Treating an Audit as a Chance to Improve

Rebecca Zentko

I can remember some time ago, in our early days of ISO 9000 certification, when as the time grew near for the ISO Auditor to appear on the scene, the air was thick with tension as the Quality Management Representative (QMR) and other affected personnel literally scrambled to get everything in order for “the audit.”

In 1998, Muir Omni Graphics achieved the ISO 9000 Certification (now 9001-2008) for Quality Assurance.  In spring 2008, we were proud to have succeeded in our goal of achieving the ISO 14001-2004 Certification after designing and implementing a formal environmental management system to the ISO standard. The QMS surveillance audits were initially set up to be conducted every six months and the EMS fell right in step with this timing.  Receiving audit feedback more frequently has been beneficial in keeping our systems on track.

As the Environmental Management Representative (EMR), I can certainly attest to how fast six months can fly by. It seemed like the next thing we knew, the auditor was contacting us to set up a date for the audit visit. One thing I realized early was there was no need to panic, nor was it necessary to make a desperate scramble to make sure every “T” was crossed.  Muir Omni Graphics has been dedicated to following ISO Standards every day, not just the day and a half the auditor is in our facility.

We completed the ISO 14001 recertification audit last week.  I admit that just the month before I had gripping moments of “Wow I should be…”, but I stopped myself.  Again I realized we are supposed to be in compliance every day.  If we received a Corrective Action, it would be an opportunity for improvement.

The auditor has been in our facility every six months since 2008, performing thorough audits on both the Quality and Environmental systems.  We have integrated some QMS/EMS systems elements where we could, so as QMR and EMR, we spend a significant portion of time together with the auditor.   He knows our processes and can easily see that we operate in a manner that is focused on continuous improvement.

He has been an instrumental role model as we continually improve our own internal auditing process and team.  I look forward to his audit reports where he identifies areas in which we are doing good work, and then follows up with one or two ideas for areas of improvement.

If you are ISO certified what have your ISO auditing experiences been like?  What strategies have you developed to make the process smoother?

About Rebecca Zentko

Rebecca Zentko is Environmental, Health and Safety Director for Muir Omni Graphics, a manufacturer of durable decals and OEM industrial graphics. She is a Six Sigma Black Belt and an active member of NAEM’s LinkedIn discussion group. You can connect with her online at:

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1 Comment
  1. Virginia

    March 11, 2011

    Great post Rebecca! I am certain your blog resonates with a lot of our community members who go through the auditing process–which can be anxiety inducing–but you make a great point about how strong systems and dedication to continuous improvement are what management systems and ISO certifications are all about. Thanks for sharing.

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