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ISO 9001 Certification -Life After the Audit

by The Quality Hub

Episode 8 – ISO 9001 Certification -Life After the Audit

ISO 9001 Certification -Life After the Audit

Exciting news! We have finally reached the last episode of our 8-week series, and we are thrilled to be covering an essential topic: Life After the Audit. We have a special guest, the fabulous Suzanne Weber-Smatko, who will be sharing valuable insights on what steps to take following an audit. She will also be discussing the importance of promoting your certification, continuous improvement, and how to cultivate a culture of quality.

Core Business Solutions publishes ISO Certification podcast episodes weekly. You can find more episodes here.


Episode 8 Key Content

Hello, everyone, and thanks for listening to the Quality Hub chatting with ISO experts. I’m your host, Xavier Francis, and I’m here again with Suzanne Weber, Smatko, manager of consulting services, at Core Business Solutions. Glad you could be with us here again today, Suzanne.

Thank you. Glad to be here.

Today’s show is entitled Life After the Audit. Once we’ve had our audit corrected our findings, now we’re certified. What goes on after that? We’re going to take you through all of that today. If you have listened to the Quality Hub before, you may already be familiar with Suzanne Weber-Smatko, but if you haven’t, let’s learn a little bit more about what she does.

Hi, X. Well, I’m the manager of consulting services here at Core, and I also consult and help businesses get certified and implement a quality management system and get them through certification. I’ve been in quality for a little over 30 years. I’ve probably held every title from quality clerk to a senior leadership role.

Quite extensive. Wow.

Yeah, it’s you know, I don’t want to age myself. Expert. I would.

I would have never guessed.

Yeah, I just, you know, most of my background is aerospace. I have dabbled in a little bit of supplier performance and ISO 9000 implementing global management systems. So glad to be here.

We’re glad to have you here. And with all of your expertise and experience, which is just amazing considering you’re 29.

I started young.

Oh, yes. Yes. All right. So we’ve talked about most of what we do as a company to get ready for our certification and audit. So our external audits are complete and we get our audit report. Could you explain to us a little bit in detail what those audit report findings mean?

Sure. When you’re having an audit by a third-party registrar, they’re coming in or most audits, they’re coming in to look at an example to make sure that you’re compliant with certain elements of the standard that lay out requirements. That report is objective evidence of whether an organization or your company is adhering to principles and requirements as prescribed in whatever standard that you’re getting certified to.

So if it has a quality management system and it’s ISO, we’re talking about 9001.

That’s correct. That’s correct. If it’s aerospace, it’s ISO 9100, and so on. So, you know, you get that report back and the auditor is going to document their findings based on what they’ve observed during that time that they’re spending with you.

Okay. So the registrar comes in looking at if you’re meeting the requirements for your standard, do you find that registrars are different in how they look at things?

You know what? Everybody’s auditor is different. Every auditor looks at things differently. However, they’re looking for compliance with a specific standard. There’s no objectivity in the standard. It’s black and white. It defines what the requirement is, although you will get different auditors with different levels of experience who look at things a little bit differently. So your findings will be written up against the standard or your findings should be written up against if you’re non-compliant to the standard.

Okay. Well, I know that we hear core business solutions have some registrars that we recommend that we are familiar with, that they know our process, how we work in consulting and training, and things like that that we provide to our customers. Sure. So they’re familiar with that. But not everybody is going to be that way. Not everybody’s going to pick a registrar that we may have worked work with before.

That’s correct. But the nice thing about that is we’re consistent in how we deliver and help businesses get or implement their quality management system right? I mean, we go through a, you know, a project checklist that is inherent to make sure that we’ve captured all of the requirements and make sure that the companies are compliant before they even go into an external audit.

That’s the nice thing about the standard, that there are some requirements, but they don’t tell you how to do it. That’s right. So you as a company can kind of decide some of that this is how we’re going to handle this and our consultants are aware of this is what is prescribed by the standard. This is how we help you to get their suggestions and how to do that.

Yeah, absolutely. Again, you know, we’re not looking to overturn anybody’s business and tell them how to do things differently. We’re looking at how they’re already and what they’re already doing and how we can incorporate that into the quality management system. We’re not looking to change processes. We’re not looking to change any of that stuff. So the standard, to your point, the standard, it tells you what the requirement is.

It doesn’t tell you how you have to meet it.

So I know that it doesn’t always happen, but sometimes you may have findings in your audit report. How should you respond to those findings? And I know that you have to respond to them and take care of them before you get your certification correct?

That’s correct. That’s correct. So you want to make sure that you respond to them promptly. If an auditor writes you up for noncompliance and gives you a finding, then obviously there’s something wrong and it can be impacting, you know, other services or products or processes, you want to get to the root cause of findings.

Yeah, you want to find out what’s causing it?

Yeah, absolutely. You want to get to the root cause, You know, you’d be surprised at how many people struggle with actually getting to the root cause to make sure that they implement the right corrective actions. You know, for people who don’t have experience, you want to ask yourself at least the five whys and try to get to a root cause.

But. Right, Right. You know what? The root cause you’re going to identify specific actions that you’re going to take as a business to rectify and come into compliance with the standard before you submit them back to your auditor. And you always, always want to submit any objective evidence that you identified as a result of your corrective actions.

So if you did a root cause on a finding and found that maybe you don’t have a defined process and you go ahead and you write a procedure or a process that would make your approach clearer, you know, we want to train the applicable employees to that process that you’re writing.

So when you submit a corrective action, you always want to submit the objective evidence along with it. What that means is you want to submit the process that wasn’t defined so whatever, if it’s a procedure or work instruction, and then you want to train the applicable people because you’ve just implemented a new process, you want to send those training records to the auditor because the auditors thinking about all of it, right?

How it affects everybody.

And they just don’t want to have you say, Oh yeah, we found the problem, we’re going to fix it. Yeah.

You’re going to say, Yeah, this is how we went through and fixed the problem.

Right? Right.

Finding on right, right.

And I know that with our consultants here at Core, we have documentation, resources, training, and debt help in root cause analysis. Oh, absolutely. That helps. When you do have findings.

You would be very, very surprised at how much we support our customers by addressing findings from an external audit or an internal audit. This could probably be a podcast in itself because of cause and corrective action not a lot of people know how to do a thorough one, but one of the common pitfalls of replying to a finding is that people want to reinstate what the problem is instead of identifying what the true root cause is.

You know, back to how you want to respond to those findings. Timely, get to the root cause. Submit any evidence that you can to the auditor to give them the comfy cozy that you have addressed throughout the business.

All right. So we’ve done that. We’ve responded properly. We’ve got our certification and we’ve got the piece of paper. We can put it up on our wall. Oh, my gosh, we went through all of this stuff. How do we promote that to our customers, to our interested parties say, hey, we’re certified now? Maybe that one contract that you needed to have the certification for, how do you communicate that to them?

Place your certifications and your company brochures on your website. You can put your ISO or AS logo on your letterheads, and inform potential customers about your certification using promotional materials if you should take advantage of that opportunity to get them from Core. We provide promotional packages that are really, really nice.

Lori, who is our marketing vice president. She makes sure that every person has good certification and has some stuff that we can use.

Absolutely. And it’s nice. So I would recommend taking advantage of that. But if you don’t promote internally, promote your certification in appropriate forums.

So when you do promote it internally, you’re talking to those people that helped define the processes. You know, talk to them about, Hey, we did it, you guys did it. And, you know, that’s going to help morale kind of be that engagement that you want with your employees. Absolutely. It’s not just a piece of paper.

That’s correct. Because before you even get your certification, those employees are part of that audit sometimes. Right. And most times they need to know what the quality policy is. It is a good way to morale. You’re right. You should engage the employees as you’re going through the certification process just by informing them that you’re going for certification.

But what I have done in my past life is once we’ve gotten certified in a business, I used to get one of those tapestry signs. It was A, B, C company, you know, and certain company, everybody sort of pledged. Everybody came, and they signed it. Everybody. It was it.

Was just one of those you sold.


No big one.

You had a big one that I had made. But it kind of gave all the employees. It was kind of a pledge to their contribution to helping us get certified because it was a big endeavor at the time. That’s great. Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. Yeah. So definitely engage the employees. But once you’re certified, it doesn’t end there.

No, no, I was going to ask you about that. People can feel like, Hey, we got a piece of paper, we’re done. This is great. And there certainly needs to be a sense of accomplishment there that we talked about and that you’ve completed something. We’ve done this. You know, we’ve won the Super Bowl of sorts, but as soon as they’re done, you know, you celebrate for a week, a week or two and you’re back at it.


Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you need to sustain your quality management system or else you lose your certification. It’s as simple as that. You know, once you’re certified, it’s time to ensure your quality management system. This means holding your management reviews at the frequency that you defined. It means getting your internal audits done every single year. Report on your quality objectives, identify improvements on your quality objectives, or any other things that you can identify to measure, to make improvements.

You know, one of the things that I experience a lot with my clients is that they don’t document all the great initiatives and things they do to improve their business every year. Yeah, and you know, when you’re certified, you have to show evidence that you’re committed to continuous improvement. And if you don’t write it down, you can’t show evidence.

And you would be so surprised. I use this in my past life as well. You would be so surprised that when you write things down on everything that you’ve done at the end of the year, you look at the list and you go, Wow, we did a lot because when it lives in everybody’s head, people don’t know that.