Everywhere you look, you see social media posts, news articles, and hear conversations that can be summarized as “the world will never be the same”. At Qualtrax, we are looking ahead to see what aspects of accreditation, compliance and quality will change forever.
As many organizations around the world have moved to remote work, we can see that pieces of our world may forever stay remote.
At Qualtrax, we are predicting a new, more innovative way of maintaining accreditation and performing audits. Particularly, the possibility and benefit of remote audits, both for the auditor and the auditee.
After a month of many organizations going remote, I spoke with Carlos Manuel Pereira da Cruz, an ISO expert with Advisera Expert Solutions. I wanted to see what Carlos saw as the future of auditing now that organizations have been forced to adjust to this new remote environment.
“Though remote audits are relatively new, they are not as new as the coronavirus (COVID-19),” he said, adding, “Conversations have been going on since before 2015 about how companies could move toward remote audits.”
Carlos did credit COVID-19 for helping accelerate this change and deepening the conversation that had already been taking place for years.
When asked whether or not he felt remote audits would stick around post-pandemic, Carlos responded, “I believe that remote audits will become mainstream. Coronavirus will accelerate everything that has been on the backburner for years.”
All of that said, I wanted to reach out to an accrediting body so we could get even more perspective on this potential change to the industry.
Mr. Trace McInturff is the Vice President of Accreditation Services at A2LA. Trace oversees the management of Accreditation Services; he oversees and facilitates all aspects of the vast A2LA contracted assessor corps.
A2LA started offering remote surveillance assessments two to three years ago. They also had a remote assessment policy that would allow for already accredited entities to add on additional assessments if the technology for a remote assessment was available. According to Trace, this option wasn’t used frequently.
“Once COVID hit, we opened up remote assessments outside of that scope,” said Trace.
However, in order for A2LA to determine that an organization is suitable for a remote audit, they need to conduct a risk assessment to make sure it’s feasible.
“We look at their history and other aspects that dictate risk before making a decision. We then decide on whether or not we should do a partial assessment until conditions allow for an onsite assessment or whether a full remote assessment would work for this particular organization,” he said.
According to Trace, any standard can adjust to a remote assessment if the appropriate technology is available. Even testing can be done when video technology is available.
So how can an organization prepare for a remote assessment?
Trace suggested that your organization try a dry run first. You can reach out to your accrediting body for assistance or even try a remote internal audit!
“Labs need to figure out what resources they have and determine whether or not they have the bandwidth to do it,” he said, adding, “If your lab is still paper-based, you will need to figure out a way to present documents clearly to the assessor.”
In terms of labs with a Quality Management System, Trace said that their assessments tend to run much smoother.
“When an assessor asks for a record, having the document ready and available in a QMS is much faster than waiting for lab staff to search for the paper file and come back 10 minutes later.”
Regarding the future of remote assessments, Trace felt that some areas may continue to be assessed remotely, but that full remote assessments won’t become the norm.
Seeing as remote audits will be an option for the foreseeable future, let me explain how Qualtrax can help.
First of all, we are cloud-based. This means giving auditors access to your site is as simple as creating an account for them and sending them the link. From your admin profile, you can assign access and organize documents with our document control function. This can really speed up the process.
You can use our reports module to get your assessor everything they need. These reports include Corrective Action Reports, Internal Audit Reports, Proficiency Test Reports, Risk Reports and more. The assessor can dive deep into a report’s history and properties to see how you and your team have resolved a corrective action, for example.
Additionally, we have a personnel page where you can present staff resumes, SOQs, training records, etc.
Best of all, many assessors and accreditors use Qualtrax for their own compliance management. Many are used to using the software and will know their way around. Think of how much time you will save by not having to organize binders, CDs, flash drives or Google Drives!