While it seems increasingly likely that COVID-19 is here to stay, at least until a reliable vaccine is developed, approved, produced, and distributed, business and commerce must find ways to press on and overcome the barriers.
For accreditors and certification bodies that thought may be daunting, particularly when it comes to conducting site visits or facility audits. However, advances in software for these communities means that many of these types of activities can be conducted remotely, without the need for face-to-face interaction.
Having the ability to continue to conduct site visits as part of an accreditation or certification lifecycle means that quality and integrity standards can continue to be monitored and upheld. It can also help to maintain a steady revenue stream for those organizations who charge their constituents to conduct a site visit. Becoming proficient at hosting this type of activity remotely may also reduce costs, in the form of reduced travel and associated expenses.
Conducting a Remote Site Visit
Today, accreditation management software supports remote site visits in various ways, usually in conjunction with a common video conferencing application. The video conferencing application (think Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, etc.) enables key personnel to be interviewed virtually, and an accreditation management system is used to capture all of the data in a pre-configured site visit form. The video conference is typically recorded and uploaded into the system as evidence.
Some accreditation bodies need to conduct more detailed inspection activity as part of their site visit program – this is most common in the laboratory accreditation sector. In some of these cases, mobile cameras are being used, when available, to conduct a more detailed remote analysis on a client’s audit/quality control procedures or equipment.
In either scenario, site visitors can use these types of applications side-by-side to capture data in real-time. They can then develop and distribute a site visit report for further review, analysis, and action.
Things to Consider:
Before you embark on a remote site visit program, you should plan ahead to ensure you meet your goals effectively.
1. Review your audit questions
It is critical that you review your audit questions to ensure you can capture all of the information you need using videoconferencing and audit software. You may find that additional documentation and/or evidence is required in addition to the site visit. If you prepare in advance, you may even be able to capture this evidence ahead of time.
2. Check bandwidth requirements
Ensure that the appropriate technology is in place to support your requirements. For example, you should check to ensure that the site(s) you are monitoring has the appropriate bandwidth to enable a strong, secure connection. Without this, the integrity (or even feasibility) of the site visit is diminished.
3. Conduct a test run
Before you schedule multiple remote site visits, you should run a test with a trusted third party (or multiple third parties) to learn what worked well, what didn’t work, and what could work with adjustments. Implementing these tests will prove to be invaluable prior to launching your program more broadly.
We understand things are difficult for everyone right now, and we are committed to helping you work through the challenges you face. If you have time, we recommend reading this useful guidance on conducting remote audits that was recently published by ISO/IAF.
If you need any help conducting remote audits or capturing new data from your constituents, or if you would like to brainstorm any other ideas, we encourage you to contact us or schedule a consultation. We are here to help.