In the actual audit, we will assess your products, processes, services or management system against the requirements as specified in the applicable standard. During this assessment we may request to see documentation, invoices, registrations, conduct personnel interviews and have a look in your production area. We may have to inspect your machinery for maintenance, your food processing lines for leakages or wear, your buildings for proper flooring, etc.
During this assessment, the auditor may run into issues that are not compliant with the requirements. If so, the next question is: to what extent is the issue not compliant? Generally speaking, if the issue at hand is an infringement of a legal requirement, or a breach that affects the ability of the subject of assessment to fulfil its intended goal, or it raises serious doubt about the ability of the organisation to provide compliant products or processes, then we call this a major non-conformity. A major non-conformity can be so serious that we have to declare it a critical non-conformity and have to stop operations there and then. If the non-conformity is still a breach of a requirement, but does not warrant a major non-conformity, it will become a minor non-conformity. Be aware that if we find a lot of minors, we may conclude that the company still does not manage its products or processes properly and issue a major non-conformity.
The auditor will explain why and pertaining to which clause of the regulation the non-conformity has been established. The auditor will also indicate the deviation from the standard, its grade (major/minor) and the deadline for solving the issue. The moment the audit is finalised, the timeframe for closing the non-conformity starts.
If you fail to close the non-conformity in time the system will also inform you about the suspension process that Control Union will start in accordance with accreditation rules. Even though this process must be started, CU will support you in closing the non-conformity.
How you handle major and minor non-conformities largely depends on the program, but generally speaking we will want you to tackle major non-conformities reasonably quickly, normally within 6 weeks or so. You may have more time to solve minor non-conformities, but be aware that this does not go for all programs! Critical non-conformities may lead to immediate suspension, so we will require you to respond quickly. In such cases you may want to respond quickly as well, since you will no longer have a certificate, which may in turn interfere with your business activities.
In solving non-conformities, we will expect you to solve the problem and to send us proof of this within an agreed timeframe. Your organisation is expected to do a root cause analysis of the non-conformity and to determine the extent of the problem. In general, you are required to solve the immediate problem (e.g. ‘fix the hole in the wall’) and make sure it cannot reoccur (e.g. ‘stop the trolley from banging into the wall and making a hole’). For that, the concepts of extent and root cause analyses are applied. A root cause analysis means that you have to ask yourself what the actual underlying problem is. One way to do that is to ask you why this problem occurred. For instance: ‘why do these tiles fall of the wall’?. Answer: ‘because the door slams shut with a bang every now and again’. Then you ask the same why question again: ‘why does the door slam’? Answer: ‘because the wind can freely play with it’. In general, you should ask yourself why five times, although you may reach your conclusion earlier than that. To determine the extent of the problem, you have to ask yourself: ‘I have this problem here. Can I have the same or a similar problem elsewhere or is it likely that this course of the problem also affects other areas in my business’? If the answer is yes, you have more to solve. Our Client portal will guide you through these steps and will remind you when the non-conformity is nearing its deadline.
If you fail to provide CUC with evidence that you solved the non-conformity within the agreed period of time, we will give it the higher grading. This means that a minor non-conformity will become a major and a major non-conformity will become a critical and may lead to suspension. You will be given the period of time set for that grade of non-conformity to still resolve the problem. If not, your certificate may be (temporarily) suspended and eventually may even be withdrawn altogether.
However, if you provide evidence as required, we will make an assessment whether we find your solution sufficient or not. In many cases, a document review may be sufficient, but it may also be that we need to assess the situation on the floor in your company to be able to establish that everything has been taken care of. Once we have found that all non-conformities have been properly managed and solved, we will either decide that you are awarded a certificate stating that you comply, or decide that there is no need to suspend the certificate that is already in place.