If you spend your time in the automotive sector and are even marginally involved in TS 16949 internal auditing you have heard people talk about System, Process and Product audits.
Many organizations tie themselves into knots trying to distinguish between system and process audits. We know what process auditing is supposed to be. The automotive standard, as well as the ISO 9001:2000 standard stress the auditing of processes. The question for many organizations then is “What are system audits?”The solution is very simple. You must first read the requirements in the standard closely. The standard does not require system, process and product audits. It requires system, manufacturing process and product audits.
Manufacturing process audits are simply audits of the manufacturing processes. Manufacturing processes are, moulding, stamping, turning, drilling, welding, casting, plating, etc. Once this is understood, the requirement is quite clear. Our internal audit systems must audit the system, the manufacturing processes and the products.
System audits are process audits of the management processes (usually turtle diagram based audits), manufacturing process audits are process audits of the manufacturing processes (usually control plan based audits) and product audits are process audits of the product.
Product audits should be work cell based audits focused on product verification and validation. These audits should, at each work station, attempt to answer three questions.
1. Does the person or persons tasked with checking product know how to do the job (can they demonstrate competence)?
2. If done correctly, will the checking method clearly distinguish between conforming and nonconforming product?
3. Is product being produced conforming or non-conforming?
So the next time you hear someone talk about system, process and product audits, at least in your mind, correct them. It’s system, manufacturing process and product audits. If we keep the words right, we will have no confusion as to what they mean.