How to (not) behave during a customer/certification audit?

I do not precisely remember what the question from the auditor was.

I have no idea what the answer from my colleague was. I was with the other auditor; I explained something about the process. I could not follow what the other pair was talking about.

Then the auditor replied something, and my colleague just started sadly nodding with his head. Immediately he took his notebook and wrote what he just heard.

Then the auditor said once again something.

The same happened; my colleague made the notes. Then the auditor also started making notes.

I found myself in alert mode. Something was obviously not OK. I had to intervene immediately.

⁃ Is there everything alright? – I asked.

⁃ I am afraid, this and this I miss – the auditor explained what he was looking for.

⁃ Well,  that we call a bit differently, but we have – I answered.

I asked my partner to show that.

He explained how that works because he knew that. But he was just blocked by the audit situation. He could not think clearly under pressure.

But the most dangerous was his body language.

He did not question what the auditor said. He accepted everything and just messaged: we were guilty.

Even that we had a good answer to the auditor question, we did a bit differently than the auditor’s first expectation. He was too nervous to recognize and gave up defending our way of working immediately.

Later, I gave him feedback, explained what I saw and sensed. We send messages without saying a word, just with our behavior and body language.

And we must defend our interest – if that is possible. At the production line, when and where the question was raised.

This situation was a lesson learned for me too. I should have known that. I did not prepare my colleagues properly. We are all different.

Part of the audit preparation is the preparation for the colleagues.

How to answer, what to say, what do not say.

A good practice to train our colleagues.

We can simulate an audit environment by conducting internal audits.  The colleagues can get more comfortable with different questions.

There is an additional lesson I learned over the years. I repeat it every time to the guys as advice.

„Never brag” and  „only answer to the question of the auditor”! „Only to the question, do not add anything else what additional things we are doing. If you answered the question, wait for the next question if there is any.”

This sounds too cautious or maybe odd, but I have seen issues so often because these single pieces of advice are not kept.

Do not forget that when you think about the necessary preparation for the audit, the participants should be prepared and trained as well.

As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.

If you are interested in reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.

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