Blockchain can end the uncertainty associated with a remote audit. The main stumbling block when integrating this type of remote validation is related to the need to avoid picaresque in the data and records presented by audited organizations. Blockchain has become the most effective mean to eliminate this reluctance.
When social distancing changes the dynamics of work
The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 on the global scene in the form of a pandemic has generated high levels of uncertainty in the adaptation of traditional working methods.
When displacement and physical presence are not an acceptable option, it is necessary to look for viable alternatives to maintain quality and safety standards under desirable levels.
Technological transition has set trends in most sectors when it’s up to organizational innovation. However, considering current events, this transition to remote working methods and telematic means has been accelerated and implemented, with uneven success, at full speed.
Are face-to-face audits necessary?
Beyond the need to maintain a certificate, it is necessary to evaluate in which cases it is imperative that a foreign person could has access sensitive production areas. In this sense, one of the aspects that generate more doubts or uncertainty are the inspections and audits in food establishments.
From a risk analysis approach, wandering through food processing areas should be discouraged unless strictly necessary. This should also apply to auditors and inspectors, with no exception.
The risk posed by face-to-face audits
Regardless of the duration of a pandemic, to what extent would it be advisable for a food establishment to receive outsiders? No matter how well-prepared the auditors could be, wouldn’t it be an added risk to travel through a food processing area?
The problem is not limited only to certification audits. Food production facilities receive monthly inspections, official controls and audits from organizations ranging from the competent administrations to auditors contracted by the client to perform second party audits.
The position of standards’ owners in the food sector
The best known GFSI-endorsed standards proponents first announced that they would not extend certificates if they expired during the pandemic. Even in those cases where there was no possibility of moving an accredited auditor to the site.
As living with the pandemic became more enduring, cross-border and evident, GFSI was forced to point out the desirability of extending the expiring certificates for six months.
In this sense, an evaluation should be made according to the risk of the company holding the certificate and the certificate should be extended or not depending on the result of this analysis. However, you wouldn’t find in their communication the real and effective possibility of carrying out remote audits, which is already a valid and current reality as stated in ISO 19011:2018.
But what are the requirements for remote auditing? Are they a brand-new concept? Nothing new under the sun: ISO 19011 drafted remote audit scenario long ago.
Remote audits according to ISO 19011:2018
ISO 19011:2018 already makes it clear that audits could be performed remotely, however, it seems a step we were not prepared to take, until reality has pushed us in that particular direction.
Far from the apparent improvisation on forced digitalization by the coronavirus pandemic, the standard for conducting audits provides for the relocation of audits. That is, the possibility that the auditor wouldn’t need to travel to give veracity to the audited data.
Location of the auditor
The methods for conducting an audit can be divided into those that require person-to-person interaction and those that do not. In both cases, the location of the auditor does not have to coincide physically with the person with whom he or she must interact. In this sense, the standard allows for remote interaction through:
- Conducting interviews.
- Observation of the work remotely, with a streaming video transmission, for example.
- Using checklists and questionnaires.
- Performing documentation reviews with the participation of the auditor.
Audit activities that do not require interaction
As a preliminary stage to an audit it is always necessary for the auditor to analyse and review the information relating to the client’s management system. This phase is always carried out remotely, i.e. the auditee previously sends the documents of his management system to the auditor, so that the latter can plan and structure the audit in accordance with its purposes.
Regulation also provides that the observation of the work can be done through regular surveillance means, such as security cameras, if current legislation on this matter is respected.
Verification of information
Most of doubts are generated in the face of a remote or virtual audit in the possibility that the audited company would show unverifiable data. To be valid, audited information must be verifiable with respect to the following:
- It must be complete, in the sense that all the expected information is correctly documented.
- It must be correct, and the content must conform to established standards if those would exist.
- The information must be consistent with the documentation itself and related documents.
- The data must be up to date.
How can Blockchain help you with remote audits?
The auditor should ensure that reviewed information is complete, in the sense that it is correct and true. The usefulness of Blockchain is precisely to give those data and information an extra layer of truthfulness and immutability.
Blockchain helps you to accredit the auditable data of your processes. Imagine that a food operator records, for example, the results of the actual monitoring of the variables related to his Critical Control Points. In this case you could virtually open a window for the auditor to reliably check that your processes conform to food safety standards.
Blockchain can really reduce the number of auditors and inspectors in production areas which are, in fact, the most sensitive ones in a food facility.
If remote audits have so many advantages, why haven’t they been used more often? Would you like to find out how we can reduce auditor wandering in your facilities? Contact us!