“Five Common Audit Mistakes and How to Avoid Them”

Too often, audits are viewed as an inconvenience and a waste of time. Poor audit experiences have led to many people dreading audits. It doesn’t have to be that way!

QMII President covers five of the most common mistakes made by auditors and how you can avoid making them yourself.

The free webinar was positively received by participants from various industries.

Click here for the full presentation

Think like an Auditor : Inputs from an Alumni

Why does one become an auditor? What makes a good auditor? These are some of the questions that one may have in mind when it comes to auditing.  “ISO auditors can’t look at everything. As a result, they’ve been trained to look for key indicators that reflect the overarching quality standards for an entire organization. Optimizing for these indicators will ensure that your audit goes smoothly and that you’ve presented the best version of your quality management system.” (Jette, 2022).

QMII welcomes any alumni to share their experiences with us whether it be auditing, training, or consulting. We take pride in your dedication to learning and appreciate it when you share to help others enhance their careers.  As QMII alumni, your input is appreciated, and we encourage you to come to us whenever you need to.  Recently, one of our alumni provided feedback on his experience as an auditor with a positive perspective on auditing and the key factors involved with the profession.

“Auditors are skilled in interviewing, observing, researching, writing a lead, and organizing audits, which skills an auditor does not learn in a day, a week, a month, or a year. It takes years of auditing to learn the tricks of the trade of auditing. Auditor efforts create a unified code of best practices to improve standards and create a new efficiency in the auditing process and operations.  Furthermore, operating under the philosophy that auditors are mature, responsible, and capable of self-management and setting standards involving auditing requisites.”

At QMII our goal is to train personnel to become competent auditors. While with the passage of time an auditor may hone their skill, they are ready to hit the ground running once completing QMII’s Lead Auditor Training.  Auditees should not fear an audit, and well-prepared auditors will make the audit process easier, better, and faster for everyone. The goal of an audit is to focus on providing valuable information about where your system is working well and where there are risks and opportunities for improvement. Auditors should not only focus on finding errors and mistakes but on how the system functions to meet your requirements and seek the level of effectiveness of the system.

QMII would like to thank our alumni for their continuous feedback and shared experiences throughout the years. For over 35 years, QMII has put our clients’ needs first. We desire to not be the biggest, but the most supportive. At QMII, we value our customers and have established a tradition with every one of our clients. Once you are a QMII Alumni, you are an alumnus for life. Our promise is we will answer, for free, for life, any of our Alumni’s questions.

We encourage our Alumni to stay in touch with us and take advantage of our “Alumni for Life” program. For more information on our alumni program, please visit our website at  https://www.qmii.com/  or call the QMII main line at 888-357-9001 and one of our team members would be happy to assist.

International Safety Management (ISM) Code

ISM Code has now stood the test of time, as the fundamental in implementing the process-based management system approach in the maritime industry. All too often, major accidents are the catalyst for change in the maritime industry.  Evidence of this is seen in the development and implementation of maritime conventions and codes in existence today. The International Safety Management (ISM) Code, the result of such a catalyst, was meant to change this reactive nature. The ISM Code intended to promote a safety culture wherein risks are properly considered, work is effectively planned, personal accountability is enhanced, and operations are continually improved.   


Unfortunately, this target was missed in many cases and a pervasive by-product called compliance culture set in, wherein the system achieves the minimum and only to satisfy regulators.  The maritime industry and regulators learned much from this experience.  We know now that if the true value of safety management systems (SMS) is not realized, further implementation efforts become self-defeating. This leads to even more than normal resistance from many who have seen colleagues, shipmates and competitors negatively impacted.  A carefully planned implementation strategy expanding the use of safety management systems (SMS) to all vessels, domestic or internationally trading therefore be executed to avoid these pitfalls. Within the USA a Safety Management Systems for domestic passenger vessels should be a priority. The use would be as intended in the same way as those for SOLAS vessels. The lessons that have been learned from similar efforts should be used. 


Looking at the data from the 1980’s to date, one would expect to see a decline in marine casualties starting in 1998 when the ISM code’s first compliance deadline came into effect. Initially the data shows a downward trend for a few years and then a spike starting in 2001. Those resisting change brought about by the ISM code would argue that the code had not delivered any improvements. However, the upward trend peaked in 2008 and has since seen a decline. When a new management system is put in place, irrespective of industry, the first sign of success albeit non-intuitive, is a spike in accidents, incidents and hazardous occurrences. This leading indicator should be accepted as a positive as it demonstrates that the personnel within the system have started reporting non-conformities that went unreported before. This reporting enables corrective action to be taken in a systematic manner to prevent a similar non-conformity from occurring again. Famous tragic quote from Captain of the MV Titanic: “I will say that I cannot imagine any condition which could cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel.”  


In the domestic passenger vessel industry, those against regulations for SMSs will claim that there have only been a few major incidents and therefore not everyone should suffer from more regulation. These few major incidents were identified because they were too large to be missed. Many leading indicators of passenger vessel risk are undetected or unreported (including near misses).  As seen with data related to the ISM code, the eventual decline in major occurrences was a result of the sharing of information across companies and countries to improve the maritime transportation system and industry. The corrective actions implemented have led to improved and streamlined inspection regimes, better construction requirements and standardized competency criteria. Naysayers of the ISM Code and Safety Management Systems will also say the Code has only created unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork. Those familiar with the 12-page ISM Code know that the code does not prescribe this at all.  If unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork are produced, it is likely a function of poor system design, poor implementation, or other external drivers, not the prescription of the Code. 


Another common criticism of implementing SMSs is assumed costs. Implementing a SMS, however, need not be expensive. As regulated vessels, domestic passenger vessels already have many relevant safety standards and best practices implemented through industry association recommendations or through compliance with regulations. In the case of passenger vessels, the complexity in implementing the SMS (and therefore the related costs) will depend on the size and structure of the organization, the number of vessels it operates, and the number of employees engaged on each vessel.  Smaller companies with a fewer number of vessels (less than five) should be able to implement a SMS within a relatively short period of three to five months, especially with external technical assistance or through the expert advice provided by consultants specializing in the industry.  


QMII (www.qmii.com) specializes in maritime work and has over 35 plus years met the objectives of auditing, training and system implementation for maritime companies across the spectrum of domestic, or internationally trading. 


AS 9100 – Getting Employee Engagement in the System

AS 9100 aerospace quality management systems enable organizations a framework for using a process-based approach to meeting customer requirements. AS 9100 in clause 5.1.1h requires the leadership to show their commitment to the system by “engaging, directing, and supporting persons to contribute to the effectiveness of the quality management system.” Further clause 7.3 asks organizations to ensure that those working under their control are aware of their contributions to the effectiveness of the system, to product safety, product conformity and the need for ethical behavior. Many organizations struggle to get employee buy-in to the system. Some organizations reward best teams and performers but how do we get intrinsic involvement and buy-in from all. This article discusses some steps that companies can take to encourage intrinsic employee involvement in the system. 

Setting Challenging Objectives 

AS 9100 asks organizations to set objectives at relevant functions, levels and processes. When setting objectives, QMII encourages organizations to set objectives for each process/procedure. These can further be broken down into smaller goals for individual process team members. The objectives must flow from the policy so in doing their work to achieve the goals it is clear to the employee on how they impact the customer. The objectives when too easy do not encourage improvement or motivate the workforce. When too challenging affect morale as the goals/objectives are never reached. Review the objectives at periodic intervals to monitor progress and readjust as necessary.  

Management Involvement 

The workforce is more willing to pitch in when they see the leader pitching in. This must be something they do often rather than once in a while. The workforce must get representation at meetings on quality. This may be in the form of their suggestions for improvement being presented to the management at the management review and then receiving feedback on their suggestions rather than never knowing what happened. Management may choose to present to the workforce on a monthly or quarterly basis on the state of the system so the workforce knows where the organization stands and where it is heading. The workforce must feel like the part of a team and a valued team member. Only then will they willingly contribute. 

Customer Focus 

Often each worker may not know who the end customer is or get to see the end product in use and how the product benefits customers and their business and further end users. Organizations must make known to the users who the end customer is, share positive feedback received from customers, accolades received by the company and perhaps even arrange to see the end product in use.  

Personal Development 

Investing in personnel is a great way for an organization to show the workforce that they care. That you are willing to invest in them because they invest so much in what they do. Consider AS 9100 training for your workforce. It will also better help them understand why they do what they do. QMII offers a number of different training formats for AS 9100, including an overview, internal auditor and lead auditor format.  


“Building an effective quality culture- The key to sustaining system improvements”

Management systems should enable the continual improvement of an organization. Even with a well-documented and resourced system, managers find it challenging to gain buy-in from the workforce. Users are looking for the answer to “what’s in it for me?” It is only when this question is answered that the workforce will raise non-conformities, audits will not be perceived as policing and people will connect with the policy and vision of where the company is going.

QMII President & CEO, Dr. IJ Arora will cover the common system failures that prevent buy-in and hamper the quality culture as well as how to address them. Learn how to add value to your system and how to gain buy-in from the workforce.

QMII President & CEO – Dr. IJ Arora presented on the topic “Building an effective quality culture- The key to sustaining system improvements.”

The Free Webinar was positively received by participants from various industries.

Click here for the full presentation.

System Documentation-How Much is Enough?

Overwhelmed by the amount of documentation within your organization. Don’t worry, you are not alone! As organizations and their systems grow so does the amount of system documentation to include procedures, instructions, checklists, SOPs etc.

At times, the documentation is not created because it is needed. It is created to resolve a non-conformity, to ensure a process error does not occur again, to reduce organizational liability and to appease an inspector/auditor. Under these circumstances the need of the hour is to make the problem go away quickly, not to invest time in identifying a long-term sustainable solution. We see our systems grow from 30-page manuals to over 400 pages as time passes. Ineffective reviews perpetuate the problem as duplicated information goes unaddressed.

How much is enough then?

Organizations need to recognize that the documented system is created to enable to users. Too much of it may actually impair the operator rather than enable them. How many of the processes in your house are documented? Now I know some of you are wishing they were and everyone was on board with it! To determine how much is enough companies may be guided by the following:

  1. The competency of the personnel – When the personnel within the organization are well training and competent in what they do and do it well there may be no need for too many of the processes to be documented. However as turnover increases or the organization grows in size additional documentation may be needed to allow for control where needed or to capture knowledge or to simply give confidence that the processes are being carried out as planned.
  2. The structure of the organization – A company with multiple sites, remote sites, or large enough in size, may use documentation to create a system that is uniformly implemented across the breath of the organization. Further documentation may be used to provide clarity on company policy, guidance on what can or cannot be done and/or to allow for decentralized decision making.
  3. The criticality of the process – Where processes are complex and critical and the consequences of failure high the organization may opt for documentation as a means of control to prevent the possibility of human error. Despite the competency of personnel a “zero-trust” environment is adopted to ensure that the process is consistently carried in the way it is intended to be.

Review your system

QMII recently worked with two separate companies to review their existing management system documentation and identify opportunities for reducing the amount of documentation without comprising the quality of operations. In one case we reduced the size of the quality manual from approx. 120 pages down to 30 pages. Information needed by the users was removed form the manual, reviewed and then created as instructions that were more accessible to the users who needed them. Wordy procedures were converted to flowcharts and images used to clarify requirements where needed.

With the other client QMII helped them reduce the number of procedures from approx. 30 to 12. The client realized that a number of procedures could be combined into one and the operator specific information combined in one easy to read document.

A regular review of the documented system is a critical step in ensuring that the documentation does not overburden the user or stop being useful to the user. People change, competencies change, organizations change. The change could be a downsizing or growth. Similarly, our management system documentation too may at times need to be ‘downsized’. Make sure that the documentation is kept relevant and easy to use. The tool used to do this is not as important as the intent and effectiveness of the process. A good review will additionally benefit the organization by allowing for more buy-in by the users and make the system more effective.

Audits VS. Inspections

There is often confusion about the difference between audits and inspections. The purpose of each may seem the same, but they are slightly different.  Audits focus on why, while inspections focus on what. The purpose of an audit is to get the confidence that processes are working well.  An audit involves various layers to answer a “why” question. It involves exploratory reviews involving documentation, risk assessments, and nonconformities, etc.  While an audit may need more effort in finding an answer, an inspection is less complicated. The answer to an inspection question will involve a straightforward yes or no answer.

Inspections focus more on the action, while audits are about the process.  Inspections review a single point in time, but an audit follows a process from start to finish.  An inspection simply looks at the product or service. The process of an inspection is quite simple, it either clears the project if it meets the requirements specification or rejects it. If it is rejected, its loss can be reworked at an extra cost. Inspections must be conducted at every step to minimize the chances of product failure.

Why are audits and inspections important to an organization?  Inspections deal with things that cause immediate accidents or other issues. Inspections protect the customer, so the customer is not harmed by a non-conforming product yet from an organization’s point of view that they are too late.  The audit is to cover the root cause of these problems. The audits provide the input and ensure continuous improvement and it is where we take on nonconformities.

Here at QMII, we provide valuable information when it comes to our auditing services. We can give insight on where your system is working well as well as the risks and suggest opportunities for improvement. QMII’s audit services reduce the fear of an audit. Some individuals fear being blamed for non-conformities and often dread the idea of an audit. Our services are to ensure auditees are put at ease while QMII auditors look to find the effectiveness of controls in the system.

Although there is often confusion when differentiating audits and inspections, it can be easier to think of it as the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. Inspections are a “do” while audits are a “check.”  Inspections are required to do, and the audits are the process of checking and making sure inspections have been done.



Three Steps to Reducing Human Error in Your System

Reducing Human Error in Your System

As believers in the process-based system approach to management systems, QMII encourages organizations during their root cause analysis to not ask “who” but “how” and “why” the system failed the individual. Human errors primarily occur because the system has failed. Sure, there is a human element to the process, but it is only when the system is assessed that the organisation will look beyond merely training the individual yet again or firing them. This has the added benefit of truly imbibing a no-blame culture because blaming an individual is not going to change the results.

The individual in question may be replaced but unless you assess the system for adequacy, which deemed the person competent, the change of personnel may not lead to improvements.
Where the potential for human error is identified as a risk, the organisation can also choose to put systems in place to mistake-proof in order to reduce the possibility of the individual making errors. In conclusion, when human error occurs, organisations should try to address both aspects of identifying the system failure and mistake-proofing the system.

QMII President & CEO – Dr. IJ Arora presented on the topic “Three Steps to Reducing Human Error in Your System”. The Free Webinar was positively received by participants from various industries.

Click here for the full presentation.

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Why Safety Management Systems Fail-The Cost of Non-Compliance

Quality Management International President and CEO, Dr. IJ Arora presented on the topic “Why Safety Management Systems Fail-The Cost of Non-Compliance” at the Passenger Vessel Association MariTrends. The presentation was well received and applauded by the packed room.

The PVA Annual Convention was held at Northern Kentucky Convention Center this year on March 4-7. The convention featured a variety of intriguing sessions with various guest speakers that are leaders in the passenger vessel industry.

Click here for the full presentation.

I Don’t See Nothing Wrong

How often have we heard these words within our organization? Often the evidence is right before the persons eyes and they fail to see it. Perhaps in the hope that the failure to acknowledge it will cause it to go away. Across industries “non-conformities” have come to be recognized as something negative, to be done away with quickly. ISO 9001 2015 training teaches us that a non-conformity is the non-fulfillment of a requirement. It is the system that has failed to meet the requirements and not the individual. Admitting to something being wrong takes courageA well-implemented system can reduce the amount of courage it takes to admit to a mistake or an incorrectly implemented process. 

Why fix it if it ain’t broke 

Another common phrase you may hear across your organization. Yet another “this is how its always been done”. Humans resist change. It causes them to break out of their comfort zone. A common result of completing an ISO 9001 2015 training is personnel returning to their companies to start the mapping of their processes. In this, they may get to hear comments such as those above. Personnel does not want to capture the knowledge in their heads onto a price of paper as it puts their job security at risk. They perceive ISO 9001 as an alien document and the clauses make no sense to them. They do not see the value in audits as auditors are merely seen as policemen out to find fault in what they are doing.  

Is everything really good? 

Non-conformities that are not reported when they occur do not get effective corrective action taken on them and they “magically” occur again and again. Often times a smaller non-conformity unaddressed may lead to a larger non-conformity down the road. ISO 9001 in clause 10.2 asks organizations to implement systemic corrective action by identifying if similar non-conformities can occur in other areas of the system. It asks organizations to assess the root cause(s). ISO 9001 2015 training provided to personnel will educate them on how to interpret the requirements of the system to tailor it to their organization so the changes can be minimal. Organizations can do this by capturing the system as the work is done and not a fictional one. It helps training to be provided to personnel, so they understand their role in the system.  

In conclusion, ISO 9001 2015 training is not a means to complicate the way work is done but by understanding and implementing a system that captures the “as-is” of the organization the changes can be kept to a minimum and small. Once personnel sees how the system benefits them they will learn to admit to things that are going wrong and use a systematic approach to correct them.