REMOTE AUDIT: DQS SURVEY ON THE ACCEPTANCE OF REMOTE AUDITS
In times of corona, remote audits are often the only means of choice. However, the alternative audit method was not developed to replace on-site audits, but to supplement them: if it makes sense, is technically possible and is permitted. However, companies must also be open to this form of auditing. At the end of 2019, DQS conducted a survey to approve this audit method, the results of which are currently gaining in importance.
REMOTE AUDIT – WHAT IS IT?
Remote means “remote control” in German, so remote audits are audits – internal audits and audits for the certification of one Management system– which are not carried out on site, but remotely using technical equipment. This audit method has some advantages, but it does not fit every audit situation: For the auditing of environmental (DIN EN ISO 14001) or occupational safety management systems (DIN ISO 45001) the remote audit is only of limited use, and even less so for complex manufacturing processes.
In quality management (DIN EN ISO 9001), but also in other areas, remote audits are perfectly suitable as a supplement to the usual on-site audit, provided certain conditions are met. Especially when it comes to reviewing documents or including locations that are difficult to reach. But even in exceptional crisis situations, at least parts of planned audits can be processed.
However, the conflict-free conduct of a remote audit depends heavily on a certain level of basic trust between the auditor and the company to be audited, which is why it cannot be used for initial certification.
THE FORMAL REQUIREMENTS: IAF MD 4 AND ISO 19011
There are two main sets of rules that make binding statements about the conduct of remote audits:
IAF MD 4: 2018 is the “Binding document on the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for audit / assessment purposes”. It is from the IAF(International Accreditation Forum) published and regulates key aspects of ICT use. Among others, the following are considered as such:
- the agreement between the customer and the auditor to use ICT
- the presence of the technical infrastructure
- the security and confidentiality of electronically transmitted information
- planning the effort for the remote audit
- the consideration of risks and opportunities (risk assessment) in comparison to the classic audit
- the ability and competence of everyone involved to deal with the required technology
ISO 19011: 2018 is the authoritative “Guide to auditing management systems“. He notes that audits can of course be carried out on site, but under certain conditions also remotely or in a combination of both. And it contains specific requirements for performing remote audits. However, the guideline makes it clear that remote auditing “only” complements the usual on-site audit, i.e. one of several audit methods. This plays a role, for example, when determining the audit program.
REMOTE AUDIT: DQS SURVEY ON THE ACCEPTANCE OF REMOTE AUDITS
Auditing from a distance – if implemented effectively – can have a high utility for Customers, For Auditors and also for certifiers. But how big is the approval of remote audits in the ranks of the companies? The DQS conducted a survey on the subject at the end of 2019 to determine exactly this acceptance – here is a summary of the results.
WILLINGNESS TO CARRY OUT REMOTE AUDITS
The basic willingness to allow a remote audit in your own company (question 1) is mostly present among the responding DQS customers . If you summarize the answers, which were given on a scale from 1 (not willing) to 10 (if sensible, at any time) in three groups, the following customer attitude results:
- negative (1 to 3) = 13%
- neutral (4 to 7) = 29%
- positive (8 to 10) = 58%
As expected, the questioning of the auditors about their willingness to audit from afar gave a more positive picture:
- negative = 5%
- neutral = 19%
- positive = 76%
CONTENT VALUE OF REMOTE AUDITS
Question 2 aimed at the content value of remote audits compared to classic audits. The given assumption: Remote audits are at most equivalent to conventional audits. According to the answers, the value of remote audits is …
- much lower (1 to 3) = 20%
- somewhat lower (4 to 7) = 48%
- almost the same (8 to 10) = 32%
Almost a third of DQS customers believe that the value of the two audit methods does not differ significantly. The value of the auditors was “almost the same” at 35%.
QUALITY OF THE TECHNICAL EQUIPMENT
How well are DQS customers technically equipped for a remote audit? The answers to question 3 show that more than half of the responding customers are sure that the technical requirements for such an audit are good to very good. Conversely, 44% are not sufficiently prepared for a remote audit:
- no equipment (1 to 3) = 12%
- insufficient equipment (4 to 7) = 31%
- good / very good equipment (8 to 10) = 56%
When asked (4) about the preferred video conferencing system, 65% spoke in favor of Skype, 51% for other systems (multiple answers were possible).
REQUIREMENTS FOR CUSTOMER APPROVAL
Question 5 was about from where and with whose technology the audit should be carried out (multiple answers were possible). The clear preference with 56%: The auditor should be at one location of the company and from there audit another location via the company network – a remote audit “light”. After all, almost a quarter (23%) would accept the variant in which DQS rooms operate with previously explained and security-tested DQS technology. 10% would generally not agree to a remote audit
“If the technology used does not work stably or the setup takes too long, valuable audit time is lost.”
Prerequisites for performing a remote audit, this time with a view to the benefits or scope of the audit, should be determined with question 6. Three aspects were specified that only a few customers classified as unimportant:
A. Cost savings
very important for 33%, possibly important for 59%, unimportant for 7%
B. Flexible audit schedule
very important for 44%, possibly important for 49%, unimportant for 7%
C. Only partially remote auditing
very important for 46%, possibly important for 39%, unimportant for 15%.
In the free naming of requirements (6d) for a remote audit, “reduced effort” (personnel, time, costs) was mentioned first, followed by “pure document review” and “familiarity of the auditor with the company”, which means: none First audit from a distance!
“An initial audit has to take place on site to get to know each other personally. Further surveillance audits are also happy to do remotely, for example to avoid travel costs and organizational effort. “
RISKS AND REMOTE UNSUITABLE AREAS
Question 7 was intended to determine which difficulties or risks are opposed to a remote audit or which topics or areas appear to DQS customers as unsuitable for this method.
By far the most common statement: Remote audits are unsuitable for complex processes, especially in industry. In the automotive sector (IATF 16949) and the rail vehicle industry (DIN ISO 22163 / IRIS) remote audits are not even possible.
Risks and remote unsuitable areas – Answers (free text) from DQS customers in the order of frequency of mention:
- unsuitable for complex processes, especially in industry
- unsuitable for occupational health and safety
- direct communication (eye contact, facial expressions, gestures) is difficult
- Data could be manipulated
- Information security with a view to GDPR , confidentiality of sensitive information
- Technology, eg stable internet connection, working conference systems
- partial lack of acceptance in the company, experience is not the same as a classic on-site audit
- Conference by video not to be equated with a personal conversation
“By inspecting our stations, the auditor gets a significant impression of our work – this would not be relevant for the remote audit.”
Risks and remote-unsuitable areas – Answers (free text) from the DQS auditors: The third-mentioned aspect of missing non-verbal communication by customers is also high on the list for auditors. The following are also mentioned as risks or difficulties:
- unsuitable for certain areas
- technical requirement
- Checking the effectiveness
- On-site inspection necessary, where insight is required
- unsuitable for initial certification
- Data protection aspects
- lack of customer acceptance
ADDED VALUE OF REMOTE AUDITS
Question 8 was about the added value of remote audits. The customer response focused on reducing the audit effort with over 50% of the responses. Incidentally, the auditors rate this benefit aspect for the customer at 82% much higher (free text, order according to frequency of mention):
- less effort: cost and time saving, saving of resources, environmental protection
- Gain in flexibility
- Efficiency increase
- Involvement of several employees and / or managers
- multiple locations can be integrated
- better preparation
- go new ways
- Reduction in person days
DQS REMOTE AUDIT SURVEY – CONCLUSION
More than half of the DQS customers surveyed (58%) are ready to perform a remote audit. Only 13% completely reject this method. Auditors: per 76%, versus 5%.
Almost a third of customers (32%) consider remote audits to be almost equivalent to traditional audits (auditors 35%). 20% of customers rate the value as much lower.
More than half (56%) of customers believe that they are technically well to very well equipped for remote audits. 44%, however, not or not enough.
More than half (56%) link their willingness to carry out a remote audit to a “light version”, in which an auditor audits another location from the company via its network and technology.
According to the Remote Audit survey, customers and auditors agree that remote auditing is unsuitable for complex processes. There is also agreement regarding the greatest benefit: the reduction of the audit effort.
VIEW OF THE CURRENT SITUATION
Looking at this opinion against the background of the current situation, some attitudes may have shifted due to the resulting constraints. It can therefore be assumed that the acceptance of remote audits has increased and concerns have decreased. This does not mean that existing risks have evaporated, because not every situation can be adequately assessed from a distance. There is a misconception, for example, when it is estimated that a remote assessment shortens the audit time. But the opposite is the case, since the auditor has to ask more questions or needs an additional pause for his recordings. The contribution of an on-site auditor with his know-how about the premises and the direct interaction with the employees will continue to be decisive for the audit result.
However, it could be an advantage that at a time when on-site visits are often not possible, remote audits now cover a part of the usual audits in order to save time and effort, and the necessary inspections can be made up on site at the appropriate time.
Call +91 924 320 3043 or Email: Sales.Support@dqs-india.in