Virtual ISO Audits – Using Remote Assessments to Manage Risks and Opportunities
Dimi Gencheva, Quality & Continuous Improvement Principal, FedEx Corporation, Memphis, TN USA
Keywords: Quality, Audit, Virtual
The Covid-19 pandemic, causing disruption in the assessment schedule of ISO certified companies, has put virtual audits in the spotlight. The approach and supporting technology for virtual audits are something the certification companies have worked on for a while now, however the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed their rollout and use as being essential in managing the disruption the pandemic has caused on maintaining ISO certifications, driven by the travel limitations, office closures and enforced social distancing rules.
Like most new concepts, at the beginning virtual audits brought in confusion, stress, additional planning and management efforts for the companies, which decided to go for it.
After the initial struggles in rolling out and using virtual audits and learning from the experience from these, virtual audits as a tool have shown added value, especially for international companies holding global multi-site ISO certifications, where assessments typically involve substantial planning, domestic and international travel and where multiple locations and organizations are involved.
The immediate benefits companies are seeing are:
- Effective management of risks impacting the assessments – travel limitations, sickness, weather conditions among others
- Increased flexibility for auditors and auditees - by using online platforms to facilitate the assessments
- Cost efficiency - driven by the reduced travel and accommodation expenses
- Reduction of travel times and effective management of possible travel disruptions - caused by factor outside of the company’s span of control.
In order to successfully plan and perform virtual ISO audits, companies would need to design and implement an internal process for planning, obtaining of necessary approvals and rules for using certain types of technology for facilitating the assessments, define the types of equipment and supporting environment features, needed for a smooth assessment process, as well as establish controls to ensure that the process and rules are being followed.
Based on my organization’s experience with virtual ISO audits, I would be glad to provide an overview of our journey in implementing remote assessments, including:
- process and approach related limitations we are seeing
- best practices for planning and performing of virtual audits and
- benefits virtual audits bring to our organization.
In addition, I would be glad to share some details on our perspective to the future of remote assessments, key areas where this approach could be used most effectively and how what advantages it could bring for a certified organization.