklist can be very helpful in determining gaps in compliance. As the system matures however, generic audit checklists lose their effectiveness and it becomes critical for the organization to delve deeper in terms of conformance when assessing the effectiveness of operational controls and specific processes.

Why use an ISO 9001 Audit Checklist?

Internal auditors often use an ISO 9001 audit checklist to determine compliance since the ISO 9001 audit checklist covers each requirement of the standard as a question. This type of questionnaire is very useful for internal auditors, because it helps them to discover how a specific requirement is implemented. The auditor has only to check that the defined procedure meets the requirements and if the procedure is preformed correctly.

The shortcoming of this approach is that the audit often fails to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the process being audited. What happens if the process does not meet procedure? Should you change the process to be compliant with the procedure, or should you verify whether the process is effective and change the procedure? These are questions to consider in any procedure-based audit.

Instead, use the ISO 9001 audit checklist only as a guide and allow the auditor to delve freely into whatever process is deemed critical. This model will produce more meaningful findings, but, there is a risk that auditors focus on auditing processes that are familiar to their particular specialty. Furthermore, as time goes by, completing the audit checklist could become mandatory and overburdened with detail resulting in less time for in-depth auditing.

Process Auditing and Checklists

Process audits are undertaken to verify whether a process meets the planned goals and objectives and to identify opportunities for improvement. The main thing to understand when auditing a process is the actual process concept. One does not need to know or understand the details of a specific process to be able to audit it, although it does help. A good auditor should be able to audit any process without knowing anything about it by monitoring the process inputs to determine whether the desired process outputs have been achieved.

As with other ISO standards which require internal auditing, audit checklists based on the standard have minimal benefit when it comes to auditing a process. It is best to develop a specific audit questionnaire based on actual management system policies, processes and procedures. This allows a more in-depth approach that identifies not only failures in the processes but also potential failures, while also ensuring the internal auditors are much more rigorous during their enquiries.

Controlling the Audit Checklist

The basic ISO 9001 audit checklist template should be controlled but the actual audit checklist for each process is subject to change and should not be controlled.


Download a free ISO 9001 audit checklist example courtesy of ISO 9001 Checklist.

Sometimes the ISO 9001 audit checklist and auditing in general are treated as a separate agenda items which are often put back in the closet until the next internal audit or registration audit. An effective internal audit process can prevent that from happening by maintaining visibility throughout the organization. To learn more please visit ISO 9001 Checklist: