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My First Remote Audit with Kris Erickson

28 April 2020
I’m Kris Erickson, the office manager for NQA in Acton, Massachusetts, and also part-time, an auditor.  I’ve been auditing since 2013 to the ISO 9001 standard, and more recently, to ISO 14001.  When I began auditing, I learned one thing fast.

If you’re not a morning person, auditing is not for you. NQA auditors hit the road early, navigating traffic with travel mug in hand, bound for the client site and an 8 a.m. opening meeting. That’s the typical scenario. But two years ago, I scored! Another auditor moved along, and I landed the audit assignment at Randolph and Baldwin, an NQA client based in Ayer, Massachusetts - the next town to where I live. A ten minute drive. Auditor heaven.

Then the pandemic hit. Bringing with it reduced workforces and employees working from home. And at NQA we asked ourselves - how could we get through this period, and help our clients maintain their certifications safely?

A virtual audit is the answer. It works! 

What do we do at our onsite audits? We interview people. We look at records. We review procedures. Is that anything that can’t be done remotely? 

So recently, for one and half days, I found myself sitting at my desk in my home office talking to Quality Manager Jared Brachanow and his team at Randolph and Baldwin, who were sitting at their conference table 10 miles away. Who figured?

How do we get a remote audit done?


Fortunately, technology is ahead of us and we have many choices – Go to Meeting, ZOOM, Microsoft Teams, and apps on our iPads and phones like Facetime and Skype – just find the one that works! Many are free of charge and can be downloaded.

Most companies already have a remote meeting system in place, and can create a meeting, invite their employees plus a special guest – their NQA auditor. 

Pre-audit Planning

NQA recently held a remote audit training webinar for our 200 auditors and the #1 takeaway was – have a “practice” audit. Auditor and client should connect ahead of time and work the bugs out. More than ever, it’s vital to plan who we’re going to talk to, what we’re going to look at, and how, technology-wise.

I had one pre-audit run-through with Jared at Randolph and Baldwin two weeks before the audit, then spent another few minutes the day before to settle on a video system to tour production, finally settling on Facetime.
I sent Jared a list of key documents and asked him to start gathering them into an electronic folder, then email them to me. 

That way I could review them ahead of time, and quickly access them during the audit. Once we started the audit we found there were more documents to share, but that was easily done via email.

It’s Go Time!

On Day 1, the four members of the quality team at Randolph and Baldwin gathered in their conference room like they do for every audit, logged onto Go to Meeting at 8:15, looked up at Jared’s laptop screen projected onto the wall and saw my smiling face there.

First I “drove,” then I made Jared the presenter so he could show me his new Monday.com system and the improved flow and detail of his inspection records.

Later we visited production, using 2 iPads and Facetime. James the inspector showed me his new CMM tool, and Andy the welding manager was thrilled to nail the bonus question about the company’s quality objectives. I honestly felt like I was right there with them. As Jared walked away with the iPad, I heard Andrew repeating – did you hear I got the bonus question right?!!

What did the customer think?

NQA has determined that doing our audits remotely works for us, but does it work for our clients? “I think the biggest benefit of doing the audit remotely is that it doesn’t spook people out on the floor”, Jared said after the audit.

“Andrew is used to having a circle of people around him on these audits. But he grabbed the iPad and got to show you everything. He really opened up about the work that he does and is proud of. “And for us in the conference room, since we were already on the computer for communication, it took two seconds to send you anything you asked for. Plus we saved paper printing things out.”
So there you have it. My first remote audit. Not bad at all, and now it’s a checkmark on the to-do list. If you have an audit approaching, work with your NQA auditor to get yours behind you, too. Together you can get it done.