Quality Audits: 5 Common Problems and How to Fix Them

02 July 2020

Operations

Quality audits are more than just a necessary evil.

According to Deloitte, a quality audit:

“Means a total commitment to making sound judgments. It means ensuring that all the right steps are taken consistently in the course of the Audit. It means providing a bedrock of confidence in the results verified."

When done right, quality audits find and flag errors before it's too late.

They make sure processes are working efficiently, demonstrate compliance, improve relationships with suppliers and even increase customer satisfaction. 

But when done poorly, quality audits don't uncover issues that crop up as product defects, shipping delays, non-compliance, unsafe work environments and customer complaints. 

The objective of every quality audit should be the continuous improvement of products, systems and employees.

Unfortunately, most quality audits don't live up to their potential.

That's because they're riddled with inefficiencies and missed opportunities, making them more of a box-ticking exercise than a catalyst for positive change.

Here are 5 of the most common problems with quality audits and how you can fix them.

 

1) Quality audit processes aren't adaptable because they don't take previous audit histories into account.

Every plant, warehouse and physical site is different, and so are the teams working in them.

This means that the flow and content of the auditing process might be different every time, too.

Yes, it's critical to standardize quality audit processes so the findings are objective and provide certainty.

However, inflexible quality audit processes and checklists prevent the auditor from fully using their expertise to uncover additional areas for improvement.

A main cause of this is a lack of access to previous audit histories and reports.

Without a concise summary of the previous auditor's findings, auditors are going in blind. They're not using their time as impactfully as they could be. 

Imagine an auditor finds issues with defective packaging, which are detailed in the audit report. 

An adaptable audit process gives the next auditor a full history of this audit, and the flexibility to deep dive into this area to see if improvements have been made. 

An inflexible audit process constrains the auditor and is a wasted opportunity for improvement.

How to fix it:

Digitize your audit processes. This makes them easier to standardize, update, and adapt. With a digitized audit process, auditors can pull up audit histories in a flash to help them plan and prepare. 

With a paper-based audit process, pulling up an audit history means thumbing through 10 different folders in a back office and isn't an effective use of anyone's time. 

And speaking of paper: 

 

2) Quality audit checklists are paper-based and done manually.

Completing audit checklists manually and/or on paper does these 3 things, all of which take the "quality" out of a quality audit.

  • Paper makes human error more likely. Think of illegible handwriting, coffee stains and lost pages. And for quality auditors who spend the whole day on their feet or driving between physical sites, there's even more chances for human error to sneak in.

  • Paper makes time-consuming data entry necessary after the audit. And for auditors, this time could be better spent on coaching employees or moving on to the next audit.

  • Paper is costly. Printing, storing and disposing of stacks of paper checklists isn't cheap, not to mention the environmental cost.

How to fix it:

Toss paper audit checklists where they belong - in the recycling bin - and digitize your checklists using an audit software app.

Related: Go Paperless: 5 Reasons to Switch to Digital Checklists

 

3) Quality audit processes waste time that could be spent coaching employees.

Sure, quality audits are focused on systems, products and facilities, but who operates the systems, makes the products and maintains the facilities?

Employees.

Audits are not a win-win situation for everyone involved when auditors don't have enough time to spend with teams.

Employees lose out on learning from a pro, who could make their day-to-day lives easier and inspire them to do better work.

Auditors lose out on a chance to share their expertise and build relationships with employees, which makes their roles a lot more fulfilling and develops their expertise.

All the admin work needed to fill out checklists,  write up audit reports, assign a score and create a corrective action plan prevents auditors from spending their time where it has the most impact - with employees. 

It's all fine and good to catch and correct errors during an audit, but it's even better if employees are coached to do it themselves, making a quality audit a mere formality. 

How to fix it:

Automate and streamline data collection, scoring and audit report generation to give quality auditors more time. Make evaluating and coaching employees a mandatory part of every quality audit.

 

4) Quality audit checklists contain both excessive and insufficient detail, and don't make full use of pictures.

Yes, you read that first part right.

Having too many questions, or irrelevant questions, makes quality audits more time-consuming and doesn't yield any new insight.

Having too few questions, questions that aren't worded objectively, or answers with insufficient data (a.k.a pictures) means that an audit report will be inaccurate and unreliable.

Quality Auditors should have the flexibility to leave out irrelevant questions and jump between sections.

Questions should be posed as objectively as possible to maximize accuracy. Consider these 2 similar questions you might find on an audit checklist:

Question 1: "Is there adequate lighting in all processing areas?"

Question 2: "Is every light fixture working in all processing areas?"

Question 2 will yield a more objective answer, because it's not reliant on an auditor's assessment of what constitutes adequate lighting.

And don't forget, pictures are data too.

They're worth 1000 words, which is a lot more detail than a yes or no answer can ever provide.

They're also a crucial source of information for the next auditor to come along. 

To make full use of pictures, make sure they can be easily uploaded, stored and accessed by the auditor to help them plan and prepare for the next quality audit. 

How to fix it

Regularly review and edit questions on quality audit checklists.

Choose an audit software that supports uploading and associating pictures with specific questions, as well as archiving pictures to give the next auditor a complete picture (literally) of the previous auditor's findings.  

 

5) Quality audit reports are time-consuming and don't provide actionable corrective action

The data and insight pulled from quality audit reports should help the entire organization improve.

Quality audit reports should flag up defects and errors - so they can be resolved before they cause more serious issues.

Reports should also create consistency across every location.

All of the above are hard to achieve when reports are compiled by hand or done manually in Excel.

This doesn't give anyone else - including the teams being audited -  visibility into what's working well and what needs correcting. 

Manual report collation, audit scoring and action plan creation are time-consuming for the auditor and open up another opportunity for human error to sneak in.

Since scores aren't calculated automatically, it's likely they're inconsistent between auditors and locations.

And after spending so much time creating, scoring and generating a report, the next quality auditor has to spend even more time retrieving the report from an Excel file or paper folder. 

How to fix it:

Choose an auditing software that automatically:

  • Consolidates data and images collected during the audit
  • Calculates an audit score using a built-in scoring system
  • Generates an audit report PDF
  • Creates a concise plan for corrective that the auditor can share immediately  

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Quality audits should be positive and productive experiences for everyone involved. Fixing these 5 common productivity blockers in your quality audit processes will transform them into your secret weapon for continuous improvement.

YOOBIC takes the stacks of paper checklists, time-consuming data entry and confusing reports out of your quality audit processes. Transform your quality audits into a secret weapon to help every team perform its best! 

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