Remote audits may have sounded unconventional at this time last year. But 2020 is shaping up to be a memorable year for all kinds of reasons. 

Have you ever been audited from afar? During these unusual times, that prospect is becoming more and more common. 

But what exactly does a remote audit look like? Good question. According to BSI, “A remote audit is the same as an on-site audit, but the auditor engages with you via technology. It can still cover document and record review, tours of your premises, interviews with workers and presentation of findings by using a range of technology platforms including:

  • Live web streaming technology such as Webex, Zoom, MS Teams, GotoWebinar
  • Live streaming paired with mobile technology such as a smartphone or tablet with video capabilities (e.g. WhatsApp, Skype or Facetime)
  • Live streaming paired with smartglass technology and video headsets.”

Remote audits require planning, then actually conducting the remote audit and finally audit reporting. 

As BSI states, “From the beginning we will work together to get the right audit approach for you. We will discuss the proposed approach, taking into consideration scheme specific requirements and your technology infrastructure, to ensure we can deliver an effective audit.” 

According to ISO, here are questions that may come up with a remote audit: 

  • “When watching images, are we looking at real time images or are we looking at video records? 
  • Can we capture everything about the remote site or are we being guided by selected images? 
  • When planning for a remote interview, will there be a stable internet connection and the person to be interviewed knows how to use it? 
  • Can the processes and sites to be audited be realistically audited offsite? 
  • Can you have a good overview of the facilities, equipment, operations, controls? Can you access all the relevant information?” 

The planning stage should be able to address all of these issues in advance. In addition, ISO states, “New information and communication technologies (ICT) have made remote auditing more feasible. As access to ICT has increased, remote auditing has become more commonly used. This allows the auditor to communicate with people globally, accessing a wide range of information and data. These techniques transform the way we work.”

What’s been your experience with remote audits? Do you think it will help you during future in-person events? Or would you prefer to continue with remote audits even once in-person auditing is possible? 

Lloyd’s Register asked their clients about this, and the popularity of remote audits may surprise you. While events like birthday parties and baby showers are better in person, it seems that auditing from another location isn’t as arduous as it might seem. 

“After surveying over 900 of its global customers, including those in the manufacturing, engineering, IT and telecoms sectors, LR found that 82% felt the audit was just as in-depth as the traditional on-site audits they had received previously. Additionally, 83% felt the audit provided the same, if not more, value for money, while 87% found it to be easy, or very easy, to arrange,” according to the company. 

Paul Butcher, managing director at LR, business assurance & inspection services, said, “Remote audits are certainly not new, but the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a number of new businesses across multiple industries have been introduced to their capabilities. Working together with our customers to agree the best approach for them, we will now look to deliver our audits remotely where possible, using the power of technology to make the audit as effective and efficient as possible for organizations across the world.”

The company goes on to say that “All ISO certification standards can be delivered remotely, including ISO 9001 (quality management systems), 14001 (environmental management), ISO 45001 (occupational health and safety) and ISO 22000 (food safety management) as well as a range of information security standards.” 

While you may have only recently become interested in remote audits, they predate the pandemic. Auditing expert Shauna Wilson, president of Amazon Consulting Inc., spoke about e-audits a few years ago on ASQTV, and as early as 2008, she wrote about auditing in virtual environments for The Auditor. In 2013, ASQ Press published her “eAuditing Fundamentals: Virtual Communication and Remote Auditing.” 

Even before COVID-19, there were clear benefits to remote audits. Wilson cited the cost and time savings involved. But there are other benefits—not just from a health and safety perspective—that can be realized. As Wilson stated, audits can be much more efficient if done online vs. the traditional method. 

But certain requirements must be in place beforehand. According to Wilson, these include proper technology and internet security, auditor experience and training, and an accepting environment. 

If you’re looking to navigate the waters of remote auditing, know that many other manufacturers have gone through the same thing. It may seem difficult at first, but at least you can take comfort in knowing that a remote auditor might be new to this whole concept too.