Home Resources Blog January 2021

Stage 1 of your Audit

18 January 2021
The purpose of this dialogue is to consider the journey of ISO 9001:2015. January is always a month of intended change, new beginnings and this year is certainly no different!

Many of the top 100 businesses are operating a ISO 9001 system and are or have been certified.

Despite the media doom and gloom, the truth is many businesses struggled in 2020 but they also had processes and leadership to see them through and are still in operation whether slightly reduced capacity or full. As a certification body we saw that companies embracing the ISO 9001 Standard were much better equipped in planning and managing their business in an unprecedented time.

The main points of ISO 9001:2015 are centred on risk, continual improvement and leadership, what better environment and time to be certified to a Standard that externally assesses that your processes are effective and provide customer confidence?

We can all say we are ‘working to the requirements of ISO 9001', however your customers do not know whether you are or not, and to not be certified means:

  • Your system is not being as thoroughly tested;

  • You may appear to not really sound committed to ISO 9001 so the statement may be pointless;

  • As most local authorities, construction, manufacturing and large companies require you to be certified to ISO 9001 or working towards it, you may be excluding yourself from growth and new custom at a critical time.

Stage 1 is an assessment for readiness for an audit, the idea being that you are not set up to fail. The auditor gets to know your business processes and expectations are set for the business as to how the audit will take place, and information required and the auditor can identify any areas which would likely incur a finding on an audit and add value to your system.

That being said, the ISO Standards are an internationally recognised certification of conformity, it takes commitment from the company all year round not just for the audit and not everyone can achieve the Standard.

How to prepare for a Stage 1

  • Make sure you have a copy of the Standard – it won’t tell you how to do it, it tells you what is required.

  • Implement the system first and ensure it works – the auditor needs to see that your processes are in current operation, your staff know about the system, and that there is a leadership commitment, the system must be operational.

  • Conduct and internal audit prior to stage 1 – Although the first step is to assess readiness for Stage 2 (the ‘official’ audit) you need to identify as part of the process what is conforming and areas that aren’t, this is part of PLAN, DO, CHECK ACT.

  • Make sure you’ve had a management review; the Standard sets an agenda of topics for you, these are absolutely critical aspects you would meet about anyway, use the opportunity to fully assess your business.

  • Our auditors can make a finding of an ‘Area of Concern’ at Stage 1. Prepare those involved in the audit that this is a finding against the process not the person! It is common for companies to get this finding, and it is a really positive thing as it is a fresh set of eyes looking at how you work and identifying where you can improve.

  • Speak with your assigned auditor prior to the audit day, find out what the plan is, tell them of any worries, concerns and ask questions. We are looking for compliance NOT non-compliance, and as we are regularly witnessed and audited ourselves, we understand and empathise the anxiety that some feel at the prospect of auditors.

What value will I get from ISO 9001:2015 Certification?

  • Pride is a big thing – the certification requires teamwork and everyone to buy in to improvement. Achieving the certification is not just a certificate for the company but represents everyone’s hard work.

  • Accountability – It is so easy to and tempting to cut corners sometimes, but the support of external people looking at what you do can be a deterrent and promotes improvement.

  • Improved communication – By involving everyone you may find ideas flow, people become more engaged, you may find efficiency and motivation improves.

  • A potential break into new markets -  as aforementioned, some industries require the certification.

This year we are taking a holistic approach to our customers old and new – advanced courses to help existing clients improve and mature the system, and through blogs we will help new clients and potential new clients understand the ISO 9001 Standard and put it into practice.

Authored by: Judith Hargreaves, NQA Auditor