As an SQF Consultant I've sat in on several first time (and second, third, etc etc) certification audits.
Not as an active participant, but as an observer.
Some of the audits I've sat in on were ones that we had no prior engagement, but most we either had developed their entire SQF system for them/working in conjuncton with them or had contributed heavy consulting time to the company to develop or recover (or what we call getting Humpty Dumpty back on the wall again consulting.)
Now to the meat of things...
As Consultants we can not jump in during an audit to run block for the client - we can observe and discuss things with our clients at breaks, lunch, etc.
The idea is to prepare clients for audits - well before the audit occurs.
To have them become quite knowledgable about the code, standards, everything and to bring sets of the code to the audit for everyone as well.
You want to be prepared and not look at the Consultant for help, becuase if you do there is a possibility you will be gig'd for lack of knowledge by the Auditor.
This posting however is about lack of knowledge by Auditors and how you as the auditee should behave during the audit -- at the conference table, etc.
As an SQF Consultant there is nothing more sinking (feeling) than watching an SQF Auditor repeatitly miss-call items, make gigantic errors and then watch the facility personnel sit there and take it without saying anything.
IT'S OK TO CHALLENGE AN AUDITOR!
If you are fully up to speed as the SQF Practitioner and know the code you have no reason whatsoever to not challenge a finding that is wrong.
Some folks feel that challenging an Auditor is a bad thing - I find that not challenging an Auditor that is 100% wrong is the really, really, really BAD thing.
Look, I was one of the first SQF Auditors in the US and I will admit having made a couple of errors, all of which I corrected - but I was never, ever challenged.
And I think the reason why people don't challenge Auditors is due to fear of the unknown.
It's not always an easy thing to challenge an Auditor, for all concerned included the Auditor, but if the Auditor is wrong the question is - Are you willing to take the gig because you are afraid to say something?
On the last Audit that I sat in on the SQF Auditor miss-called 10 (yes, ten) items and gave a major where it should have been a minor - the company personnel froze up and would not challenge - they were willing to take a failure because they were afraid of the Auditor and what he (as they said ) might do to them the next time around if they challenged him.
In this case I challenged him - technically speaking it was not my place to do so. But I knew there was no way there was going to be a failure on my watch.
So, I challenged him on each point.
We got back all 10 and the major was made a minor.
It disturbed me greatly that there are a number of incompetent SQF Auditors out there - it disturbed me that our client froze up even though going into the Audit they were in good form.
And I am not tooting my horn here, beleive me I really thought about not saying anything, but I just could not sit there and let the situation happen.
All of this comes down to this ----
Know the SQF Code
Know your facility
Let the Auditor know that you and your team know the code
Let the Auditor know that you will challenge him/her on any items that you feel are miss-placed, wrong, etc.
It's OK to put them on guard, they will certainly be a lot more careful in application.
Stay on task - don't volunteer information to an Auditor unless asked.
Don't let the Audtor nor you get into banter about family, about how this other company did badly or well on their SQF Audit, etc.
Get a good nights sleep and have food and coffee service brought in - everybody appreciates that and it is not seen as a bribe.
Be SQF at your Audit.
Ask questions - don't be a sitting duck waiting for the bullets.
Thank you for your time.
Edited by SQFconsultant, 25 October 2019 - 03:02 PM.