The 3 year certification cycle is made up of a two-stage process in the first year, followed by surveillance audits in the consecutive years, but very little is said about the pre-assessment audit of management systems and its benefit to the certification process.
Many companies don’t know that they can hire a registrar to conduct a pre-assessment audit to assess how ready they are for ISO certification. It is an optional process which is performed before a certification audit takes place. Its main objective is to observe flaws or gaps in a management system and determine the degree of conformance of an organization’s management system with the requirements of the ISO standard. Although no formal report in relation to major or minor nonconformities is generated at this stage, the auditor prepares a list of observations for the company to use and implement corrective actions before their certification audit.
The pre-assessment audit is an important process for companies that are just beginning their certification. It not only allows them to get acquainted with the audit process but also allows them to gain an external perspective on their current management system. The lead auditor’s inspection is extremely beneficial as they have the experience and knowledge of the requirements of an initial certification audit.
This type of audit follows normal procedures of others audit processes. The auditor generates an audit plan covering areas of the management system and verifies all documents and records and interviews those involved in the processes. Sampling techniques are also applied and an opening and closing meeting is conducted.
It should be noted that pre-assessment audits are optional. It is up to the organization to decide whether this is something they want to do or not. If the company has undergone an extensive and thorough internal audit, then it may not be necessary to hire a registrar for this service and the company can go directly to stage 1 and stage 2 audit.
All audit processes, whether internal, pre-assessment, initial audits, surveillance or recertification audits, should add value to the management system, generate corrective actions, change processes and use the PDCA cycle as a whole. The pre-assessment can be the first step towards continuous improvement.
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