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auditor performance

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#1 jenky

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 07:35 PM

Hello!  I am facing a dilemma that I hope the good folks here can provide some sage advice on.  We completed our SQF audit today and I felt the auditor's performance and thoroughness was sub-standard.  The auditor spent very little time on the plant floor, did not walk through all of our facilities, did not interview employees, and did not review records or evidence for all of the SQF code elements.  We received a very good score (97) and I know our food safety system is great - we have very detailed audits by third parties and customers and receive high marks.  Are we perfect?  Far from it!  I feel let down as our team views audits as an opportunity to gain insight from an outside expert to improve our food safety programs.  Not to mention, poor auditor performance like this jeopardizes the food safety industry as a whole.  

 

Should I report the auditor's performance to the certification body?  What could the potential consequences to our certification be?  I certainly will not use this auditor again next year!!  Has anyone had a similar experience?  If so, how did you handle it?



#2 Tomato Country Girl

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 08:23 PM

Our certification body NSF always sends us an evaluation after the audit on the auditor's performance.  I would suggest asking for one if you did not receive one.  



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#3 Tomato Country Girl

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 08:24 PM

jenky forgot to mention it should have no bearing on your certification.



#4 FurFarmandFork

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 02:38 PM

Please use that auditor evaluation as a tool to communicate to SQF that the auditor is eroding your brand. It feels counter-intuitive sometimes, but if auditor's aren't being thorough and fair, then we lose confidence in SQF and it turns into AIB.


Austin Bouck
Owner/Consultant at Fur, Farm, and Fork.
Consulting for companies needing effective, lean food safety systems and solutions.

Subscribe to the blog at furfarmandfork.com for food safety research, insights, and analysis.

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#5 RMAV

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 06:13 PM

A well-seasoned auditor can tell who has their shtuff together.  Consider how many audits a person has to do in a year and how many of those audits they are forced to complete in a short time frame.  Perhaps your auditor has been on the crunch all year and was relieved to find a good facility.

 

Depending on the facility the auditor may have time for a thorough audit or they may not - I've seen three different auditors now struggle to complete the audit in the time allotted at my facility then have to jet off to another audit.   So my feedback to the CB was there might be a time crunch going on. 

 

None of this is to excuse a bad audit.  There's a human element to consider when *some* auditors are being pressed to do more in an audit with less time.



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#6 mgourley

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 12:49 AM

I would agree with RMAV here. Our BRC auditor has been here 6 out of the last 7 years.

He is well aware of the facility, our policies/programs, and how the place operates.

There is absolutely no reason for him to sit down and review every policy we have. He spends sufficient time on the floor and only digs into policies or documentation if he finds a situation on the floor that causes him to wonder whether the policies are being followed. 

 

Good auditors follow trails. They see something wrong, whether it be on the floor or in documentation, and they dig from there. That is often times more helpful than an auditor who wants to pick nits as to whether your written procedures have the correct i's dotted and t's crossed.

 

That being said, I get the point the OP made. Certainly use the auditor evaluation to make your misgivings known.

 

Marshall



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#7 Charles.C

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 02:45 AM

I found the OP's content very interesting to read (thanks jenky !) but unfortunately it provided limited context into the viewpoint / business involved.

 

The degree of auditor dissatisfaction may perhaps have also related to -

 

(1) OP is new to their Position ? (no offence intended).

(2) Corporate Company Policy on audits, eg QA Mangr expected to review external audits. (Back-covering-protection included)

(3) the product/process set-up, eg RTE / high tech / low tech, state-of-the-art factory ?.

(4) As per previous post.familiarity considered by OP to have bred (over?) complacency ? On both sides ?

 

IMEX both sides of the audit fence, frequently involving old plants/very limited resources, sometimes RTE goods, an audit was often a cause of trepidation. Sometimes for both parties. :smile:


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#8 Charles.C

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 10:01 AM

addendum

 

I assume this was the Plant/your first experience with referred auditor.

After a little back-tracking, can discount No.1, and probably 2,3 also. Mea Culpa Jennifer ! :sofa_bricks:

Maybe the problem was just boredom, sort of No.4.

 

As per another recent thread, such high marks should  IMO either equate to a genuine, unbelievably impressive FS system or represent an implicit criticism of either/both of the SQF evaluation system/auditor's awareness. You will surely know which is the more accurate !

 

If this was a first experience with the auditor referred, i would be inclined to (once) give him (and/or SQF?) the benefit of the doubt in a similar way to RMAV's Post unless you feel there is a good reason not to.  And, this close to Xmas, extend a little good will for presumably having very few corrections (if any) to write up. :smile:


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


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#9 jenky

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 01:27 PM

Yes, you are correct Charles - this was our first experience with the auditor.  As the auditor was unfamiliar to our plant and process, I was expecting more than a 45 minute walk-through of the facility, which comprises totals over 300k sq. ft.    

 

Thank you all for the different perspectives!  I will certainly use the auditor evaluation to communicate my concerns to the CB.  In the spirit of the holidays, I will try not to be too harsh. :smile:



#10 QAGB

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 02:26 PM

I agree with the other posts. My thoughts are along the same lines, and a good auditor knows what to look for and how to find weaknesses. Perhaps the OP got an auditor who has been to numerous plants of the same or similar categories, and knows when a plant is in trouble and knows when a plant is in good shape. Maybe the plant is in very good shape by both procedures and operations.

 

I find that most of our auditors start off asking lots of questions, but once they see our documentation and tour the plant, they back off quite a bit because they see we have our affairs in order. Also, depending on the complexity of the operation, auditors may be more or less critical in some cases. If you're working with high risk foods, then the auditor is bound to be more thorough. If you work with low risk foods or are a repack operation, maybe the questions are not as deep because the complexity doesn't warrant it.

 

There are times where I wish auditors would do a little more digging in certain areas, but I chalk it up to the possibility that they don't because we're doing better than other places they've visited and they understand the "ins and outs" of food manufacturing and organizational habits. However, I'm always a little grateful that we don't have the extra corrective actions to which I have to provide follow-ups :giggle:  (even though I know they can help in the long run).  

 

QAGB



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#11 john.kukoly

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 12:00 PM

From the perspective of a GFSI benchmarked scheme, although not a common issue, it is very important to all parties involved. With the caveat that any of the above noted issues may be in play (meaning there may have been reason for the limited audit), it really is a necessary part of both compliance and continuous improvement to make your voice heard.

 

If a site feels that an audit or auditor has not performed up to the expectations, informing both the certification body, and the scheme owner is the only way to be part of the system. GFSI benchmarked audit programs are good, but there is always room for improvement, and it almost becomes a responsibility to protect the food industry as a whole by acting on concerns of performance. It may be an anomaly, but if it is a weakness - that same situation may be occurring in your suppliers, whose audits you rely on for your incoming ingredients. I assume you would want your supplier to stand up about it.

 

If you get the post audit survey from the certification body or the scheme, make your comments. If you don't get a survey, contact the CB, and the scheme - just go to their websites and find the contact information, most make feedback as easy and welcome as possible). They need the information to open an assessment, and add the information to their compliance program.

 

Without any feedback, a system will never advance and improve.



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#12 Charles.C

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 02:03 PM

Hi John,

 

Thks for yr informative comments.

 

One random thought came to mind regarding your "not a common issue", do SQF (GFSI?) actually "publish" statistical data relating to the frequency of "feedback" such as you refer ?

 

Just curious. Perhaps the question is not within yr remit in which case apologies in advance.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#13 john.kukoly

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 02:27 PM

Perfectly valid question Charles. I can't speak for GFSI or the other schemes.

 

I would imagine based on the size of our program ,and the fact that we require our feedback contact to be listed on the certificate, we probably get the most feedback.

 

BRC GS does publish our compliance report, which is in part based on this type of feedback, or in some cases (like our compliance audits) are driven based on the feedback.

 

It doesn't include the raw data (we investigate every incoming issue, about 50% of which stand up as valid in some form). If you go onto our main website, and use the search function with the term "compliance programme 2016" it should be the top find in the list.

 

happy reading....

 

John



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#14 Charles.C

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 03:04 PM

Hi John,

 

Thks for the info. The "50%" is sort of interesting/intriguing in itself.

 

I will pursue yr pointer, thks. I hope the report may include info. regarding which "issues" generated the most feedback. And to what extent action = reaction. :smile:

 

Best Regards


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#15 RMAV

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 06:34 PM

"The "50%" is sort of interesting/intriguing in itself."

 

I'll guess that the majority of the invalid issues is a situation where the facility thought they were meeting the standard and still thought so after having it explained to them by the auditor.



#16 jenky

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 07:24 PM

Thank you for your perspective, John.  I was able to find a survey link directly on the SQF website where I can provide feedback.  Thank you for the suggestion!






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