The purpose of Audits and Compliance checks is to ensure that things are getting done right and in the right way. It is an activity done after the event and hence by nature a lag indicator. The very fact that this needs to be done, indicates that we are currently unable to control the process such that there is no non-compliance.
What do we check in Audits?
Let us look at what typically gets into audit :
One of the primary and critical aspects that get audited especially in manufacturing is Safety. These are mandatory and statutory in nature. One would check if employees are wearing the protective equipment when they are in the work area. Are there sufficient measures to ensure that the machine and equipment in use have the necessary guards in place? Are the employees following the safety procedures outlined?
Do we have the right material and available in the right quantity at the right time for operational efficiency? Is there wastage of materials provided or is there a shortage? There are motion-related things checked like if there is a better way to do the task? Are the workers following the standard operating procedure? Are there breakdowns? Are there steps that can be eliminated? Are the places of work aligned to optimize the process? Are there any safety concerns in the process? Are the inputs and outputs and tools appropriately placed?
How are we detecting defects? What are the controls in place to ensure there are no defective pieces going to customers? How are ensuring that these defects are getting logged correctly and in a timely manner? Are there systems and processes in place for the operators to log the issues? Are there mechanisms for feedback about the work? Is there evidence of these measures? Is there a case where customers have complained about quality? Did they receive a defective piece?
Documentation is one of the key requirements in the quality standards like ISO. The compliance checks also verify if there is needed documentation of the process and the stand operating procedures. Is this documentation accessible to the workers easily and when needed? Are there changes made to the document based on the changed practices? Are there notifications and training conducted to communicate these changes?
IoT and impact on Audits
Let us look at how the Internet of Things (IoT) technology can impact the above-mentioned aspects of Audit check:
IoT-based automation and intelligent systems can ensure that the presence of personnel is detected and their physical appearance checked for ensuring the safety measures have been taken care of by the worker, every check conducted leaves an audit trail, and if there are exceptions found and alarms raised with evidence. Also if the situation got corrected the issue or alarm raised could get closed. No longer there may be a need for any such pieces of evidence of compliance as the compliance is ensured automatically and all evidence collected.
IoT cloud-based workplace and process enhancements will lead to groundbreaking transformations. The workplace is now touted to be commonplace for humans as well as robots to work together. The raw materials needed get demanded or pulled from the repositories or warehouses based on the jobs at hand and planned for the day. The raw materials are automatically routed to the place of work. Every step moved ahead in the workflow gets detected or communicated to get additional inputs and take the outputs to the next step in the process. This kind of self-managed factory setup will have all the statistics and logs around the process already created and available and there is no need to present any pieces of evidence as they are all over the place!!!
Now quality will hardly need any sample checks as all the items will go through a compulsory test. Every item would have its own set of quality requirements embedded and would reach out to instruments which can verify a specific parameter, thus each end product would have its size verified by a machine, based on the specifications embedded. The product would get each of its parameters auto verified.
The defects found would get automatically recorded with the snaps taken as evidence and immediate creation of the issues found in a system. Even the intermediate items can go through the quality checks and ones with issues or defects would route out of the job. The management would get immediately notified about these defective pieces. The process could be fixed instantly if the defect is due to configuration or machinery failure.
Thus Quality will no longer be an afterthought or but a part of the process itself.
The documentation is one thing that may be solved on its own since the workflow or process maps that would be used for automation themselves are good enough documentation. Also, the need for documentation now gets reduced from instructional purposes since it is the IoT data that drives the processes. The documentation would be generated in terms of execution logs providing the evidential documentation needed.
Thus to a great extent, the need for audits as done currently is negated. Tomorrow’s audits and compliance checks may be way different and simpler than its current avatar. Thus IoT future trends are moving to shape up life making it better even in the Audit-dom!!
Read Audit – a scarecrow? to get to know how you can get better Audits done using mobile technology and start this journey.