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Auditing within a business or organization is an assessment of compliance. The internal quality audit usually focuses on adherence to the company’s quality management system that is in place, although it might also address other areas, such as laws and governmental regulations. Internal quality audits are a proactive means to determine readiness for an outside audit and to identify areas that need improvement.
There are essentially three types or levels of auditing that occur in connection with a business or organization. An external quality audit, also called a third-party audit or third-level audit, is done by some form of independent entity, such as a regulatory agency. The second level refers to reactions from customers or end-users. The third type, the internal quality audit is undertaken by an in-house audit team.
An internal quality audit is a valuable management tool. Feedback from other sources, including customer satisfaction and external audit findings, detail the final results. The internal quality audit provides management with the means to examine company procedures and the effectiveness of products and services before reaching that point. The frequency of audits varies, depending on the size and nature of each business, but it generally is recommended that an audit be conducted once a year.
Normally, a checklist will guide the stages and individual steps of the audit. Checklists for internal audits will be specific to each business. Most are refined and augmented as the business grows, and many become lengthy and detailed. Properly completed, these checklists become a valuable resource for the management team.
Most audits begin with a meeting between the auditors and the management team to outline the scope of the process and address any questions or concerns. This step is then repeated at the end of the audit to discuss issues of noncompliance and recommended corrective actions. Internal quality audits should not focus exclusively on deficiencies, but also should identify areas of exceptional performance and highlight practices that are working well. This can build overall morale and lead to a more cooperative atmosphere during the audit process.
One of the key steps of the internal quality audit is the recommendation of corrective actions that should be taken to address the problem areas. In general, these recommendations are not optional and are accompanied with a target date for compliance. The audit is not considered complete until these issues have been corrected and reexamined by the audit team.