Quality Auditing

for the Boss

An executive overview by
Dennis R. Arter
Columbia Audit Resources
Kennewick, WA, USA
509.783.0377
dennis@auditguy.net
http://auditguy.net
Quality Auditing for the Boss
Dennis R. Arter, Columbia Audit, 4004 S Irby St, Kennewick, WA 99337, 509.783.0377
Dennis@auditguy.net, http://auditguy.net
Abstract
There are two basic evaluation methods for any work activity: inspection and audit. The
inspection says what was. The audit says what will be. Both are needed.
When implementing an audit program, there are four fundamental principles to be
considered. First, audits provide information about the future. Second, those performing
the audit are capable of performing their duties. Third, audits measure performance
against agreed criteria. Fourth, the conclusions of an audit are based on fact.
Through rigorous preparation, thorough examination, and serious analysis, your auditors
can identify strengths and weaknesses. They must present results aimed at the three
business drivers of cost, production, and risk.

Introduction
There are two basic evaluation methods for any work activity: inspection and audit. The first
one, inspection, examines the output of a process to certain characteristics. These characteristics,
generally classified as form, fit and function, have been specified and the item either possesses
the characteristics or it does not. The result of an inspection is always binary: pass or fail. It
states what was or what is.
The audit evolved in the twentieth century, as business practices became more complex. The first
use of auditing appeared in financial transactions, as tax collectors and bank examiners needed
assurance that the financial data were correct. This concept of verifying compliance was picked
up by the quality profession in the 1960s and applied to military and nuclear power uses. Today,
the audit is applied to all organizations, from manufacturing to health care to government and all
the rest. Third-party registration audits, regulatory inspections, and most supplier audits measure
compliance to existing requirements and if that compliance will continue. Internal audits should
examine compliance as well as business cost, production and risk elements. They need to focus
attention on business results.

Fundamental rules
When conducting an audit, there are certain basic rules that must be obeyed. First, audits provide
information about the future. Second, those performing the audit are capable of performing their
duties. Third, audits measure performance against agreed criteria. Fourth, the conclusions of an
audit are based on fact.
Rule 1 - Serve your customers
Audits provide information. All affected parties need to know if product, process, and system
controls are present and being applied. Sometimes there is also a desire to know if these controls
actually work. Auditors evaluate actions against requirements and produce a report. If controls
are present and working, confidence exists about the future. If controls are missing or not
working, then resources must be applied to fix the problems.
Quality Auditing for the Boss
Dennis R. Arter, Columbia Audit, 4004 S Irby St, Kennewick, WA 99337, 509.783.0377
Dennis@auditguy.net, http://auditguy.net
Auditors serve three customers: the auditee, the audit boss, and the organization. All three are
important. In addition to passing the audit, the auditee would like to know if their organization is
functioning effectively. This outside perspective can be quite valuable. The audit boss is the
person who commissions the audit. The audit boss is accountable for the auditors and their
reports. Committees cannot generally perform this function. You need an audit boss to schedule
the audits and make assignments. Finally, the auditors must serve the needs of the organization.
Business values are important and the auditors can assist by determining if the enterprise is
actually achieving its cost, production, and risk goals.
Rule 2 - Use qualified people
Auditors must be able to carry out their assignments in an impartial and objective fashion. This
means that they cannot have a vested interest in the activity being audited. If they developed the
rules, they cannot (impartially) evaluate the effectiveness and application of those same rules.
Although the auditor can never be totally independent of the auditee, there must be a separation.
It’s fine to audit within your own group, but you can’t audit your own job.
Auditors must also be capable of doing their job. They need certain skills in the emotional,
intellectual, and mechanical areas. Your auditors should attend courses, read books, and observe
others to obtain this knowledge of the audit process. In addition to knowing how to do an audit,
an auditor must be familiar with the technical processes being examined. A good way to
demonstrate this familiarity is to flowchart the activity to be audited. If auditors cannot flowchart
it, they cannot audit it. Finally, the auditor needs to be able to communicate, both orally and in
writing.
Rule 3 - Measure against agreed criteria
Auditors are not allowed to make up the rules! They must audit against standards of performance
that are already in place and accepted by the auditee. This is the planning part of plan-do-check-
act. Often, these requirements are classified in tiers or levels. The highest of these are corporate
policies, management system standards, and regulatory requirements. Usually originating from
outside the auditee’s organization, they are the goals and objectives to be achieved. National and
international standards, such as TS 16949 and ISO 9001, fall in this highest category. Next come
the local approaches for implementing these high level requirements. These are often called
manuals. They give the framework for achieving the concepts and should be fairly compact.
Manuals are then followed by a number of process-specific procedures. Further detail can be
provided in specifications, such as drawings, assembly instructions, traveler sheets, and sampling
plans. One of the challenges of an auditor is to obtain and become familiar with the many levels
of requirements forming the basis for the audit.
Rule 4 - Use facts to form conclusions
Auditing is fact based. From the data, conclusions are drawn. Facts can be good (a requirement
was met) or bad (a requirement was not met). There can be no judgment or opinion here. Also
known as objective evidence, these facts can come from five sources. They can be physical
properties, such as flow rates and dimensions. They can be sensory derived, from seeing,
hearing, smelling, or tasting. They can be documents or records. They can come from interviews
with auditee staff members. Finally, they can be patterns of these four types, such as percentages
Quality Auditing for the Boss
Dennis R. Arter, Columbia Audit, 4004 S Irby St, Kennewick, WA 99337, 509.783.0377
Dennis@auditguy.net, http://auditguy.net
or ratios. Auditors use checklists and other tools to determine the facts to be gathered. Then they
perform the fieldwork to gather these facts.
The audit report
The output of the audit process is a report. The audit boss receives the report from the auditor
and delivers it to the auditee. In order to prepare a report, the auditor must take all of the good
and bad facts and make some sense of the data. The auditor must analyze the data.
The first step is to list all of the good and bad facts. Then sort those data into piles by controls or
problem areas. Generally, there will be a large number of bad facts associated with just a few
control items. This natural chunking of the data allows the auditor to see the patterns, rather than
the individual events. The auditor should then identify the pain associated with those piles of bad
facts. It is important to identify pain in business terms, such as scrap, rework, and overtime.
Then, the auditor combines the missing control and the business pain into one statement, called a
finding. This takes the form of cause and effect, the two items that are always necessary in an
audit finding. Under the finding statement, all of the bad facts associated with the missing
control are listed. A reasonable person, presented with those same bad facts, will draw the same
conclusion. Because the business pain is identified, there will be a tremendous desire to do
something about it. No one wants pain to continue. That is a basic human characteristic.
By associating the bad facts with their controls, the auditor is now at the system level of analysis.
This has lasting value, because the system drives the processes, which produce the product (or
service).
Conclusion
Audits measure actions to requirements. They examine the product, process, or system against
standards of performance. This has value when the requirements have been thoroughly tested and
scientifically proven. Rarely, is that the case. Most manuals, procedures and specifications are
the result of a small number of individuals, putting some rules together with limited resources.
They aren’t perfect. By looking at results, the audit can determine if those plans and approaches
are any good. If not, there is a desire to make them good, because the developers and users can
see the adverse consequences. The auditor is no longer a policeman, but is now a productive
member of the organization. That is good.
Dennis R. Arter, PE, FASQ, CQA
Dennis R. Arter, Columbia Audit, 4004 S Irby St, Kennewick, WA 99337, 509.783.0377
Dennis@auditguy.net, http://auditguy.net

Dennis Arter is an independent consultant and trainer. He instructs large and small firms
in the fields of performance auditing and quality systems. Arter has served clients in the
fields of government, manufacturing, chemicals, energy, research, aerospace, and food
processing. He has been auditing since 1975.

Six years as a nuclear submarine officer and five years as a staff support engineer (QA
and QC) to a nuclear utility gave experience in project planning, facility operations,
supplier relations, and government regulation. Five years as a quality advisor to the
Department of Energy provided exposure to research, contractor operations, program
development, and training. 25 years as an independent consultant to large and small
business and government organizations required hands-on solutions to real world
problems. Participation in USA standards development, as well as visits to Europe, Asia,
the Middle East, and Africa provided a global perspective on quality issues.

Arter has presented papers on the subject of quality auditing at numerous conferences. He
has presented his course on quality auditing to over 9,000 people since 1980. In 1988,
Arter was selected by ASQ to present his auditing course nationwide on behalf of the
Society. He is the author of the book Quality Audits for Improved Performance, first
published by ASQ Quality Press in 1989 and twice revised.

Arter is an ASQ Fellow and an active member of the Society’s Customer Supplier
Division. He served a term on the ASQ Board of Directors. He was on the team that
developed the ASQ Certified Quality Auditor program and holds a CQA charter
certificate. He managed the original team that developed the Quality Audit Handbook,
first published by Quality Press in 1997.

Arter’s industrial experience includes nuclear power plant components and operations,
high level nuclear waste research, shipyards, food processing (soup, poultry, potato),
telephone switches, large software design and maintenance, chemical processing,
government (FAA, IRS, USDA, FDA, EPA), aluminum, zinc, and steel foundries,
building wire, aircraft components, aircraft assembly, automotive components, banking,
computers, mortgage lending, fiberglass, carpets, medical devices and hospital kits, blood
banking, appliances, pharmaceuticals, and composites.

Arter has a degree in biochemistry from the University of Illinois and is a licensed
mechanical engineer. He has traveled extensively throughout the USA and Canada, as
well as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Peoples Republic of China,
Italy, South Africa and Croatia. Dennis was co-chair for the Third China-America
Conference on Quality, held in Shanghai in September 2004. He resides with his wife in
eastern Washington State.

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