The measures to check the advance of the Coronavirus have had a profound effect upon global business but, despite a general economic slowdown, it has not stopped. Around the world, facilities still need auditing to ensure they remain compliant with government regulations and industry standards. With lockdowns and social distancing being enforced all over the globe, how can businesses ensure continuity in their auditing?
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for high standards in terms of public health and regulatory compliance. It has, however, created a quandary: facilities must be audited to ensure they are complying with the correct standards and yet onsite audits are often difficult or impossible due to the restrictions associated with a lockdown?
Where possible, SGS auditors will continue to visit sites to conduct the relevant audits in person. This is not going to be possible for many facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and for those businesses, remote auditing is the answer. It involves either a partial or complete off-site audit conducted using mobile or desktop applications.
SGS’s Remote Auditing Solutions utilize modern technology to cover all aspects of a normal audit. Just like an on-site audit, they also require access to personnel with responsibilities pertaining to the audit plan and the input of top management during the relevant parts of the audit, including the opening and closing meetings.
SGS’s remote auditing solutions can be adapted to the individual needs of the certification audit and facility. The general process, however, will normally involve:
1. Remote audit planning & assessment of available ICT tools
2. Scheduling remote audit
3. Communication with your auditor on logistics and technology details
4. Client to prepare & submit relevant documents
5. Conduct audit
6. Audit report prepared and dispatched
7. Corrective actions for nonconformities
8. Receive certificate (if applicable)
Just as the structure of the audit can be adapted to meet the specific requirements of the appraisal, we can also adapt the technology we use depending on the assessment of our technical experts. We are committed to offering a like-for-like auditing service and to achieve this we are using systems such as QIIQ, a remote auditing application, alongside other web conferencing solutions, such as Microsoft Teams and Skype. The SGS Account Manager will recommend what system is most applicable during the remote audit scheduling.
QIIQ is a remote auditing application that connects the client with the auditor, wherever they are in the world. It allows the facility’s quality manager to interact directly with the auditor, allowing them to share information in real-time.
For remote auditing to be effective, it is imperative that the facility being audited has a robust internet connection. The client must ensure it has sufficient bandwidth prior to the meeting and be certain it can support web conferencing. Auditors will try to reconnect to the client if the connection is lost during the audit.
It is important for the auditee to consider what may be required prior to the audit. Things to consider include:
1. Key personnel – the auditor will need access to designated personnel throughout the audit and top leadership during the opening and closing meetings. It is probable that top management will also be required at other points in the auditing process
2. Documentation – the auditor will request various documents to be emailed to them during the audit. These might include internal audit records and plans, management meeting minutes and actions, complaints and corrections logs, any core processes documents, etc.
3. Site availability – some standards and certification require a site tour. When this happens, the facility must have someone available to conduct the walk-through using a mobile camera or webcam
As with a standard on-site audit, if any of these factors are not readily available, it will delay the auditing process. The SGS Account Manager will be able to go over the various aspects of what will be needed during audit scheduling. This can include what technologies to use for site tours and the various functionalities of the software that will be needed. The auditee must also ensure their WIFI connection is suitable for the whole audit. For example, if the audit requires a site tour, will the WIFI connection cover the whole site?
If a remote audit cannot fully verify the effectiveness of a management system, and therefore the audit cannot be completed, a situation which is more likely in the case of recertification audits, then SGS will arrange to complete the audit on-site, at a later date. If applicable, SGS can temporarily extend the period of validity of a certificate for up to six months. This is subject to a successful remote audit and must be followed by an on-site audit within the timeframe and prior to the expiration of the certificate.