in Vol. 8 - July Issue - Year 2007
Reducing Residual Stress During Audits
The author: Paul Huyton
Very few of us look forward to being audited. We begrudge the time it takes to prepare, execute and respond to an audit. And we need to be very confident in ourselves and our systems to avoid being wary of an important inspection, such as a Nadcap audit. I know that when I ran my own manufacturing business the audit dates seemed to come around surprisingly quickly. Yet after an audit, I would feel some exhilaration that my company activities had been adequate to pass the audit and, from our interaction with the auditor, we had some real opportunities to make system improvements. Being positive about the audit process provides a psychological advantage in coping with the stress that an audit may otherwise induce.
Some of the concerns preceding an audit are the questions: “What will the auditor be looking for?” and “How will the audit be conducted?” These concerns should be minimal for a Nadcap audit because the process is so transparent. A supplier can gain access to comprehensive information about the programme and other training material on the Performance Review Institute www. pri-network.org. This site also gives access to the Nadcap Customer Support Initiative, NCSI, a web-based training programme for many aspects of becoming a successful Nadcap approved supplier. There is also a link to the eAuditNet site, the core of the Nadcap audit report system, where there is access to numerous helpful documents. All the audit checklists are available for down-load in the public documents section so every supplier can know exactly the criteria that must be satisfied during the audit process. The auditors’ handbook for a specific commodity can also be down-loaded from here; for a shot peening audit the specific handbook is listed under Surface Enhancement as the SE auditors’ handbook. This contains the guidance given to an auditor for each section of the checklist. So any supplier can find, in advance of the audit, the answer to the first question, “What will the auditor be looking for?”
To answer “How will the audit be conducted?” again there is guidance in the public documents section of eAuditNet. The auditors’ general handbook is available for down-load and this will explain the guidance given to the auditor in executing the audit, including the protocol and agenda for daily briefings during the audit.
To provide more detail on “How will the audit be conducted?” I will describe my typical schedule for a two day SE audit.
We start with the opening meeting or “in-briefing”. All the relevant supplier personnel should attend so that mutual introductions can be made. Some suppliers include machine operators and higher management in this meeting; some restrict it to quality and production supervisors. In all cases it is advisable to have at least two supplier contacts to be identified in the audit report. After the introductions I describe my method of auditing and propose an audit plan for discussion. We also agree the provisional times for the daily briefings and the closing meeting.
The next step is normally a “walk-through” of the facilities: the peening area, compressed air supplies, parts storage and shot storage & testing areas. I am looking for general standards of “house-keeping” and jobs to audit, as well as specific items on the checklist. Job audits are the “acid test” of a Nadcap audit, so I always start these as soon as possible. Delays to an audit usually occur because of problems during a job audit e.g. the machine needs to be set-up or the shot has to be renewed. So the job audits are given priority and other checklist requirements which can be accommodated during gaps away from the shop floor. As a guide, auditors are expected to spend approximately 70% of the audit time in the workshop. This is because Nadcap audits are focussed on actual results in the workshop; operational compliance validates the adequacy of the quality system & staff competence.
At the end of the day I discuss with the supplier all the observations I have made during the day, some of which may be findings that require a non-conformance report (NCR). During the evening I give further consideration to these and commence the written report, so that by the second morning I can give a better opinion on the findings. We also agree a programme to collect all the outstanding information for the checklist. By the final meeting we can discuss all of the NCRs and the suppliers use of eAuditNet to respond to the report. It is important to have mutual agreement that the findings are valid and that the supplier is committed to corrective action. The supplier should state any disagreements with the findings at this stage as disputes after the report is submitted do take longer to resolve and do not serve anyone’s interests.
Nadcap audits are rigorous and the analysis of root cause corrective actions is demanding. But the transparency of the system does result in higher and more uniform standards of special process quality control across the industry.
Paul Huyton is a Nadcap Auditor and co-authored the book "Shot Peening"
Author: Paul Huyton