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Product Safety Auditing – The Robot and the Thinker

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#1 gcse-fhp


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Posted 30 December 2012 - 12:34 AM

Is it possible that certain audit standards make normal thinking individuals into robot auditors?

Here are some of the differences:

Robot - only looks at getting all of the questions on the audit standard covered during the audit.
Thinker - considers the actual consumer protection outcome of the audit.

Robot - simply goes by the letter of the law according to the standard and leaves the risk assessment to the audited party.
Thinker - does actual risk assessment of all observations to arrive at the reported audit judgment.

- sees any observation that the audit standard does not cover as irrelevant and insignificant.
Thinker – explains the significance of, and/or risks associated with, observations that the audit standard may not have covered to (although these may not appear in the report produced with the standard used).

Robot – accepts every documented proof (even if it is pseudo-evidence) as the objective evidence.
Thinker – challenges the documented evidence through reality checks to assess the validity of the evidence.

Robot – sees an audit“pass” as proof that the audited party’s product safety system is effective.
Thinker – understands that the effectiveness of the audited party’s product safety system depends on the audited party’s consistency in maintaining effective procedures and valid control measures prior to and after audits.

Robot – counts the number of completed audits as the measure of successful involvement and experience in auditing.
Thinker – counts the number of improvements in the safety of products actually delivered to consumers as the measure of successful involvement and experience in auditing.

Edited by gcse-fhp, 30 December 2012 - 12:52 AM.

Some are timid and rob the world of the contributions they can otherwise make.
GCSE-Food & Health Protection

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#2 HACCP Mentor

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    BRC Consultant

Posted 04 January 2013 - 11:27 PM

As an auditor auditing multiple standards during the one audit, I agree with the majority of points that you have listed. I think what maybe turns a lot of auditors in ‘robots’ is the pressure to deliver the standard owners outcome within the time allocated – and this includes completing every section of the audit ie all audit questions, giving value without consulting to the business and challenging presented evidence based on risk. One of the keys to auditing is sticking to the ‘scope’ of the audit – otherwise you could be there forever.

For the standards that I audit, the standard owner (eg. BRC,SQF, WQA, Aldi, McDonalds) will dictate what is a major, minor or criticalnon-conformance. There is no room to give “observations”. If the audit criteriastates “shall, will or must” – this is mandatory with a black and white outcomeof conformance or non-conformance. The auditor does not make the rules - they just check compliance against the rules.

In saying all of this, I also know the challenges that food businesses face in compliance with some of these standards. But in defence of the auditor, if the non-conformances are not raised then what tends to happen is during the next audit the conversation starts with “The last auditor didn't raise it, so why are you?” . There is also the issue of auditor liability.

Customers have put their faith in these standards to deliver a safe and suitable product. The auditor is just doing their part in checking compliance.The code of conduct for auditing also does not permit consultancy so advisory on risk assessments is not permissible. If you want advice in that area – find yourself a good consultant to help you.

I would love to get in at every audit that I do and help the business make their processes better and more efficient but that is not my role when I am engaged to carry out compliance audits against the customer standards. I do this work through my consultancy business. I also prefer to audit food companies that are pro-active in food safety compliance rather than the ones who just want the certificate.

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