THIRD-PARTY QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AUDITS: PERCEPTIONS, LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDED IMPROVEMENTS
Authors: Christopher Kluse
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Third-party quality audits have been a continued practice within the manufacturing community since release of the ISO 9000 standard in 1987. In recent times, many within the manufacturing industry are questioning the value of the audit process. (Sayle, 1995, Sayle 1999, Douglas, 2000, Gordon, 2001, Dalgleish 2006) Consequently, a need exists to better understand the impacts and perceptions of the third-party auditing process. This research used a grounded theory approach to explore the following question: How do management representatives perceive the third-party audit process?
Collection of data consisted of 25 in-depth interviews taken from management representatives within the North American automotive industry. Job titles of research participants included Quality Director, Quality Manager, and Quality Engineer.
Results of the research include (a) the third-party audit process is adequate to assess an organization’s quality management system against the ISO/TS16949 standard, (b) the third-party audit process fails to add tangible value for the organization, (c) the relationship between the auditor (registrar) and auditee (organization) represents a significant conflict of interest, (d) the continued audit cycle is redundant and offers diminishing value, and (e) mature organizations fail to benefit from the third-party audit process. Results substantiate the views offered by Sayle (1995 & 1999), Douglas (2000), Gordon (2001), Karapetrovic and Willborn (2002), Beckmerhagen, Berg, Karapetrovic, and Willborn (2004), and Dalgleish (2006). Furthermore, a final model is offered to depict the fundamental changes recommended to improve the audit process.
The conclusions of the research include: (a) Revise the ISO/TS standard to incorporate requirements that drive continual improvement and offer value to an organization, (b) Develop ISO registration and audit process infrastructure whereby the organization does not have leverage over the auditor and make the audits truly third party, (c) Remove the requirement for continued audit cycles for organizations that have periodically demonstrated compliance to requirements via surveillance audits. Eliminate the requirement for continued audit cycles, and (d) Incorporate assessment of the quality management system level of maturity as a method to determine if an organization is in need of a third-party audit. This study suggests that, by and large, tangible value is not a benefit of the third-party audit process. Consequently, as a value added activity, or a continual improvement tool, the third-party audit process is ineffective, insufficient and in need of significant changes
Suggestions for further research include (a) conducting a quantitative study to demonstrate the financial impact of the third-party audit process; (b) determining if an organization’s quality and customer performance improves over time after becoming ISO/TS certified; (c) conducting a quantitative study of management representatives within the automotive community to determine the percentage that support third-party audit process; (d) completing a case study on a successful, profitable non-ISO-certified manufacturing organization; (e) conducting a Delphi study on the Kluse Utopian Third-Party Audit Model; and (f) investigating alternatives to the audit process as a method to determine QMS compliance and effectiveness. Additionally a future researcher may seek to understand how factors such as human resources practices, organizational climate and knowledge management affect an organizations quality-related performance.