TÜV Rheinland is offering remote audits worldwide for all common management system standards in conjunction with its accreditation rules. Companies aiming for certification in accordance with ISO 9001 for quality management or ISO 45001 for occupational health and safety management can have the certification process performed by TÜV Rheinland by way of remote audit. This also applies to several standards in the areas of IT, food and various social audits. In this form of remote audit, TÜV Rheinland’s auditors work through the audit criteria by Skype, Zoom or other video conferencing systems with instant messaging and content sharing with the companies. Remote audits can be implemented for all levels of certification: They are possible for initial certification, for annual surveillance audits and for recertification audits. This correspondingly reduces the workload for on-site meetings and travel, which saves the companies time and effort.
The coronavirus crisis has boosted demand for innovative, digital audit processes, and for many companies remote audits are a solution for maintaining their certification despite coronavirus restrictions or for earning an entirely new certification. Remote audits are up to 100% possible for many classic ISO standards, such as ISO 9001 for quality management, ISO 27001 for information security or ISO 14001 for environmental management. TÜV Rheinland has created processes and structures at international level that allow it to offer this form of audit worldwide for a wide range of ISO standards. “We have developed a uniform, professional procedure for all management system standards that sets out which parts of an audit are viable for remote procedures, and how the customer can be prepared for a smooth process,” explains Tamas Lovasz Szabo, Regional Stream Coordinator at TÜV Rheinland.
Furthermore, TÜV Rheinland is constantly monitoring developments in which standards can be implemented on the basis of remote audits, and is in close contact with accreditors. This ensures that, especially in COVID times, companies have flexible options for responding quickly to local developments in the pandemic.
The remote audit has several stages. A risk analysis determines which processes at the customer company can be audited remotely. “There are differences depending on the standard and the company. For a smaller service company that wants to have its quality management system audited in line with ISO 9001, the remote portion of the audit is probably higher than for a complex company with intensive production. On-site audits of live operations may be unavoidable for the latter, so that, for instance, all occupational health and safety criteria can be monitored live,” explains Tamas Lovasz Szabo. The first stage also ascertains the extent to which the company even meets the technical requirements to have the corresponding parts of the audit performed virtually. The stability of the Internet connection and the communication software available, such as Skype for Business or Zoom, are tested before the audit. A full remote audit of production operations without an on-site presence is possible only if an online video connection is assured. That way, not only can auditors interview the employees in the office, but they can also go through production, track manufacturing processes, visit warehouses, inspect infrastructures and assess the process environment – just as if they were actually there.
Another key requirement is that all documents are available in digital form, so that they can be remotely audited by TÜV Rheinland. If it is not possible to perform an audit 100% remotely, the audit elements that can be audited only in person are planned and carried out. After the successful completion of the entire process, the company receives its initial certification or its recertification, which is due for companies already certified every three years.
"Remote audits have become particularly established among companies during the coronavirus crisis. But moving forward as well - Independently of COVID - the option of remote audits will be an important and lasting part of our services for customers. TÜV Rheinland has already performed more than 5,000 remote audits worldwide," says Tamas Lovasz Szabo. The digital procedures mean more flexibility for companies, that appointments can be held online, and that travel expenses and on-site preparations can be reduced.