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Internal Audits - are they really for "Improvement"?

Discussion in 'Process Audits and Layered Process Audits' started by Andy Nichols, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    In a recent discussion, the use of internal audits to identify areas for improvement was a topic of debate. Is this what internal audits are required for? To identify improvements? From the perspective of 6 Sigma improvements, the typical "Green Belt" qualification is far more extensive than the usual internal auditor and as for 6 Sigma "Black Belts", their qualifications are way in excess of a so called "Lead Auditor". So, can someone set me straight? What kinds of improvements are internal auditors supposed to be looking for if they haven't been trained in recognized techniques, somewhat like the Sigma Belts have?
     
  2. Bev D

    Bev D Moderator Staff Member

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    wow that must have been some debate!
    There is a huge difference between identifying areas for improvement and actually determining the causes and improving processes. I would certainly never expect an internal auditor to take on solving physics problems - which is what Six Sigma is for. I do expect our internal auditors to understand Lean concepts though and be able to identify waste for which they can suggest these things be improved. (Identification) We do prefer that our internal auditors also be proficient in Lean so they can contribute to continual improvements of our people based processes. But since most of our internal auditors have normal 'day jobs' this is really an expectation of most of our exempt staff anyway...And this is far different from green or black belt qualification.
     
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  3. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    This is music to my ears! Sadly, the vast majority of available auditor training doesn't deal with what this is about... I recall mentoring some internal auditors and being quite surprised at how various situations were missed, whereas if they'd had Lean awareness, things would have been significantly different...
     
  4. ncwalker

    ncwalker Well-Known Member

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    I was involved in my company internally having discussions on the merits of Lean vs. Six Sigma. We have a pretty good training program on lean, but nothing on Six Sigma. We HAVE black and green belts, but they are trained by attending outside classes at community colleges and the like. It is supported by the company and encouraged, but the company itself doesn't have Six Sigma as a formal program with formal internal training and such. For scale, we are a global company, but small for a global company. We certainly have the overhead for a formal program, we just choose not to.

    I am a fan of Six Sigma. And when I got the ear of the individuals who set the programs up, I asked them once why we didn't have more structure to Six Sigma. It basically came down to a cost/benefit ratio. Their stance (right or wrong) was that Lean concepts were easier and cheaper to teach. And that while they may not necessarily root out a chronic, deep rooted problem, they are effective at "picking up the $20 bills lying all over the floor." So, my company is all about lean. With an option to buy Six Sigma once the lean gains slow down.

    To that end, the expectation of auditors is that the receive lean training and this is checked during audits. There is then a group of lean folks who take the auditors findings and do the value stream mapping, and propose solutions, etc. Many of the auditors are involved in this process and can do it because of all the lean training. But the requirement of the baseline auditors is that they can recognize the signs of "needs some lean love" on a process.
     
  5. Miner

    Miner Moderator Staff Member

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    Understanding lean concepts would be a big plus, but shouldn't the auditors focus primarily on the Effectiveness of the QMS processes with a secondary eye out for inefficiencies and waste (hence the lean)? Once identified, the "experts" can take it from there.
     
  6. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    Great discussion! In my book, waste = ineffectiveness = needed improvement to QMS. I'm just worried that, for the majority of cases, internal auditors spend more time agonizing over ISO meanings and interpretations, than effectiveness...
     
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  7. Jennifer Kirley

    Jennifer Kirley Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm worried that in the majority of cases they won't agonize over either one.

    I also worry that people in influential places will continue (not you Andy, you aren't confused) with this idea that 6S = improvement. Improvement can come from simply wondering "Why are we doing it this way?" when process insiders are just following along the work track, just because they think they need to.
     
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  8. ncwalker

    ncwalker Well-Known Member

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    Our auditors of course focus on QMS, lean is secondary. It sort of becomes also a question of overlap. Many of these systems have common ground. So if you look for one thing in QMS, then in a few weeks you roll around and examine it for your layered audit, then again for your lean audit..... that's double handling. :)

    The message it sends to the floor then shifts to "all these audits are a thing we have to do" instead of a tool to make things better.

    Understanding is very much the key. Too many bosses want "some audit." They don't even know what it is they want, they just want it. So you do it because they don't listen and you give up. And you make this layer cake of annoyance to the floor, except it's not a TASTY layer cake. It's a bad one.

    I agree very much with Jennifer. Improvement can come from anywhere. 6 Sigma is big on making sure you don't skip any steps, and that is a key to a successful DMAIC project. I have seen many fail because someone shortcuts the process. But that doesn't mean the converse is true - that being if I come up with a solution, I don't have to package it in a 6 Sigma wrapper. Many solutions don't need it.
     
  9. Candi1024

    Candi1024 Well-Known Member

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    Not for us. Our procedures are much more strict than any ISO regulation, and we have committed to following our own procedures. Therefore, that is largely what our internal auditors look for. Adherence to procedures, or lack of clarity in procedures that could cause confusion.
     
  10. Andy Nichols

    Andy Nichols Moderator Staff Member

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    I thought that was what internal auditors were supposed to be doing all along...;)
     
  11. tony s

    tony s Well-Known Member

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    Same here with Miner. Auditors should focus first on "effectiveness". If a finding warrants it, OFIs can be determined. But OFIs are usually offered by people with "expertise" on the audited process. I infer on this because I subscribe to the OFI definition of the Rules for Achieving IATF Recognition which specifies that "An opportunity for improvement is a situation where the evidence presented indicates a requirement has been effectively implemented, but based on auditor experience and knowledge, additional effectiveness or robustness might be possible with a modified approach".
     

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