Re: Quality staff - independence (13485 Clause 551)
The requirement isn't for absolute independence. It's for enough independence and authority to perform the required tasks.
The rule is intended to avoid having the quality function subservient to some other function with possibly conflicting goals. If the production manager is also the quality manager, the two functions are at equal levels.
Of course it's incumbent upon that person to do both jobs with equal commitment, but I wouldn't think an auditor of a small organization would have a problem with such an arrangement.