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What Auditors Really Want

By Jeff Chilton   |   

Let’s start with something most people forget when it comes to audits: Auditors are people. And they’re not out to get you! They don’t want to find anything wrong in your workplace or facility. In fact, they want you to score well during the audit process.

And yet companies and people will focus specifically on whether or not they pass. Driving company sales, as well as individual bonuses or promotions, can hinge upon a good score. But a good score isn’t the point an audit exists — ensuring safety is!

An auditor’s purpose is ensuring that your company is complying with food management safety standards, such as SQF, BRC or FSSC 22000. And the driving force behind ensuring compliance is to ensure that your company’s products do not threaten the health of consumers that could have been prevented.

It’s important to customers, too, knowing that you have food safety systems that are safe.

The Key to a Successful Audit Experience is Preparation . . . and a Sincere Effort

A trained workforce is a prepared workforce. Make sure you have the tools and technology to provide top-notch training as well as tools for optimizing your recordkeeping. Auditors will take note that you are taking great strides to engage employees in an organized manner.

You Can Impact your Auditor Assignment

If you have a preferred auditor that has not audited more than three consecutive cycles, you can request the auditor be assigned. If you have an issue with the auditor assigned, you can request a different auditor to be assigned  to your facility.

Remember that each auditor has his or her own story, experiences, and similar stresses as you. While this certainly can impact your outcome, it’s helpful to keep it in mind that auditors are human!

It’s OK to Challenge an Audit Finding

If you’re marked as non-compliant, you can respectfully push back. Before doing so, make sure you know your standards extremely well. Challenging a finding will quickly go south if you can’t back up your reasoning. Note that pushing back doesn’t guarantee that it will go your way, so you’ll want to be 100% confident in your belief that you are in fact compliant with that particular non-conformance.

Consider Audits as Opportunities

They provide insight to areas of improvement, and thus, learning. Let’s say a non-conformance is identified during the audit process. The steps your company takes to rectify it will result in a natural improvement in the existing food safety and quality systems.

The value of an audit should last long after the score is registered. You should examine audit reports carefully and compare with past and future audit findings. This will enable you and your team to identify patterns and trends over extended periods of time, providing valuable insight into ways that your company can continue to improve.


Up for a deep dive on audits? Check out our free ebook, Improve Your Audit Score:
How to Prevent Major Audit Non-Conformances.




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About the Author

Jeff Chilton currently serves as Vice President Consulting at Intertek Alchemy. For over 20 years, Jeff has consulted with hundreds of food manufacturing firms to develop and enhance their food safety and quality programs, environmental safety and health, and operations management. Prior to consulting, Jeff worked in the food industry for 15 years as plant manager of two large food processing companies, as well as a director of quality assurance earlier in his career. Jeff is a contributing writer for several national trade magazine and has spoken on food safety and quality topics for numerous trade associations. Jeff is a Certified Lead instructor by the International HACCP Alliance and a FSPCA Lead Instructor. He also teaches Basic and Advanced HACCP and Preventive Control for Human Food courses for client companies and in public courses.

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