Preparing for Your ISO Recertification Audit and 8 Questions to Consider

ISO recertification cycle infographic


Preparing for the Recertification Process

Three-year recertification cycles are approaching for many companies that are certified to the ISO quality management system (QMS) standards. A question we are often asked is, “How should we prepare for recertification?” Realistically, for companies with a mature and effective QMS, it shouldn’t matter whether a surveillance audit or recertification audit is coming up. What is key is how you maintain your system and manage change.

“Maintaining your QMS and making continual improvement is often more difficult than obtaining certification for the first time.” Jim Lee, CEO of simpleQuE, ISO consultant for almost 20 years, and former Certification Body (CB) auditor, provides his insight on recertification. “Companies should take a look at the last 3 years for any changes, and to determine if QMS impacts have been effectively and efficiently implemented. Companies that fail in maintaining QMS certification requirements could eventually lose their certified status by not passing their recertification audit.”

To prepare for recertification, review what has changed in your company over the past three years and consider these questions:

  1. Do you still have the same quality manager?
  2. Has top management changed, including their support and commitment to the QMS?
  3. Are the process owners or functional managers the same?
  4. Have new process owners or new managers made changes to their portion of the QMS?
  5. Have changes been adequately documented and audited? How robust is your change management process to ensure documentation is updated, personnel affected are trained, and the changes were effectively implemented?
  6. How are performance, trends, and effectiveness for each of the QMS processes? Are you seeing general improvement over time?
  7. How many new employees exist? What is your process for assessing and ensuring competency?
  8. How has your scope of what you do changed? Look at the scope statement on your certificate and in your quality manual to see whether changes need to be made.

Below are some lessons from our leaders with certification body audit experience and areas they evaluate during a recertification:

  1. Ensure actions taken for CB nonconformances (issued during the previous 3-year cycle) are still effective and have evidence to support the corrective actions.
  2. An auditor will want to see the context of the organization (internal/external issues, interested parties, scope, risks and opportunities) and have a good “go through” to determine changes. If there have been no changes in 3-4 years (especially during the pandemic) then it typically leads to nonconformances.
  3. An auditor will want to see objectives considered for appropriate goals and whether the metrics are still appropriate. Are you measuring weaknesses to drive improvement back into the processes / business? (If a client is meeting all objectives year after year this doesn’t meet the intent of continuous improvement.  Also, ensuring action items are constantly being re-evaluated and are not long-term showing no improvement)
  4. An auditor will want to see a new strategic plan or direction from top management at least once during the last three years and be able to discuss it with them. If there’s no change to strategic direction, be prepared to discuss why, and what is projected in the next few years for the business.
  5. If there have been historical problems and customer issues, the internal audit schedule should increase audit time on targeted areas.  Stagnant schedules year-after-year will be a problem.

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During a recertification audit by the CB, the entire QMS will be assessed. Additional audit time will occur during the recertification audit, and the CB auditor should be studying data and trends over the last 3 years to scrutinize the effectiveness and efficiency of the quality system.  Every process and requirement will be covered during the single recertification audit.

Not every company has a mature, stable QMS that is prepared for any type of audit at any time. The risks come with the fact that your company’s certificate is expiring. Should there be a significant quantity of nonconformances or major nonconformances during the CB recertification audit that take a long time to close, or can’t be closed before the certificate expires, a company could be at risk of losing their certification.

“Many companies look to simpleQuE as an internal audit expert and outside set of eyes to scrutinize and assess the robustness of their quality management system. They find we can expedite the results to effectiveness and ensure they are on the right path,” shares Deanne Sparr, President of simpleQuE. “We are often asked by our clients to perform internal audits with our industry experts to help identify weaknesses in the QMS.  Some clients are even adding more internal audit time in preparation for the CB recertification audit.”

Are you one of those companies with a mature QMS that isn’t worried about a recertification audit?  Or would your company benefit from an outside set of eyes to challenge and test your QMS with a thorough audit? Contact us if you need help preparing for recertification. Whether it’s training, consulting or internal audits, we are able to reduce your risks and give you confidence going into your recertification audit.

If your company is certified to the IATF 16949® standard which has requirements that extend beyond ISO, you will want to read our blog about IATF 16949 Recertification with tips about preparing for this type of audit.

This article was written by Jim Lee, CEO of simpleQuE. With 36 years of experience in quality, engineering and manufacturing. Jim was also a partial owner of an accreditation body, a former president of a certification body, and former RABQSA/IRCA certified lead auditor, IATF® certified ISO/TS 16949 lead auditor, and RABQSA certified Aerospace Auditor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Ohio University, has been on ANAB’s Accreditation Council, and various ANAB subcommittees, has served on various ASTM subcommittees, has been on two previous AS standard writing committees, and is currently on the standard rewrite committees for AS9110 and AS9120.

SimpleQuE is not associated with the IATF®, IAOB, ANAB®, IAQG®, and is not a certification body. SimpleQuE is an independent consulting, training, and second-party auditing service provider that assists a company on a path for the company to obtain and maintain certification through accredited certification bodies.

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