Category Archives: audit

Be prepared for your Audits

Being prepared for an audit is one of the most important tasks the QHSE manager has. The organization needs to be ready when the auditor shows up. This is not limited to external auditors but also internal audits, supplier audits, and of course, customer audits. We touched upon the importance of having the right culture and how this influences the audits. When QHSE management is really embedded in the culture, you don’t necessarily have to prepare because most things are taken care of.

Be Prepared

For lots of companies, audits aren’t much fun. They take a considerable amount of resources and require quite some focus for a couple of days. The auditors are able to ask all kinds of questions and will probably find some shortcomings. Yes, we need these shortcomings to improve the organization, but it is never much fun to hear the things you do wrong. Having the auditors in the organization and interviewing people takes time away from the employees, and it increases the stress level of some of the employees. This has a negative impact on their work. Hence, being greatly prepared for the audit doesn’t only help the QHSE department but also the company as a whole.


Obviously, there are always these things that need to be checked to see if the company is ready. Some important questions we always need to ask ourselves are:

  • Have we done the internal audits, and are we on schedule?
  • Did we update all the HLS documents?
  • Did we do the Management Review?
  • Did we do supplier audits?
  • Did we do the customer feedback?
  • Did we check all the laws and regulations?

This is a guiding checklist and will help with being prepared. Of course, there are a lot more checks and balances, but these are the important ones. A great Management System is embedded in the day-to-day operations and almost runs on its own. Yes, most things can be embedded, but of course, there are still topics that are more or less QHSE management related things, such as Management Reviews and checks for law and legislation. However, supplier checks, customer satisfaction, and even internal audit mechanisms can be part of the day-to-day operation. 

How Technology Helps

Having the right platforms helps a ton in being ready for the audits. You get all the notifications you need to make sure you are on track. Also, having a platform that really engages people allows for much more openness and readiness to share. More information will be shared and created, which is crucial during an audit. When all the information is readily available, the audit will go a lot easier.

With Qooling, you are always prepared for upcoming audits. Due to the automation of mundane tasks such as reminders and scheduling, your audits will feel like a walk in the park.

Published by:

The Impact of Certification Bodies on Companies

After talks with hundreds of quality and safety managers, we saw a pattern emerge we weren’t really aware of. We started to notice that there is some kind of implicit impact certification bodies (CB) have on companies. This impact can be quite severe, and we don’t think all CB or external auditors are aware of this. It basically comes down to being afraid to change because of what the external auditor might think of it.


Implementing any kind of change in an organization is already hard to do. People have the natural ability to resist change with every fiber in their body. Finding a modus in which the company is willing to change can be quite challenging. You need very good reasons why this particular change moves the company forward. This is also where the continuous improvement in lots of the ISO standards gets challenging. They want the company to improve, and therefore change.

Impact of Certifying Body

Most external auditors have a great deal of impact on an organization, even though they are only there 3-5 days a year. They want companies to change or notice certain NCRs that need to be solved. This all can mean quite a workload for companies. Because the ISO certificate is a license to operate for many companies, they don’t really go against the auditor and simply implement what is required. This can lead to a non-functional management system because of so many different influences by all the external auditors. Even though this new management system isn’t really desired, some companies think it is the only way. The fact that the external auditors are able to force change is quite a good thing, even though we strongly believe you should never do something just for the auditor. Every change should always have value for the organization as well.

However, the external auditors also have a big negative impact on change, namely being afraid to change. Certain companies aren’t willing to change because they are afraid whether the external auditor accepts the new way of working. We get this question quite a lot ourselves, and luckily, have a big portfolio of companies to prove that the auditors are happy with it. The fact that these questions arise does show the big influence the certification body has on the choices the company makes, even though the external auditors are hardly there. Companies should be more willing to make their own decisions and be able to explain to the certification bodies why certain changes are made and that it is a net positive for the company.

Published by:

Remote Auditing, How to Set It Up

After last week the world looks quite different. People in most countries are working from home, which means that audits need to adapt as well. This week, one of our customers had their first completely remote Certification audit due to COVID-19. They were able to give the auditor access to all the required documentation and information via the Qooling Platform for remote auditing.


Of course, the most basic requirement for remote auditing is a proper internet connection. This may sound trivial, but not every location has access to stable internet. Secondly, it is important to have a good, structured and easy-to-use QHSE platform for the auditor to have access to. This way, he or she can easily navigate through your management system and check your compliance. For a more human touch, a video conferencing option would also be great. Solutions like Zoom or Webex are great solutions to facilitate this.

Access control

Access control is hugely important when you set up for remote auditing. The auditor should have access to most, if not all, of your Quality and Safety related information. However, you don’t want him/her to accidentally change something in the system, so a dedicated auditor role should be set to prevent this from happening. Obviously, such an account should be view-only and prevent the auditor from doing anything else. Besides preventing the ability to change anything, it is also important that the auditor has access to all the files. Great platforms allow you to give document-level access to certain employees, so you can tailor the management system to the role of the employee in the company. However, with the auditor, it is crucial to give them full access to all documents. Don’t forget to set this correctly to avoid mundane questions.


With the remote setup, the auditor has a great way to check for compliance to the standard. Of course there are still parts of the audit that cannot solely be covered by the platform, such as the interviews. However, the platform does hold the information to prove how things are going within the company. The actual interview can be done via web conference solutions with the data in the Quality and Safety platform as information to support and verify the claims that are made during the interview. This way, compliance to the standard can be shown completely remotely.


After being forced to move to remote auditing due to this devastating pandemic, perhaps remote auditing will become more common than before. If companies are able to facilitate it for the auditors, it should be getting much easier. This does require some form of online platform for the Quality and Safety Management and a suitable web conferencing solution.

Take care and stay safe during these extraordinary times.

Published by:

How you can audit differently

This week we organized a great workshop together with the Team of Brown Paper Audit. They introduced their refreshing point of view to audits. Rather than the one-on-one talks with people in the company, they recommend having an interactive session with a group of colleagues. This is definitely not a solution to all the audit fallacies, but an excellent tool to use. During the workshop the main topics were around:

  • Audits in general
  • Context analysis
  • Management review

Audits in General

The overall feeling by the group was that lots of audits are still performed because the external auditor requires them. Regardless, lots of Quality/Safety Managers noted that they preferred a different take on this. An important fallacy they pointed out was a lack of defining a clear goal for the audit. When questioned, they noted there wasn’t always a clear goal defined on what to do with the outcome. The audit report with some NC was filled in but never really given enough attention. In general, the Quality/Safety professionals had the intention to make the audit results more important and create ownership with the audited person. Giving credit where credit is due can do this. When the audited person resolved the improvement, make the company aware of the effort done by the audited person. Next to the results, most Quality/Safety Managers had to admit that the one-on-one talks didn’t give a great insight into what is going on in the company. When tens or even hundreds of people perform a process, auditing one doesn’t give a good idea of how things are going. Having a group approach to an audit can help with this.

Context Analysis

Introduced already back in the 2015 edition, still a significant number of companies is still struggling with this. In most companies we see that the Quality/Safety department owns this document, while it should be a Management document. If you have a document of course, documentation of this isn’t required. The Quality/Safety managers admit they all do the exercise while the managers should pull more weight to it. On the contrary, there were also quite some professionals that were debating the high-level nature of the context analysis. They noticed the big gap between what is in the context analysis and how the people on the floor experience this. They proposed creating a context analysis for each department or per business unit. This could be a great solution, just don’t make it a heavily business-oriented document.

Management Review

Management Review is another topic where Top Management isn’t pulling their full weight according to most Quality/Safety Managers. The Quality/Safety department creates the document and sends it to Management for approval. We always propose to move to a more data-driven continual Management Review. Create a proper dashboard on which top Management can see the progress. The document can be as small as one A4 and highly actionable. Stop creating piles of paper just for the sake of it.

Published by:

The Art of Checklists

Over the last few years, we have helped a tremendous amount of companies move over to Qooling, either straight out of office-based Management Systems or migrating from other software solutions. During this transition, we always take a very critical look at the forms and checklists that are present within the organization. Implementing a new platform is always a great way to reflect on your current Management System. We have seen some weird, unnecessary, and even unknown checklists in our time.

The Unknown

These are probably the funniest. We always tend to find checklists and forms that are hardly used or nobody was aware of. They sometimes predate from 2010 and before, and are stored in some hard-to-find folder on the server. The Management System is a lively system that evolves and is managed by different people over time. Due to this character, people sometimes simply miss checklists and forms. The turnover of people can make it very hard to manage it all, especially when there is a great distributed system where everybody can contribute. Having a distributed management system is crucial for an effective one, but managing it can become quite difficult when there are lots of unknowns.

The Weird One

These are the forms and checklists that are so complex that only the person who created it can handle them. Yes, there are deeper concerns when this happens, such as process misalignment, but still. These highly complex forms can be extremely simplified most of the time or even be broken into a couple of different forms for clarity. It is always important to take a greater look at the processes that this form/checklist is part of, to make sure they are aligned again.

Some other examples are the checklists, which have questions that nobody understands. Questions with double negatives, wording that nobody understands, or unclear sentences. These might look like small things but they can make it very hard for employees to understand the checklists, let alone fill it in correctly.

The Unnecessary

This is probably the biggest group of all. These checklists were created with the best intentions in mind, but they aren’t very effective. When we look deeper, we have to conclude that these checklists aren’t measuring anything. Great examples are checklists where every item needs to be checked “OK”. Looks great on paper doesn’t it? However, you will only receive checklists that have only “OK” as answer. What if something wasn’t ok? Do you really get this information? Yes, they might have fixed it right away but that has never been logged. Checklists that require only OK answers to be accepted are meaningless and create a fake perception of Quality. There are lots of these types of checks in the process because for most companies everything needs to be OK to go to the next step. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this but make sure you create such checks in a sensible way and you allow room for error. Everybody makes mistakes—that’s life—just don’t hide it and give people room to express these mistakes.

Published by:

The word of an auditor

Over the past months, we’ve interviewed about a dozen Quality and Safety external auditors. We have asked them about their experience and what they have seen in the market. The auditors were so kind as to share their experiences with different types of companies across the globe. We deliberately selected international auditors from many countries to get a good feeling of whatever is going on in different parts of the world. They also came from different certifying bodies.

We would like to thank every auditor that has been so kind to participate in the interviews.

General Impression of Auditors

The auditors that participated have experience in different kinds of organizations, from small organizations with ten employees till large organizations with more than a thousand employees. Next to the company size, they have experience in different markets. These can range from ICT, automotive, logistics, food production, oil and gas and large manufacturing plants. The auditors work with organizations all around the world from different cultural backgrounds.

Experiences of Auditors

There are quite some similarities among the experiences of the auditors. The most important topic, the involvement of management, is different within companies. Although every company needs top quality products or services, this clearly shows that not every top manager sees the QMS as a vehicle. In the case of the first, there is a high involvement from top management. In companies where management doesn’t see the importance, there is not so much involvement from management. This is a pretty challenging situation for a QHSE Manager to be in.

Another big factor of management involvement is the size and maturity of the company. When everyone in the company knows his or her role, everybody helps each other to make the process run smoothly. For a less mature and smaller company, the manager finds it difficult to hand over tasks and wants to do everything on their own.

Tip From the Auditor

At the end of every interview, there was the same question: do you have a tip for other auditors? Here are three examples of tips the auditors gave:

  • Don’t be dogmatic. There is no universal truth; every company has its own approach, which isn’t good or bad per se. Don’t be fixed to the exact wording of the standard either, there is a lot of room for interpretation. Look at the company, its size, its status, and its health and assess the company for its own capabilities. This is true for auditors but also Quality Managers.
  • Invest in your employees. Of course, within the financial capabilities of the company. Take a snapshot of your employees today and create a plan on what they should do in five years in terms of competence and skills.
  • A tip for auditors. Clients are very clever and resourceful. If you want to find out what is really going on in a company, ask questions to the operators and let him/her explain to you how the program works within the company. Don’t take way the appointed contact say for face value, talk with others in the organization, you will be amazed about what comes up.

These are just some general outcomes, but every auditor has a different experience. Are you curious about the experiences of the different auditors? Please read our e-book for more details on this subject.

Published by:

How to Manage Suppliers Effectively?

Suppliers are a key variable in the quality you can deliver as a company. Whether they supply materials or perform services, they do have a significant impact. Suppliers are almost as important as customers and employees. Therefore, it is crucial they are managed properly and evaluated regularly. 

Suppliers Check

When a new supplier is needed, make sure you do a thorough suppliers check. It is still very common to have the standard checkboxes, generally the ISO certificates is one of those boxes. However, with your knowledge of the certification processes, would you trust the quality of a company solely on their certificate? Especially when they are a key supplier for your product or service? 

You could go for a supplier audit and check their facility yourself. This is very labor intensive and time-consuming, so it’s unlikely you will do this for all suppliers. However, for critical suppliers this might be a good way to start. For less critical suppliers, you can do a paper check. Ask the company to get access to their management system to see how they operate and where their key quality checks are. Also, ask for some additional pictures or maybe a video about their facility to give you a better idea. It doesn’t give the complete picture, but it is much better than just checking the box of an ISO certificate.

Continuous Supplier Evaluation

When you’ve selected a new supplier, make sure there is a proper supplier evaluation process defined, preferably an ongoing process. Tracking minor and major issues related to the supplier is key here. This information is crucial during discussions with the supplier and how to improve the combined efforts. The information could be gathered by performing quality checks on incoming goods and services or by finding out through customer issues. A mobile app is crucial to make it very easy for people to register an issue. Regularly checking on-time deliveries is also a good method to evaluate the supplier.

Periodic check

On top of continuous evaluation, it is good practice to have a periodic check on the key suppliers. This doesn’t have to be monthly, it can very well be quarterly or yearly depending on the importance of the products or services of the supplier. 

This periodic check allows for a more thorough examination of the supplier. Again, this can be on paper or you could go for a supplier audit approach. Make sure you have a concise approach on evaluating suppliers so it is carried out correctly. An audit checklist or supplier checklist is a great way to do this. In this process, it is important you not only look for things that went wrong, but also look for positive things. When the audit is performed at the supplier on-site, make sure the auditor has a proper mobile app to file the audit reports. This makes analyzing the results much easier. 

Not only focusing on the issues but also communicating the positive results with the supplier will help establish a good relationship. Even though they get paid for their service, it is still good for morale to give them a compliment when they did a great job. If you want to go one step further, you can create different statuses for your suppliers. This will give them an incentive to keep up their good service. In the end, you are all in it together.

Published by:

Innovating Internal Audit: The brown Paper Audit

Innovative audit method

The Brown Paper Audit is an innovatieve audit method, where people who work together in a certain high level process are invited to map out the process and underlying procedures together. During this exercise people get a good feeling of what happens in the company. After this, the process will be improved in groups and concrete improvement actions are appointed. The brown Paper Audit is very effective in gaining insight into improvement, the prevention of  waste in the process and increasing (customer) value.

The complete group goes through a number of steps to identify opportunities for improvement, and translate these opportunities for improvement into measurable goals and actions. These action are then divided among the team members to create ownership of these actions among them.

Brown paper audit

The Brown Paper Audit offers room for discussing HLS-themes such as leadership, evaluation of performance or communication, and offers space for colleagues to participate. In some organizations it is clear that the distance between quality management and the business is increasing. The Brown Paper Audit brings these two worlds closer together and allows the participants to experience the added value of quality management.

Involve employees

The Brown paper Audit ensures that the focus shifts from checking to actively improving. Employees will feel involved through the innovative approach and employees can contribute to improvement from their own expertise and experience.

The support for this audit method with companies is high because the approach feels natural to the participants. By working with a clear step-by-step plan, the Brown Paper Audit brings structure and allows participants to share wishes, feelings and thoughts. By making time and space for each other, the Brown Paper Audit offers employees the opportunity to talk to each other about the quality in their organization.

Through a brown sheet of paper, post-its and markers the wishes, feelings and thoughts of the participants are collected. The structure makes it easy to name opportunities and causes. In this way a positive collective start is made with continuous improvement. This approach shows that active improvement can be done in a fun and refreshing way, wherby the participant get excited to get started with improvement.

The audit cycle

More than 250 companies have become acquainted with Paper Brown Audit as an audit form and are setting up their audit cycle differently. These companies apply a combined audit strategy, a combination the Brown Paper Audit and classical audits. The brown Paper Audit provides a lot of new insights and concrete improvement actions that the organization can work with, while the classic audit helps in checking facts.

By applying the Brown Paper Audit to a process in which several officers or departments are involved, several subprocesses can be combined in one audit. This allows companies to shorten their audit cycle.

Please check out:

Published by:

Gap Analysis – Close the Gaps in Your Business

In the previous article (Part 1), we revealed the importance of setting up a skilled team for the execution of a gap analysis. During ‘’Part 2’’ we will tell you how to perform a successfully Gap Analysis, so you can be sure to include all the necessary steps.

1. Analyze Your Current Situation

During this step it is important to define your current situation. That may sound overwhelming, so I recommend that you start collecting data from your current QMS. In this case, a properly structured QMS can save you a lot of valuable time. In this phase, it is your goal to determine which quality management processes your company already has, and where there is room for improvement before you start implementing new processes. Mapping out the different processes and how they work will give this insight.

2. Identify the Ideal Future

Now a clear picture of the current situation is created, it’s time to think about what needs to be done to meet the new requirements and goals. This new future can be based upon the requirements of customers, new legislation or maybe some new international standards the company wants to comply with. Make sure you have a good overview of the requirements for this new future. When this overview is clear, you should place it next to your current system. A great approach is simply to list all the requirements and how you comply with them based on your current system. When you have gone through every requirement, you are ready to fill in the gaps that show up of the different points you don’t comply with.

3. Fill the Gap

Once all steps have been completed, a detailed Gap Analysis Report can be created. This report lists all the points the organization doesn’t comply with. After all the gaps have been identified, a structured action plan can be created. The different tasks can be assigned to different people in order to reach compliance. When all actions are finished, an additional check is required to see if all the gaps are now filled. This can simply be performed by going through step 3 but this time with all the new measures in place. With the online solution of Qooling you can easily manage your action plan by displaying important tasks and the ability to assign tasks to the responsible person in the organization. Published by:

Gap Analysis – Creating a team

Gap Analysis is a technique companies use to compare their current performance with potential performance. For example, their current practices compared to an international standard such as ISO9001, AS9001, ISO14001, ISO13485 or customer requirements. A well-executed gap analysis can help you improve quality, business efficiency and fulfil the customer needs by allowing you to pinpoint ‘’gaps’’ within your company. It outlines what areas of your current Quality System needs improvement to meet the requirements. Therefore, you need to clearly define and analyze these ‘’gaps’’ so you can set-up an action plan to move the organization to a future state and fill the gaps in performance.

So where do you start? If you’re wondering this, I advise you to follow the next steps to move your company to a future state.

1.1 Identify

The first step to creating a successful gap analysis is to identify one or more employees to perform it. In this process, it is crucial to choose the right people to fulfill the tasks. Think of quality managers or other employees who have experience with quality management systems, auditing systems or the requirements of the standard/customers. The team must be familiar with the challenges and opportunities your company faces during this analysis. Also good communication skills are required to make sure the results are communicated properly throughout the organization. If your team has not been trained on the requirements, be sure to provide proper training before performing the gap analysis.

1.2 Consultancy

You may also want to consider having assistance from a consultant. You may decide to hire a consultant for several reasons. However, knowledge of the requirements is not the primary reason organizations tell us they have chosen to utilize consultants to upgrade their Quality System. The people in your organization have their own daily responsibilities. Therefore, additional work can have consequences for the quality that they deliver. Also, a fresh pair of outside eyes can have refreshing results. In this case, a consultant comes in handy, so that your employees can continue to focus on what they are really good at and use their valuable time productively. If the requirements are highly technical or require a specialist, we always recommend to find a professional with experience in that particular field.

1.3 Gap Analysis Checklist

A commonly used tool for the gap analysis is the gap analysis checklist. This is a checklist of the requirements in the standard, written in a question-based format. The implementation team will use this list to compare your current management system with the requirements of the standard. This will provide your team with the right information. They will know which documents to look for to compare your management system with the standard.

Next week we will discuss the following steps, and dive deeper into the important elements needed to successfully perform a gap analysis. Don’t forget to keep up-to-date with the latest quality and safety news and subscribe to our blog! Until next week!

Published by: