I perform a number of audits throughout the year.  Most are supplier audits but some are internal audits.  In order to make the audits as efficient as possible I recommend good planning for the audit – rather than just turning up on the day and “going with the flow”.

Firstly – make contact with your host (auditee) well before the audit.  This starts the communication process with them.  During this time you can discuss (via telephone or email) any domestic arrangements, such as site location, local hotel, times and dates, etc.  From these early discussion an audit programme should be produced and sent to the auditee at least 2 weeks beforehand.  This allows them to understand where you are likely to go during the audit.

Secondly – ask to see some documents before the audit as part of the preparation stage.  This significantly helps the audit preparation and highlights any areas that may need additional focus or perhaps less focus.  For supplier audits I will always ask to see a Site Master File and a Quality Manual (if these exist within the organisation).  A Site Master File (SMF) is a GMP document that describes the site, major activities, key personnel, site layout, etc.  This gives you a good idea of the physical structure of the site and tells you what buildings are located where.  It is always good to know if everything is located on a single site or multiple sites and gives you an appreciation of the physical layout.  A Quality Manual (QM) is an ISO 9001 document that described the whole Quality Management System.  This is becoming more of a GMP requirement, and is good to see as it should describe how the QMS operates.  In addition I also ask to see an Organisation Chart and a Master List of Documents.  All of these help me to get an initial understanding of the organisation, allows me to arrive well prepared and makes for a more efficient audit.  I do not worry too much if they fail to provide any of these documents, but it is useful to try and review these beforehand.

For internal audits a similar approach is also suggested.  You should easily be able to see any procedures for the area you are auditing, get a list of personnel who work in the area (to have their training records and job descriptions ready) and see if there are any major quality issues associated with the area.  It is always good to see what changes, problems and deviations have occurred in the area in the past year – as these may be worth reviewing for effective implementation during the audit.

All of the above does not take too much time to request and then review beforehand.  You may not always get these documents, but as they say – “if you don’t ask then you don’t get”.  Believe me – it is an investment of your time that does make for a much better audit.

I hope you find this useful.  All comments will be valued.

Good luck with your auditing.  For more information on our auditor training courses visit our website.