Enhancing Your Internal Audit Program: Tips for Meaningful, Efficient, and Compliant Practices

14 Jun 2024

Navigate Food Safety Solutions

Enhancing Your Internal Audit Program: Tips for Meaningful, Efficient, and Compliant Practices


Internal audits are often touted as one of the most powerful programs within a company’s toolkit, especially in an industry like food manufacturing where compliance and efficiency are critical. Yet, it’s not uncommon for teams to find internal audits more painful than productive.


The reason for this often lies in the implementation process, which can be bogged down by complexity and inefficiency. By stripping away that complexity, we can show you how to create an internal audit program that meets all expectations in a simple, doable, and efficient manner.


Key Components of a Simple and Effective Internal Audit Program


At its core, a good internal audit program contains four key components:



  1. Calendar: Utilize a straightforward audit calendar. Instead of complicating the process with weekly deadlines, break it down into monthly tasks. This ensures every area gets reviewed without overwhelming your team.

  2. Form: Simplified documentation will help your team stay organized. Forms should help document the evidence of compliance and non-compliance, detailing who did what and when. Proper documentation is essential for training records and maintaining auditor independence, but doesn’t need to be complicated.

  3. Trained and Competent Auditors: Internal Audit training should equip your team to perform both vertical audits (inspecting records from various programs) and process audits (challenging an entire process fully). Although external training is beneficial, internal training, if well-documented, can be equally effective in ensuring your team has the competencies they need to audit effectively.

  4. Procedure: Clear, documented procedures ensure consistency and clarity in your audit program. Make sure a risk-based approach is integrated into both your audit calendar and your forms.


Common Challenges and Solutions


In many organizations, the Quality team is solely responsible for internal audits which often leads to bottlenecks and inefficiencies. This is just one of many common challenges plants face with their internal audit program. Here are the challenges we see most often with internal audit programs and simple solutions for each:



  1. Quality Leaders Doing All the Work: Engage more team members, including the Senior Leadership Team, in the internal audit process to spread the workload and enhance cross-functional insights.

  2. Focusing on Compliance: Internal audits shouldn't just tick boxes for compliance. They need to be meaningful and prove to be effective in identifying actual issues and areas for improvement. Shift the focus from compliance with an external standard to effectiveness in achieving internal standards.

  3. Complex Programs: Simplify wherever possible. Break down your program into manageable parts and avoid unnecessary complications.

  4. Big Issues Found Unexpectedly: Regular, systematic audits will catch smaller issues early before they become big crises.

  5. Running to Stand Still: Finding lots of issues but not seeing results? Ensure that any non-conformances from your audits lead to corrective actions, and follow up on those actions to confirm completion.

  6. Unsustainable Programs: Design a program that can endure staff changes and scale with production increases without breaking down.


Conclusion


Internal audits, when simplified, can become the powerful tool they’re touted to be. By engaging senior leadership, focusing on both compliance and effectiveness, and simplifying the process, your internal audit program can transition from a painful necessity to a meaningful, effective part of your business operations.


By adopting these strategies, you can ensure your internal audit program is both meaningful and compliant, positioning your company to better meet its goals and serve its customers.


Not sure where to start? If your internal audit program needs a complete overhaul, check out our Internal Auditor training. We cover how to audit from a system perspective and teach you how to perform four different audit methods, including vertical audits and process audits.