Should An ISO 9001 Consultant be Expert in an Industry?


Fully vaccinated are you?
Originally posted by Neelanshu Varma

If we keep the audit objective as "compliance" then it really doesn't matter whether the auditor is knowledgeable about the industry or not. However if we look at audit an an oppurtunity to identify improvements in the system then an industry expert adds lot more value compared to an outsider.

Neelanshu :)
I agree for the most part. The problem is the 'opportunity for improvement' issue. If we're talking process issues an industry expert is a great help. But - where do you cross the line between consulting / auditing and what part does this play in reality? Some registrars play up the 'opportunities for improvement' issue but I personally believe it's more hype than anything. Heck - there are a lot of 'outsiders' who can walk through a plant and offer up 'opportunities for improvement' as they see them (and different auditors will typically see different 'opportunities for improvement').

As an example, I once had a client and an auditor wrote up an 'opportunity for improvement' which involved his belief that a person doing some soldering of through-hole components on a board should have a 'calibrated' iron. We could show through, for example, the nonconformance system that solder joints were a very, very unusual failure mode and almost all were from wave-solder processes - not through-hole soldering. We practically had to beat the guy with a stick to get him to stop telling the client how to run their operations, where work instructions are needed, what should be calibrated and such.

I want a registrar's auditor to come in and verify compliance to the standard - not to tell me (my client, actually) how to do everything 'right'. If I want process and/or systems consulting, I'll hire a consultant specifically for that purpose. :thedeal:

Jim Biz

Food for thought

Whoa !! hold the phone - :confused:
I'm somewhat late in posting this but go back to the title of the thread itself.... Can someone define "EXPERT" ......

lets say.. I've worked in/around/ and with piecwork processes welding & tractor/combine parts machining for 34 plus years - am I an "expert"? (If so maybe I should change my business card :D )

On the other side of the issue.... We have an employee here that believes he is "an expert" in the use of a particular scheduling Theroy application "tool" because he attended a 2 week seminar)

I really believe "comon sense and Practice - in auditing" are much more important than the consideration of being an Expert (however it is defined.) Knowledge of business & industry practices are "helpful" and should fall into the "transferable skills" area.

Paul Simpson

Trusted Information Resource
Drips under Pressure

Have you heard the definition of Expert?

The word is made up of two parts: "Ex" as in "Has been" and "Spurt" which everyone knows is a drip under pressure. I would not like to be described as a combination of these two!

But seriously .... I too am a consultant, I too was an auditor and I too have been the first auditor in to a particular field. I agree with Marc, it depends on the individual. I know of some auditors with many years experience and you take them out of their direct area of expertise and the quality of the audit goes out the window. I know of other auditors who I would trust in any situation and who would get to the important aspects of the client's business and tell them a thing or two about how well they manage quality. As might be expected 99% of us fall between these two extremes.

For consultants the key is not to go in with ears closed and mouth open but to do the reverse. It doesn't take long to understand what is important to the client and to then "map" the processes to the requirements of ISO 9001, 14001 etc.

The consultant has expertise in system standards, business environment, people skills and uses these to deliver the services that meet the customer requirements.

Greg Mack

I Don't believe that the consultant should be the Expert. That is what the Management is for. After all, they know their business better than most and it is those people who need to make the system work for them and assist the consultant in documenting it.

I have to laugh when I see job ads asking for someone who has specific skills in one area to get a job in documenting a system. That's baloney!!! Helpful but certainly not essential.

Give me a business, any business, and I am sure I could set up a respectful system that they could easily use and benefit from.



Fully vaccinated are you?
To me, the 'trick' is to be able to see what they have, to understand whether what they have is working and integrate/tailor if/where necessary. Then develop and integrate what they have to have but do not have.

That's why I'm not big on canned procedures and software. As I always say - One size does NOT fit all!

M Greenaway

Well said Carl.

Agree entirely - the only expertise they need are in the standard and auditing.


Way to go Carl

I must agree totally.
The ONLY job of an auditor is to verify that the system meets the standards BASIC REQUIREMENTS!!

I am concerned about threads I see here explaining how an auditor wrote a finding, not because an element wasn't there, but because he thought it could be done better. That is none of his business. He is there to audit, not consult.

Is this how the RAB courses are taught? That an auditor can pass judgement on HOW you comply? I thought the job was to determine whether they DO or DO NOT comply period.

My credentials are a lowly little ASQ CQA and I was taught that is essential that you keep your opinions to yourself. One of the main reasons for this is that you often have access to propietary info and if you disclose, even inadvertently, this information to a competitor then you could find yourself liable.

Whew. I don't know what got into me there, but it sure seems that some auditors need to be reined in.

One again thanks for the vent space.:truce:


Paul Simpson

Trusted Information Resource
Losing the Thread

This thread seems to be getting unravelled!

I thought the line was whether consultants needed to be experts, the last few posts are about keeping the auidtor in a box! That's fine if that's what you want to do so, personally I have had a lot of good input from auditors, tapping into their experience. Also as an auditor I have given clients the benefit of my experience (both as an auditor and in previous work, I won't bore you with the CV) but only when they have asked or I think they might take the comments in the spirit in which they were intended.

One of the reasons I moved out of auditing was to get the freedom to advise a company as a company employee or now as a consultant on how their systems might work for them.

Keep up the good work.

Greg B

Hi All,

I think that a consultant and for that matter a registrar (auditor) should be matched to the industry. I'd like to know that they understand the industry, in some way. The purely business functions of the management system should be known by all but I am talking about the processes. Is a person that specialises in abattoirs going to understand the open cut mining industry? No.
We have specialised audits each year from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, because we manufacture some products that are used in the agricultural industry, and all of the auditors are Chemists yet they have to review all of our processes along the same lines as the ISO auditors. Our ISO registrar matches our auditor to our industry and we rarely have trouble but the 'Chemists' cause us all kinds of headaches because they do not understand the industry (IMO) plus they HAVE to be rotated after two audits so we can't train them over time to understand...Very frustrating.
Our internal auditors must have Trade qualifications (mechanical or electrical) and industry experience (at least five years). It is in their job why should we not also require our consultant to have experience. I am not saying they should be an EXPERT only in one field rather they should have experience in many fields. This seems to be a bit of a catch 22. You can't be employed unless you have experience but you can't get experience unless you are employed.

Greg B
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