Aaron Troschinetz 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Regardless of their sector, organizations that subscribe to quality management system (QMS) standards and schemes are increasingly demanding more value from the third-party audit services they receive from certification bodies (CBs). Many of these organizations are using audit services to drive organizational change throughout their respective companies. The audit can be a ‘second set of eyes’ which helps to gain insight into how business processes can be optimized to give them a competitive advantage. The challenge for every certification body is simple: How do Cbs take the process audit approach with QMS standards and schemes and leverage it to increase value for organizations to achieve ‘bottom-line’ results? The process audit approach taught organizations which use ISO 9001:2000 (now ISO 9001:2008), that they need a deep understanding of their business processes, along with customer requirements and appropriate inputs/outputs. The result is higher customer satisfaction levels through the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) model. Senior management commitment must be in place to ensure continual improvement of the overall QMS. Other sector standards or schemes utilized these requirements as a framework to further define the process audit approach (ISO/TS 16949, AS9100/10/20, etc.). This helped organizations to reach higher levels of understanding regarding criteria such as scorecards, customer-driven key performance indicators (KPIs), organizational metrics, etc. which clarified their overall importance. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on KPIs as a measurement of performance for the QMS. These KPIs represent a tangible indication, and insight to the auditor, of how well an organization is performing in accordance with customer requirements. As Cbs continue to integrate KPIs into their audit activities, many different approaches are being attempted by auditors to utilize this information using the process audit approach. Some auditors treat KPIs and QMS as two separate inputs which is incorrect because they should be reviewed in tandem with the organization’s process. This approach disrupts the Inherent connection between the organization’s processes and these measurements which exist, regardless of the audit activity. Some auditors take this KPI information at face-value as an indication of a breakdown or gap in an organization’s QMS. The auditors will issue their CARs almost in parallel with the KPIs. This approach was never intended with this KPI information, The true breakdown does not exist with the KPI but within the process itself. Auditors who consistently apply the appropriate parallel connection between the KPI performance levels and an organization’s processes are using this information correctly as a guide to prioritize the appropriate audit trail. The next step is for the auditor to provide an audit line of questioning to help peel away the layers of the organization’s QMS to determine its deficiencies or CARs. The following is an example of the appropriate application of KPI performance in an organization’s processes: Organization X is achieving a 92 percent rate of on-time product delivery. Its customer has defined an appropriate performance level to be 98 percent on-time product delivery. The organization is clearly missing this customer-defined target. The auditor in this situation should investigate the underlying reasons why KPI achievement is not being realized (for example, issues with customer order entry, product realization, or servicing/shipping). Appropriate follow-up questions include: What is management’s commitment level to realize these KPIs within these processes? Are the KPIs well understood by all areas supporting these processes? Are the supporting KPI data properly analyzed for variation and understood for appropriate root causes, necessary containment or corrective action? This line of questioning gives an indication of which process features to investigate, allowing the auditor to uncover the underlying deficiencies and corrective actions needed. As auditors utilize the connection between the KPI performance level and the organization’s processes outlined above, many different audit techniques may be used. Each technique can be tailored to fit the organization’s QMS structure/organization or an Auditor’s respective skill set. An auditor may focus on the process interfaces that are a subset of the KPIs as an initial point of investigation such as, the interface between customer order entry and product realization or the interface between product realization and servicing. As auditors can attest, process interfaces are often the most common source of failures within an organization’s QMS because inputs/outputs are frequently not handled appropriately. Auditors also deploy a tool known as the process turtle. They walk their audit interviewees through the identification of customer inputs/outputs as well as infrastructure, resources, control and KPI requirements so they can understand not only the process features but an obvious alignment point document with the standard being audited. The technique deployed should maintain the natural flow of a process approach audit into different areas of the organization’s QMS, to be successful at identifying failures that demand the organization’s attention. Once the auditor has determined the KPI information lead-ins to the organization’s processes and starts to uncover the next layers of QMS using appropriate audit techniques, the next challenge is to summarize information into terms of real value to the organization and appropriate CAR identification. While many auditors appreciate requirements for their clarity and ‘black and White’ prescription, this can often be the point at which the auditor and organization struggle to make a connection. Auditors should be going back to the KPI, defining the KPI deficiencies in terms of what the organization has to gain. Examples of gains may include increased revenues, expansion of potential business opportunity, etc. and aligning the gains with the observed process deficiencies. This connection can be clearly supported through the auditor’s identification of the evidence and description of the CAR to the underlining supporting requirement it is being written against. As organizations continue to require more value from their third-party audit services, Cbs are linking their process thinking to the supporting KPIs to allow management or organizations to see their performance associated with them. Many organizations are already showing consistent signs of integrating business management systems into real-time KPI tracking systems. These types of systems provide a platform for fine-tuning process weaknesses, reallocation of supporting infrastructures and people. As this evolution continues, the CB’s challenge is to define real value achieved through their audit services. Organizations will choose continued business relationships with Cbs that are able to innovate and offer more value through their audits.
Published by QualityMagazine. View All Articles.