An audit is an important measure in the context of quality management. During an audit, processes, products, or systems are checked for compliance with specifications or guidelines. Audits can be carried out internally or externally.
What is an audit?
The term audit is derived from the Latin verb “audire”, which means “to hear” or “to listen”. An audit is an examination procedure that checks and documents compliance with specifications, standards, or guidelines. The subject of the audit can be processes, systems, or products. The investigation is carried out by specially trained auditors.
Depending on whether the investigation takes place in one’s own organization or in a third-party organization, a distinction can be made between internal and external audits. A successfully conducted audit can be confirmed, for example, by a certificate from an independent organization. Audits are important quality management measures.
The goals of the audit
An audit has several objectives. Important goals include these:
- Optimizing the efficiency and quality of company processes, systems, products, or services.
- Ensuring compliance with important quality requirements
- Improving customer satisfaction
- Improving employee satisfaction
- Quality control of suppliers
- Competitive advantages by documenting and certifying the successful performance of audits. The customer can rely on the high efficiency of the company
The different types of audits – internal and external audits
First, a basic distinction can be made between internal and external audits. Internal audits are carried out by members of the organization, employees of the company, or externally commissioned auditors. External audits include, for example, supplier audits performed by employees or externally contracted auditors of a supplier’s customer.
Internal or external types of audits can be system audits, process audits, or product audits. While a process audit only examines a specific process, a system audit reviews an entire system such as the quality management system. Product audits check individual physical products or services for compliance with certain specifications.
Audits in information technology
In information technology, audits relate to, for example:
- Compliance with the specifications of a software project
- The quality of source code
- The vulnerabilities and risks of IT systems
- The correct licensing of software products
- Compliance with data protection requirements
Requirements for an audit according to DIN EN ISO 9001
If an organization is audited according to DIN EN ISO 9001, various basic requirements must be met. Audits must be conducted in a structured and planned manner. All criteria as well as the scope and methods used in the audit must be documented.
In addition, it must be ensured that planning and execution are precisely regulated. All results are documented and made available to the audited organization. Measures derived from the results are to be monitored. A new audit must take place at regular intervals.
Typical procedure of an audit
Audits have a regulated procedure. First, a plan for the audit is drawn up and preparations for the audit are made. The auditor carries out the audit according to the plan and documents all results in a report.
Based on the report, measures are derived for any deficiencies found. The follow-up of the audit includes the implementation of the measures and the success control. Once a complete audit cycle has been completed, a new audit can be scheduled.
The role of the auditor
An auditor can be an internal employee of a company, an internal member of an organization or a representative of an external organization. The auditor performs the audit and evaluates compliance. Existing procedures are questioned by the auditor and examined for weaknesses or deficiencies.
Auditors are trained and have the necessary competence to conduct an audit. The suitability of external auditors is usually proven by certification. It is important for the auditor to be neutral. He should not be both the auditor and the person responsible for an area to be audited.