Part 2: preparing for an unannounced audit…

In the previous post we covered how to handle the auditor when they arrived and how to make sure all those that needed to know, knew they were on-site.  In this post we’re going to cover getting them into the factory and what to do after that.

Read the previous post which covers the first 5 top tips for unannounced audits.

In the last article one of our subscribers, Raju asked if I could also cover how to manage an unannounced audit when the Technical Manager is not on site – who would normally look after the presentation of the QMS…

This all comes down to prior planning; the QMS system is a large piece of work to present.  So, chunk up the QMS and assign a deputy to each section.  Divvy up the responsibilities between other people and spend time with each, to make sure that they are confident in presenting their section.

Like Carol commented on last week’s post too – it’s not just the responsibility of the Technical team to get the site through audits, it should be a team effort with all departments involved.  So, why not get other departments involved in presenting sections of the QMS?  The key is to make sure they understand their section really well, so they can present it with confidence and also answer any questions the auditor has – so this comes down to training.

Plan time to spend together and coach them, perhaps ask them to take on responsibility for parts of that section between now and the audit…

Shoes & Coat

It may sound obvious but having shoes and a coat ready for the auditor is really important.

As you won’t know who is coming and what size shoes and coat they’ll need you need to think about having a bank of various sizes ready.  If you can have them locked away somewhere, so they can’t wonder off over time.  Remember, if you lock them away, make sure someone knows where the key is –  for when the day comes!


Having an agreed and practiced route around the factory will ensure that you can lead the auditor where you want them to go, rather than where they want to go.

Obviously this isn’t always possible, if the auditor has their own set plan, but at least if you are prepared you can always try to confidently show them along your route.

Having the people responsible for each area show the auditor round their area, will make sure that they take ownership for their area and it will give the auditor confidence.  Work out beforehand who is going to show the auditor around which areas and where the hand over points are from one area to another.

Access all areas

Many retailer auditors will want to see in areas where auditors don’t usually go, such as boiler rooms, on gantries, in switch rooms etc.

Make sure that you have the keys available for them to access these rooms and work out any health and safety implications of this.  There is nothing more frustrating for an auditor than having to wait around by a locked door for someone to appear with a key – and you don’t want to wind the auditor up, it doesn’t do your audit result any good!

The room & documents

Once the factory tour is complete you need a room in which the audit will be carried out.  If you have the space it is beneficial to have a room booked out for this purpose all the time.  If you don’t have a room, work out if there is a space you can use and a plan so that on the day it can be made available.

Set up everything that you’ll need – all the documentation and folders that you’ll need to provide the auditor.  If some of the evidence you’ll need is on the system, get a PC set up and make sure it’s checked routinely that it still works in case someone tinkers with it.

It may not be possible to hold all of your records in the same place and in the room you’re using, but try to have any that are not used on a daily basis in there. Things like HACCP, allergen risk assessments, integrity assessments, vulnerability assessments, pest control folders etc.

For the rest of the documentation, try to agree a plan with the auditor of what they would like to see first, that way you can organise getting the right documents to them quickly.  Auditors take a very negative view on having to wait around while people bring them one document at a time, each time they ask for it.  It makes them suspicious and it will mean that your audit will probably go on really late.  Make it slick and keep them happy!


It’s actually really hard work being an auditor.  You have to think about a million things at once and be on your toes all the time…

Make sure you keep them well fed and watered!  Work out how you are going to organise lunch at short notice on day one of the audit and who will organise a constant stream of coffee and biscuits.

I hope you’ve found that useful.  It would be great if you could share with any top tips you have on this subject.  Your company name will not be disclosed and you can just put your first name, so you can keep your identify private if you wish!  Please add your tips and thoughts to the comments below – sharing them will help others…

Have your say…

One thought on “Top Tips for Unannounced Audits – Part 2

  1. First impressions count, so ensure the management team are involved at the beginning and through out the day not just the Technical Function left with the auditor. Shows that the full management team are committed and aware of the company’s QMS and support the technical team.

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