Auditing: collaboration for the highest quality
A rigorous approach to audits and assessments ensures that products satisfy the requirements of an end user. Ronny Mendelsohn is Site Assessor at Kiwa Germany, specialized in auditing the production of gully tops and manhole tops for vehicular and pedestrian areas. In the case of Ronny’s auditing activities, it’s not just about those who purchase the products – it’s even more about the fact that people must be able to safely use roads.
What she likes so much about her job, says Ronny Mendelsohn, is that it requires a collaboration between customer and auditor. They both intend to achieve the same goal: “I always feel very welcomed at a production facility – no doubt because we, the customer and myself, share the same interest in maintaining the high quality of products.”
The audit process: a team effort
Certified companies themselves take their responsibility very seriously – they have strict quality controls in place, and Mendelsohn verifies them according to the applicable assessment directives and the quality system in place (the IQC scheme, or Internal Quality Control system).
“The auditing process is actually very straightforward; all required elements of an inspection for an objective assessment are detailed in the audit program and plan. And all the findings are to be recorded in a template report”, said Ronny Mendelsohn.
The process begins with her meeting the person responsible for the company’s quality management. They discuss the last assessment and look at any outstanding items, then talk about any changes that have occurred since the last visit, such as changes in production processes or staff, and whether any problems or reclamations have occurred. They also discuss any changes to the applicable standards and assessment directives.
After going over the audit plan, the inspection begins. It involves all the elements that go into making the final product, such as raw materials, material properties, the production process, factory production control, the final product and its storage and handling, as well as the procedures that are in place for handling complaints, rejected products or corrective actions.
Mendelsohn checks that all these elements conform with the IQC scheme and applicable standards. She also checks that laboratory and measuring equipment works and is properly calibrated. “There are a lot of documentation checks in addition to the process control and testing of the final product,” she said.
The audit ends with a closing meeting, during which Mendelsohn reports her findings, including whether there are any nonconformities. She records the findings in the inspection report, which is then sent to the certificate holder – the customer - and the certification body. Nonconformities mean that one or more parts of what has been inspected do not comply with the directive and/or the quality scheme. In order to remain certified, the customer is requested to implement corrective actions within a given timeframe. These actions are then being sent to the certification body for evaluation. “That is a particularly important part of the job,” concludes Ronny Mendelsohn. “It’s all about improving and maintaining a high level of quality. And that’s something we all take very seriously.”
Becoming a Site Assessor: Ronny Mendelsohn
After having worked as a civil engineer for over ten years, Kiwa Germany’s Ronny Mendelsohn completed a training program consisting of seminars and tests and underwent two years of on-site training to become a Site Assessor. Now she specializes in auditing the production of gully tops and manhole tops for vehicular and pedestrian areas.
Ronny’s interest in quality control started much earlier. “I’ve been involved with some type of quality control since the age of 14,” she recalled. “I got into a school practical in an analytical lab where we assessed and analyzed soil and water samples – I ended up doing that for the entire time I was at high school. When I was offered the chance to become a site assessor for Kiwa I seized the opportunity.”
During the training process, Mendelsohn worked alongside Helmut Brunnert, a very experienced Site Assessor from Kiwa Germany, going on visits to see how he carried out the audits. Over time, the arrangement reversed so he was accompanying her as she did assessments herself under his supervision. After two years, successfully passing the required qualification assessment, Mendelsohn was prepared to go at it alone, but it’s never a one-person job; her reports are assessed and evaluated by the certification body and there is an ongoing communication with the product manager – in this case, Bart van der Vegte, from Kiwa Netherlands.