CAVU Café: Royboy’s Prose & Cons

*Note: The views expressed in CAVU Café: Royboy’s Prose & Cons blog are those solely of the writer and are not necessarily shared by the Aviation Suppliers Association or the Association’s staff, members, or Board of Directors.

   About Roy Resto


Like many of you, I’m a ‘morning person’ meaning I go to sleep early and rise early to start my day. When challenged with a big project, my preference is to wake up early and get to work to put in that long day. When it’s time to go home, I leave on time even though I may have worked extended hours by coming in very early. In discussions with persons of similar dispositions, it seems we all have one common gripe; very few people notice our extra effort. For example, we routinely may come in hours-early to get it done, but leave on time…the extra effort not noticed, therefor not acknowledged. That might be ok if it weren’t for the fact that the person who came in on time but stayed an hour over is given credit by management for being a ‘company person’ and being dedicated. Managers who engage this behavior are likely to alienate the early risers; lesson learned – take notice of, and value your early birds. They are in fact likely among your most productive employees.

Another company asset whose value is frequently overlooked is the Internal or Self Audit. In my career I have taken notice of what seems to be 3 models of the practitioners of this recurring requirement:

  • The self/internal audit ‘form’ is filled out impeccably with all required entries and attachments…with zero findings.
  • The audit is performed and a couple of token findings are recorded.
  • The audit is performed and is an in-depth look at the state of the quality system. The findings drive continuous improvement.

Which one are you?

Whatever your feelings regarding this task, know that you are not alone. A short list of the standards requiring internal self-audits would include:

  • ISO 9000 series
  • AS/EN 9100
  • AS/EN 9110
  • AS/EN 9120
  • ASA-100
  • EASA 145 Repair Stations/Approved Maintenance Organisations
  • Safety Management Systems
  • IATA Operational Safety Audit
  • Myriad Military Procedures

Internal self-audits came into prominence following the Japan/Dr. Deming quality revolution where there was a shift from reliance on Quality Control to Quality Assurance, among many other changes. One of the ways of gaining the ‘Assurance’ in ‘QA’ is by the performance of this task. Simply put, these audits are a means of internal surveillance; are your quality systems working as they should? Without question there is strong and consistent correlation between your internal audit findings and external audit findings; an inverse correlation. Firms with strong and aggressive internal audits tend to have fewer external findings and vice a versa. External being those performed by regulators, customers, and accrediting organizations.

Zero Findings during internal audits:

Think about it, for firms with zero internal audit findings, they’re really saying ‘we’re perfect’; Really? When you think you have that perfect system, please call me; no one has figured out how to have a perfect system yet. Consistent zero findings could be caused by:

  • The auditor(s) not being not being sufficiently trained. The lack of training may be related to actually performing the task, not understanding the standard, or both.
  • The sampling size of the areas you audit is too small. For example, you may have 20 employees but during an audit of training compliance, you look at the training records of only one employee.
  • Any findings generated are looked upon by management as ‘rocking the boat’ and/or there is no support from management to implement the needed corrective actions. The audit is treated as a form to be filled out.
  • Any honest discussion would have to include complacency; get it done as quickly as possible for compliance and move on to other more important tasks. The audit is treated as a form to be filled out.

The external auditor’s perspective:

When an external auditor sees that there is an aggressive audit program with meaningful findings, its sets the external auditor at ease because it reflects that the auditee is on their game; they are adequately surveilling themselves. The fact that you may have many internal audit findings will not reflect poorly on your operation; quite the opposite.

Speaking just for myself, when I see that the internal audits have zero findings, I increase the sampling size of the audited areas and know I will have to spend more time with the audit. If I have significant or numerous findings, I can put in the audit report that performance of the internal audit can be improved-upon, given the number or scope of the external audit findings. In other words, the internal audit does not appear to have the level of effectiveness needed to intercept and prevent quality issues from occurring.

Management Support:

In the ISO/EN/AS world, internal audit findings are shared with upper management, typically during the required management reviews. The data from this and other sources in the quality system are designed to drive continuous improvement in the operation. But what if you’re not ISO/EN/AS certified?

Among those firms who are not ISO/EN/AS accredited, there appears to be great variation among upper management and the value placed by them on this process. In some cases, outside of the QA Office, the results of the internal audits are not known by upper management. Some defenders of this might counter that there is no requirement to do so…and they would be right, but what a wasted opportunity to benefit your organisation!

Books, textbooks, and many courses address auditing techniques, so it is not the purpose of this article to restate those many works. There is no question that in the world of aviation, aggressive meaningful internal audits have contributed to heightened levels of safety and compliance; it is one of many tools used in quality to affect safety and continuous improvement. How sharp is your tool?

PS: Morning people really like premium coffee…

Over ‘n out

Roy ‘Royboy’ Resto

Posted By Roy Resto | 6/1/2018 10:10:00 AM

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