As you know, we’ve been thinking and writing about what the world could look like, if we use the Coronavirus situation to our advantage.

Using the feedback we received from our article ‘What will life after Coronavirus look like’ and having then thought about it some more, we’ve come up with an idea – which we’d like to share with you.

How you can help

Our idea is quite revolutionary and with anything new, there will always be things that will stop it from reaching its true potential – so that’s where we need your help. We need you to rip this idea apart and tell us all the reasons why you think it won’t work. That way we can tackle each problem, one by one and fix them. Please be as critical as you can, we really do want you to be – as it will only help us, to make it better. So, without any further ado, here it is…

The idea

Imagine there is a cloud-based system, which you can log onto – to do your internal audits.

Depending on which Standard you work to, or which customers you make product for – there are pre-loaded system audit proformas on the system for you to use. The system also holds your GMP inspections.

Each systems audit topic has what we call ‘cross cutting themes’. This means that when you do a foreign body detection audit, you also audit the training of that topic and the document control of that topic. So, training and document control are ‘cross cutting themes’ as they apply to everything when auditing. This means you’re not auditing these topics once a year, but actually every time you do an audit – because they are important and we need to make sure they are robust.

You can complete your internal audit risk assessment on the software, which works out for you, at what frequency each of your systems audits should be done and also, the frequency at which your GMP inspections should be done.

You then assign an internal auditor to each system audit topic and each departmental GMP inspection.

When the audit is due the system emails the internal auditor.

The auditor wears a pair of glasses to do the audit, which records the audit. This is also the case for GMP inspections. The video eliminates the need for uploading paperwork as evidence or taking photos.

The auditor fills out the systems audit proforma or the GMP inspection either on a PC or on a tablet in the factory.

Any non-conformances are agreed with those that are responsible for them and they are instantly emailed to those who need to complete them.

When a non-conformance is received, the person responsible for it can complete it on the PC or on a tablet and upload evidence. On completion, this is sent back to a designated person to verify before signing it off.

Here’s where it gets really good.

The site can share their internal audit system; the systems audits and the GMP inspections with their customers.

The customer can log into the system and see their internal audits, GMP inspections, watch the videos, read the audit reports, and assess the close out of the non-conformances.

This means, that if they want to, they can re-audit any of the audits themselves, to establish if they would have come to the same conclusions.

If they feel that there are gaps in the audits, they can contact the site to ask them to fill in the gaps. This ‘gap filling’ audit would then be conducted following the same process and everything uploaded to the system for the customer to see.

If the customer, wants to share this information with their customer (up the supply-chain) they can do so, with site’s permission and permissions on what they can see can be set.

This way, in theory the information can be shared all the way up the supply-chain to the retailer.

Providing visibility and this much detail to the retailer will allow them to carry out a much more comprehensive risk assessment of their suppliers and supply-chain, which in turn, will allow them to more confidently focus more on the sites who need it. Therefore, reducing audit frequency at sites who are on the system.

All sites who are using this system, are listed publicly, so that buyers can see which suppliers are working transparently. The list will not show anything about what ‘score’ the site has, because getting non-conformances is not a bad thing, if they are resolved and the site is continuously improving.

We’ve started to work through some of the benefits and issues with this idea, which we’ve outlined below.

Benefits

The site customer doesn’t need to visit to site to do an audit, in order to verify and approve them as a supplier. As they can audit their supplier virtually – reducing costs to the customer.

Because the customer doesn’t come to site to do an audit but uses the internal audits that would be happening anyway, this frees up time in the technical team to focus on improvement, rather than hosting audits.

Because third party audits are not repeating the same things, but rather looking at what’s been done and either drilling down where focus is needed, or filling gaps in the audits – this drives improvement for the site.

There is a commercial benefit to sites who are on the public list, from a customer point of view.

Issues

Typically, audit reports contain the names of employees. Therefore, there are GDPR implications. This could be resolved by adjusting the way we work, so that employee numbers are recorded rather than names. The aim is to allow traceability of paperwork, so an employee number would do this, if it is used instead of a name.

Trust is a big issue. Because the internal audits are scheduled, rather than unannounced, it means that they could be staged. However, by including the GMP inspections, which are done much more regularly, staging these would make it hard if not impossible.

What to do next

We’ve create a simple 3 question idea feedback form. We would be ever so greatful if you could fill it in for us please. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.

Complete the idea feedback form

Have your say…

9 thoughts on “Is this the future of internal audits?

  1. Hi Kassy, two interesting ideas.

    I am guessing the first issue for me is about the pace of adoption of the use of glasses. People can be very slow to adopt new technology and often hate to be the guinea pig. Is anyone currently using glasses in this way in the Food Sector? What about in other sectors? I have heard remote car damage assessment is a growing trend in insurance. I wonder what issues have they experienced?

  2. Hi Kassy,
    I think that this would be great, as it would be done in real time, with filmed evidence at the time of each audit.. It would minimize the risks of document falsification and auditor favoritism to “friends” being audited. If the system was then available to customers, I think it would give more confidence that a site is working correctly. I would suggest that although these are planned in a virtual diary, they are only issued to auditors at short notice to prevent too much time to prep staff that an audit is due.

  3. Hi Kassy
    My first concern is one of confidentiality. Anything cloud based has the possibility of being hacked into even though security measures can be put in place, and IF using a glasses system the auditor would have to very circumspect regarding viewing customers details/results and manufacturing methods. Also from my experience within modern factory buildings there is no WIFI connections due to the walls screening the signals, and so I’m not sure a “glasses” system would work..
    I agree we should be transparent in our food safety controls but even in unannounced audits we have to respect customer confidentiality.

    1. Hi Mike
      Yes, all very valid points – thank you. We shall definitely take them all into consideration.
      Thanks
      Kassy

  4. This is a shake up of a process that ought to be more influential as a conduit of change than it tends to be, but more training and commitment by the wider business departments will defiantly be needed to make it translate into this brave new world. Objective assessment of corrective actions is missing, and this is key to effective internal audits. Security of information on the cloud will be needed.

  5. Hi Kassy,

    I like the idea. However, I don’t know how I would be able to put this in place in my customers’ companies. They are very small (1-10 people) and even if some are certified against some GFSI standards, I’m not sure they will run into such a system.

    Besides this, my first point when I read your article was about RGPD. Filming can be great (even if I can’t imagine how many hours of TV watching will be needed to check all this), but there are some regulations to think about.
    When you use video recording in companies, you need to tell people (at least in Belgium, not sure about the UK…) and unions have their say in such an approach. Companies must be really careful with that, as video must have an objective, and you can’t use video records for any other purpose than the objective. Let’s say, an auditor catch someone stealing products, it can’t be used for that topic but can create a lot of problems in the company. What if other people (colleagues, boss, …) watch the video and see that?
    Another point is about people trying to avoid being filmed. It’s already difficult with static pictures, I can’t imagine video.

    The second point is about confidentiality. Let’s do some traceability audit. You will see documents from suppliers, with the names, dates, weights, and… price, which is very sensitive information. Same for the clients, with Waitrose finding that Tesco pays 5p less for the same product. So Waitrose can try to negotiate the same price, then Tesco trying to get a better one, as he knows how much you pay for raw materials, … I know lots of my clients are scared about this, and all traceability records going out of the company will have some blackened information, something you can’t do if it’s recorded live.

    The last point is about trust. Trust that someone who gain access to the video will not share some confidential information with someone who shouldn’t, like a recipe, the name of a supplier, or the name of some premix used to “enhance” the product, making the difference with another, cheaper factory. But also trust that the client will not use that information to gain an advantage on the supplier, making work and life impossible for him by constantly asking new things to improve the building, the production and lower the price.

  6. Hi Kassy,
    I like the overall idea. Making the videos public means that our competitors can see our equipment and the way we make our products.
    Sonya

  7. Glasses idea

    If you watch the BBC Inside the Factory episode on Walkers Crisps during lockdown (link below) and forward to 50 mins into the programme they use a camera headset which looks quite nifty. Presumably their factory will have state of the art wifi and everything else, but in principle the picture quality looks OK. Not sure how affordable these are to smaller businesses, but they only recently got them. They explain how they were used to sort a machinery repair without the engineer visiting site – huge bonus in cost/time saving and I’m sure we can all think of many other applications to use it e..g reporting quality issues back to suppliers. Happy viewing, keep safe.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000jyk4/inside-the-factory-keeping-britain-going-crisps-update

  8. Further to my post Walkers were kind enough to share information on the camera headset:
    Realwear HMT1 – which is made by a company called Realwear.

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