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questionnaireOur nine habits to adopt to be a great auditor…

You’ll have heard many auditors say to you that they’re looking for compliance, not non-compliance.  Although this may be true in some cases, when you’re carrying out internal audits of your own site – you need to look for the problems.  Finding a problem is not a bad thing, that’s what an internal audit is for – the aim of the game is to find the problems before someone else does (such as a customer or a third party auditor) or before they go wrong and cause a real-life problem.
Remember, a non-conformance found on an internal audit is an opportunity to improve, and one less possible non-conformance on your customer or accreditation audits.  I know where I’d rather have them! In this post I’ve listed 9 habits of great auditor, which you can use when you’re next auditing.
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STOP!  Don’t be rushed when you’re in the factory.  Stop and look around you.  Look up to see if there’s anything that could fall and contaminate the product.  Look behind things, under things and on top of things.  Look inside cupboards, or anything you can safely open. Look at what people are doing around you.  You need to train yourself to see things, as if you are seeing them for the first time.  If you rush, you’ll not see what’s right in front of you.
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Imagine you’re showing around your mum. Food production is no longer just about the risk to food safety, it’s wider than that now.  Producing product with integrity is really important too.  Think about what the customer’s perception of the production area would be.  One technique that I find useful, is thinking about what my mum would think (as a typical consumer).  Another useful technique is to frame what you’re looking at with your hands, like you’re framing a photo.  Once you’ve framed it with your hands, think about what the implications would be, if that photo was to make it into the papers.  It’s a really good way of seeing things clearly, exactly as they are in front of you.
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Always ask for evidence.  If you can’t prove something happened, in the auditing world, it may as well have not have happened.  Ask for records to prove the clause that you’re auditing.
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It’s all about process, process, process! If a process is required to complete a check or carry out a task – is it written down? If not, how do people know the right way to do it?  A great auditor will think to themselves – “if I was having to do this job, would the information given to me – be enough for me to know what to do?”
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Always check training.  Just like with evidence, you can have all the best procedures, but you need to be able to prove that the people who are carrying out these tasks are trained.  Pick one or two procedures from each audit, look at the records from the procedure in question and then pick a couple of people who completed them – then follow their training through.
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Follow your nose. An experienced auditor won’t audit every single clause of an audit, one-by-one.  They follow their instinct.  They’ll start auditing against the clauses, but then if something doesn’t feel right, they’ll deep dive into that particular element.  If something doesn’t feel right to you, follow your instinct and look into it further.
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Walk and talk it through in practise. Ask operators to actually carry out their tasks for you, rather than just explaining.  While they’re doing it, ask them to explain it to you, as if they were teaching you to do it. Compare what you’re doing to the procedure as you do it.  You’ll find that this highlights lots of problems with the procedures and the interpretation of what’s required.
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Always check the document control. Every procedure or record form should have document control – so a great auditor check it on every document they look at. Compare it to the document control log to see if the one in use is the current version.
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Cross check!  Where ever there are key pieces of information, settings or specification limits written in more than one place, cross check each document to make sure they’re the same.

I’m sure you have other tips on things you look for when auditing, it would be great if you could share them – so everyone else can learn from them too. If you do, please add them to the comments below.

If you need help with your internal auditing system – we have a great pack that will help! For more information, just click the image below.

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