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COVID-19: What Evidence of Planning will my Auditor Expect?

01 June 2020
Lets look at what evidence of planning around COVID-19 a ISO 9001:2015 auditor would expect to see?

Most of us will not have experienced anything like COVID-19 ever before, those who have lived through the world wars are likely to have a very different take on how we have reacted and draw experience of; rationing, bombed homes, bombed work places and a very bleak time.

When the country and the economy were rebuilt we did not create a replica of what was once there but sought improvement and learning of how to improve through planning, reflection and creative leadership. It is likely that during lockdown there will have been changes to your quality system and if there hasn’t been this may be a finding of non-conformance.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

Let’s see what the Standard requires you to do;

The Standard as written covers about 1.5 pages of requirements, simply put it is saying the business Shall;

  • Consider risk and opportunity

  • Show how you reduce unwanted effects and increase success of affects you do want

  • Show how based on these risks and opportunity you will integrate and implement these into your existing QMS

  • You will need to show improvement by evaluating the effectiveness of this

  • Quality policy and objectives should be aligned therefore you may need to review these

  • The planning of change shall consider who, what, when and why the change will change place

Practical implementation;

We are speaking with many different industries daily and not one is carrying on without some form of change, if you have furloughed staff, diversified a product or service, reduced operational service, shutdown completely for a few weeks, or changed process as to how you receive or despatch then change within your system has occurred. If this change has not been integrated and implemented you may find yourself with a major non-conformance as your system as documented is no longer current to how you operate.

  • Internal audits – A good way of documenting where your business is at and analysing what areas will require change. You will need of course to amend your audit plan and reflect the changes, this is one way to show effective planning.

  • Analysis – SWOT, PESTLE, Risk Register, Value chain; any of these which you may have in place already MUST be updated. The main topic of conversation with leaders and managers is how you have identified the risks, evaluated them and have or plan to mitigate them. What criteria will you set to determine success?

  • Management review – You may have a management review  planned in however as the review inputs are designed to focus the business back to basics of communication, planning, reviewing, and process analysis it may be the most critical time to have that review brought forward. If you are doing this remotely, it will make no difference as you would provide documented information on this discussion anyway.

  • Support and resources – There may be policy changes which you have had to make; sickness, furlough, delivery, key worker status and these should be clear, up to date and communicated. Before your business is reopened, you will need to ensure it is safe – 2m spacing, maybe one way system, or even new processes to work from home which should now be implemented into your system. It might be reasonable to re-induct staff and document it in relation to new working ways and policies. It may be possible to show photographs, videos or drone footage of the premises.

  • Suppliers and outsourced process – Those external to your company who are required to work to your QMS may require to be included in your within your planning as they may have differing policies and this could be agreed in advance.

What is your Quality Management Systems purpose?

It goes without saying that the certification to ISO Standards is the key to quicker tender process, a sign of an International Standard and a requirement for some large trading industries. As part of this, you may find that as a supplier your client may require evidence that you are planning appropriately and in line with guidance.
If you use your quality management system effectively you will recognise that this tool will make the preparation of returning to the ‘new normal’ as easy and logical as possible.
If however you do the minimum just to get certification you may find you struggle at external audit, and this may incur financial cost if we have to perform a special visit due to non-compliances.
As assessors we urge you to make the most your quality management system, and if you are unsure of any aspect of it, you can contact your assessor, or maybe think about a virtual training session with us.