Is the competence of third party auditors improving?

Is the competence of 3rd party auditors improving?

  • Yes, auditors are getting better

    Votes: 7 25.9%
  • No, auditors are getting dumber

    Votes: 6 22.2%
  • No change in my assessment

    Votes: 13 48.1%
  • Auditor competence is an oxymoron

    Votes: 1 3.7%

  • Total voters
    27

Sidney Vianna

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#1
http://www.irca.org/inform/issue12/INform.html makes for interesting reading.

IRCA said:
Welcome to a new series of INform articles. Focusing on the practical side of auditing, this new question and answer column will test a panel of well-known certification bodies about some of the common difficulties and problems auditors face

There is much debate about improving accredited certification around the world and how the increased competence of auditors might contribute to this. Have the skills and attributes that certification bodies look for in auditors changed or increased over the past few years and, if so, how?


During last few years the need for auditors who can conduct integrated audits has considerably increased. We are mainly looking for auditors with relevant experience not only in quality, but also in environment, food safety, occupational health and safety and information security management systems. Auditors should be able to demonstrate management experience, have a strong customer focus, and be able to effectively communicate with all levels of the organisation from the receptionist to the CEO and boards of directors.

Auditors should have business acumen, understand and apply modern management techniques and tools, and be flexible in approach. It is also important that auditors can understand and accommodate different cultures. They should be able to work well within a high performing team environment, have excellent command of the English language and, where required, a second language both written and verbal. Excellent report writing skills are very important and knowledge of IT systems and computer skills are also essential.

By SAI Global Certification

Alex Ezrakhovich is general manager at SAI Global Certification Services Pty Ltd. For more information visit www.sai-global.com

There can be little doubt that the level of skills and competencies of auditors has increased dramatically over the last ten years. Gone are the days when the only qualifications needed were to have been an internal auditor with some knowledge of quality systems.

Auditors are now sought from all parts of industry and commerce, together with the need for there to be auditors to cover quality, environment, heath and safety, information security and food, never mind national and local standards and specifications.

With the coming publication of the publicly available specification 99 for integrated management systems there will now be the additional need for auditors to assess the common requirements of more than one standard at a time.

There are also other standards to be published in the near future that will place further demands on auditors’ knowledge skills and experience. At the present time the British Standards Institution (BSI) is writing a standard for business continuity management. This, coupled with standards for corporate report verification and social accountability show that the skills required from auditors today are a far cry from the heady days of auditors only having to worry about quality control.

Auditors these days need to be graduates with good business skills learnt through experience in industry and commerce. They need to be able to communicate with people from the top to the bottom of organizations as management systems standards these days are just that – used for managing organizations.

So, auditors have to be able to think and act strategically as management systems standards these days are moving in that direction, as can be seen by the latest version of ISO 9001. This is now a standard for ‘managing’ systems so those that have to audit against it should have experience of management themselves.

By BSI

John Hele is a global product manager for BSI. For more information visit www.bsi-global.com

LRQA believes enhancing the competence and skill of the auditor is fundamental to improving accredited certification globally. Today, assessment of management systems requires an auditor to do more than simply check compliance. An evolution has occurred. Good auditors fully understand the business and are able to provide analysis and feedback to top management on the design and effectiveness of the system. Is it adding real business benefit? Is the system meeting the aims of objectives of the business?

This evolution requires additional competences for auditors over and above basic technical knowledge including: understanding business management, interaction with other business systems, organizational culture, ability to communicate and present effectively to senior management. Assessment findings need to be analysed and reported in context of the risk posed to the business in language used by senior management, and not in technical jargon understood only by the management representative.

In addition to requiring added value from audits, many businesses are also developing their systems to manage additional aspects of their business (eg environmental or health and safety performance). This requires auditors to expand their technical knowledge to be able to audit these controls effectively.

Clients should expect more from an assessment than a simple confirmation of compliance. LRQA is investing in assessor development to ensure that business benefit is gained from the visit and that the process gives assurance to a business and senior management that their management systems are helping them deliver value to their shareholders and stakeholders.

By LRQA

Don Stanley is LRQA’s UK head of assessment. For more information visit www.lrqa.com

The image of accredited management systems certification is largely dependant on the quality of the audits performed. First, improving accredited certification around the world is dependant not only on the competence of certification body auditors but also on the competence of accreditation body auditors. Any comments regarding increased competence of auditors are applicable to both certification body and accreditation body auditors.

Certification bodies and accreditation bodies are required to define their competence requirements for the auditors they employ, whether they are full tine staff or sub-contractors. There are essentially three sets of competencies that auditors require:
  • technical knowledge of the processes of the organisations they are auditing
  • an understanding of the management systems standards involved
  • auditing skills
In the past much emphasis has been placed on the technical skills, often to the detriment of the need for good auditing skills. While recognising the need for technical knowledge and an understanding of the management systems standards, today much more emphasis is placed on the need for good auditing skills.

Establishing that an auditor has good auditing skills is however more difficult and requires an evaluation of the auditors personal qualities and characteristics.

The skills that are important include:
  • good interpersonal skills
  • diplomacy and the ability to communicate effectively with all levels from shop floor operative to CEO
  • perceptiveness and the tenacity to follow things through to a conclusion
These are the type of skills which differentiate the good and the less good auditors. An auditor with a good technical knowledge and understanding of the management systems standards, but with poor auditing skills will perform a poor audit. The key to improving accredited certification is to focus on using auditors with good auditing skills.

By NICEIC

Trevor Nash is MD for certification at NICEIC. For more information visit www.niceic.org.uk

If you have a problem or a question you would like the experts to answer, email it to Pandita Louram on e: plouram@irca.org
 
#2
Overall, I'm sure that since the certification revolution began (it seems like a long time ago, now) the abilities of the auditors have improved (subjectively), but it's sometimes difficult to see any change, when there are so many tales of woe.

Yes, they have improved, but at the same time, many are just plain lazy! But then, the qualification criteria set by IRCA nearly 25 years ago has barely changed............:notme:

Andy
 

Jim Wynne

Super Moderator
#3
At the moment, "No change" is leading the poll, and that's been my experience; I've never had a significant issue with auditor competence. The ones I've encountered have done a pretty good job. Maybe my opinion is colored by the fact that I don't expect them to be omniscient.
 
M

Martijn

#4
Based on only a few experiences within my company, I'd say they are getting better, or at least more creative/clever/business smart about interpreting the ISO 9001 standard. They seem to preach the real purpose of quality management more and more. :agree1:
 
J

jem63

#5
In dealing with 3rd party QMS audits for over 12 years I feel the auditor knowledge level is there and has continued along the same path. :agree1:

Slightly :topic:
My problem with auditors is that you spend time and money to develop a strong QMS, train your organization, audit it internally, identify its effectiveness and go the extra mile. Ultimately your company is improving and looking forward to a good audit and hopefully receive improvement opportunities. Then audit day comes and the auditor only leaves the conference room for a bathroom break and a 25 minute company wide tour. huh? then during the closing meeting he/she states "this audit I performed is only a sample of your system" :frust:
 

Sidney Vianna

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Admin
#6
Then audit day comes and the auditor only leaves the conference room for a bathroom break and a 25 minute company wide tour. huh? then during the closing meeting he/she states "this audit I performed is only a sample of your system"
Conference room approach to auditing is terrible. Auditors have to go where "the action is". Lazy auditors are a disgrace to the profession. How much objective evidence can be brought in to the conference room?

You are correct in being upset. When you pay a CB some good money for them to assess your system, you expect a professional, competent auditor. If I were in your position, I would call a CB representative and make sure you voice your discontentment.
 
H

HSSE Auditor

#8
Conference room approach to auditing is terrible. Auditors have to go where "the action is". Lazy auditors are a disgrace to the profession. How much objective evidence can be brought in to the conference room?
Conference room auditing is lazy? How about too lazy to walk to the conference room!

A friend told me a story about an ISO 9000 auditor who was very upset upon learning that she would have to walk to the back of the 100,000 sq ft manufactuing facility to the Quality Manager/Conference room where documentation and records were waiting. Unfortunately my friend didn't have a wheel chair (his description of her made a wheel barrel come to my mind :mg: ) on hand, so my friend had to listen to her was complain about the long walk during the entire audit. Her auditor partner was quite disgusted by her behavior.

I agree, a lazy auditor is worthless auditor. :2cents:
 

Sidney Vianna

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Staff member
Admin
#9
A friend told me a story about an ISO 9000 auditor who was very upset upon learning that she would have to walk to the back of the 100,000 sq ft manufactuing facility to the Quality Manager/Conference room where documentation and records were waiting.
Sometimes you have to know how to entice the auditor to walk arduous yards.
 
P

potdar

#10
Could you define 'competence' of an auditor?

Any thoughts abouts why the auditors are getting lazier and more disinterested in the audit by the day? Mind you, your CB considers them competent and employs them. So what if you dont?

Possibly they dont get any incentives for doing good audits. Or maybe they get some disincentives.

We hear of so many systems having gone to dogs. How many had their certificates suspended / withdrawn? And with such performance, how many CBs had their accreditations withdrawn?

The rot cannot be stemmed unless the ABs tighten up their act and start withdrawing accreditations from those CBs who dont deserve them.
 

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