Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Using your ISO 9001 Audit Checklist

Using your ISO 9001 Audit Checklist

Whether an organization is implementing ISO 9001:2008 or just improving their quality management system, they will undoubtedly need to review and analyse their current systems and processes in order to identify gaps in compliance. Gap analysis requires that organizations review their existing processes, procedures and documentation, etc. The framework for this review technique is often provided in the format of an ISO 9001 audit checklist which many organizations and auditors consider to be an indispensable tool that actively supports the audit process.

The Advantages of the ISO 9001 Audit Checklist

Regular internal audits are carried out to ensure compliance is maintained and the ISO 9001 audit checklist comes in handy for this purpose. This is just one of many tools that are available from the auditors’ toolbox that help ensure the audit addresses the necessary requirements. It stands as a reference point before, during and after the audit process and if developed for a specific audit and used correctly will provide the following benefits:

- Ensures the audit is conducted systematically
- Promotes audit planning
- Ensures a consistent audit approach
- Actively supports the organization’s audit process
- Serves as an aide memoire
- Provides a repository for notes collected during the audit process
- Ensures uniformity in the performance of different auditors
- Provides objective evidence

Structuring the Audit Checklist

One of the simplest methods of structuring the ISO 9001 audit checklist is by taking the applicable requirements from an organization’s policies, procedures and of course, from the standard itself, and turning each requirement into a question. Be sure to include the ‘organization shall’ requirements as well.

Add a section for comments, add check boxes for compliant or non-compliant and you can even add a column to note objective evidence and to provide an audit trial. Each element of the audit process should have customized checklists to serve as documentation outputs from the audit process itself.

This type of approach is primarily utilised by external auditors, including registration and certification body auditors, but the technique can equally be applied by any organization actively seeking to enhance their audit process.

Adding Value to the Checklist

Organizations should assess the potential value that the ISO 9001 audit checklist can bring in helping their audit process to develop. It’s worth remembering that a good checklist is no substitute for an enquiring mind and a good questioning technique.

If an internal auditor uses the checklist to ask narrowly focused questions then little benefit will be derived from the audit. If, on the other hand, the auditors conduct detailed preparation of the requirements of the process they intend to cover during the audit; the checklist then becomes an invaluable output for recording and communicating that preparation work.

Using the ISO 9001 audit checklist should not restrict the scope of audit activities, since that scope may change as a result of information actually collected during the audit. The key to unlocking the checklist’s value is the willingness of the organization to use it as a guide rather than being a slave to it.


The ISO 9001 audit checklist and gap analysis tool is ideal for organizations that require a quick and affordable approach to developing a reliable framework for their internal audit process.

Download a free internal audit checklist example courtesy of ISO 9001 Checklist: