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Back Onsite with our NQA Clients Again!

02 September 2022
In March of 2020, when the COVID pandemic hit, we at NQA were forced to re-think our business. How could we shift direction, alter our approach, and help our clients maintain their certification? NQA USA Office Manager and Lead Auditor for ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, Kris Erickson, shares her thoughts on getting back onsite for audits.
For the past 2 years, out of necessity, our audits have been virtual events - Zoom, MS Teams, Go to Meeting, Blue Jeans – whatever it took! There was more up-front planning, but our clients have graciously worked with us to get their audits done.

But as an auditor, after two years of sitting in my home office posing questions to my computer screen, I was ready to get back out there.

NQA continues to offer remote audits in special situations, but for the most part, we are back onsite with our clients again, safety glasses on, notebook in hand, talking to operators face to face, and exploring the nooks and crannies of the production floor. And it’s been wonderful.

H. Loeb in New Bedford, Massachusetts is a manufacturing company with services like die cutting and CNC machining to create custom solutions for their clients. They’ve made a historic mill building in an old fishing and whaling town their home. I admit, I have a soft spot for successful re-use of old mill buildings, and after a virtual audit with them last year, I just loved seeing their operation in person this past May. There were small metal rings pressed into the heavy wooden flooring as a reminder of the garment business that was housed there decades ago. How cool is that?

The company has situated their considerable collection of production machinery in the existing space and is gradually taking over floor two. The production manager even has the floor layout captured in his CAD system, so he can experiment with moving things around, if suggested.

While auditing the production area, I stopped in my tracks when I recognized a portion of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, which had been made by H. Loeb to tour the country. What an impressive contribution!

It was impressive to see this in person at H. Loeb - a section of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall they created to tour across the United States.

Jefferson Rubber Works is a custom injection rubber and plastic molding company right down the hill from the airport in Worcester, Massachusetts – you can see the flight control tower right off their parking lot!

Also in May, fellow auditor John Chevalier and I drove to Jefferson Rubber, after I had remote-audited them for 2 years. John and I were both struck by the cleanliness of their operation, given the type of work that they do. They take pride in providing a safe and clean environment for their employees, and have set up cleaning stations, staged with brooms and dust pans, where each team member is responsible for their area.

The staff was most welcoming to us, and even bought the auditors donuts!

Out in the production area, a highlight was seeing the dog toys the company produces for their “RuffDawg” product line, including fish-shaped chew toys.

Operator Luis Farrel Garcia gives fish destined to be dog chew toys a bath to cool off after their fabrication at Jefferson Rubber Works.

And what’s the client’s perspective on this recent shift back onsite? Jesse Chhoeuk, Quality Manager at Jefferson Rubber explains:
Having auditors back on site, for us, is an experience you can’t substitute. Like watching a sports game on TV vs. going out there and playing the game yourself. Sure, you still have fun - yelling, screaming, and high-fiving in front of the TV, but it’s not like the actual yelling, screaming, and high-fiving on the court or field. The face-to-face interaction is a must during an event, where both parties are walking, talking, and sharing the same focus.

Sure, it’s not all high-fiving during or even after the audit and the yelling and screaming are best retained until the auditor has left the building… but getting another expert’s opinion on the work you’ve spent endless hours on, should give a feeling of an accomplishment or just a satisfaction that you tried your best and it’s time to bring it up to the next level.”

So while we can make the remote audits work, I think we’re all in agreement that there’s nothing like being out there, partnering with our clients face to face to improve their management systems.

And the side benefits are the tangible gems that you might find along your way – like a renowned US war memorial or a neon rubber fish destined to be chewed – things you just can’t see and appreciate during a virtual audit.