Published: 21 Feb 2020
Mohamed Mohamedi, Quality Management Engineer at Aramco, explores the non-conventional skills and experience required of auditors in a Quality 4.0 era
The past decade has seen rapid advances in connectivity, mobility, analytics, scalability, and data analytics, spawning what has been called the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0. This has digitalised operations and resulted in transformations in manufacturing efficiency.
The evolution of quality has been closely aligned with previous industrial revolutions (steam, electricity anddigitisation), ensuring efficiencies, performance improvement, innovation.
To attain value from an audit within a Quality 4.0 context, auditors need to have a significant set of non-conventional skills and experience. I have represented this in a compass diagram (pictured below), which I find useful and could be to others.
This compass can be used as a symbol of direction and can guide auditors to realign Quality 4.0 compliance into the corporate strategy by navigating through the auditor’s framework. The framework can highlight the audit’s objectives, goals and obligations, technological limitations, analytical tools and requirements set out by the enterprise quality management system (EQMS).
The Auditors Framework
The auditor’s framework has three main pillars: requirements, principles and an auditor’s comprehensive competence. Requirements covers the code of conduct that auditors should abide by and standards that should be followed. Principles refers to the principles mentioned in ISO 19011:2018 – integrity, fair presentation, due professional care, confidentiality, independence, evidence-based approach, and risk-based approach. Finally, competencies required of an auditor include experience, skills and having the right attitude to lead the audit process efficiently.
Analytics fall into four categories, descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive. Descriptive analytics are the most traditional metrics (such as percentage and average) and are used to monitor known or suspected correlations in past data – to help establish what happened. Diagnostic analytics help us to understand why something happened. Predictive analytics, a relatively new field, estimates what is most likely to happen in the future and provides recommended actions to take to affect those outcomes.
Auditors working within Quality 4.0 need to be able to assess if the concurred analysis is identifying a system’s weakness and areas for improvements. They should be able to identify what happened and why it happened; what will happen in terms of risk and opportunities, and the actions taken to eliminate or mitigate the risk.
There is a misunderstanding that Quality 4.0 is solely about technology; that it focuses solely on technological competence and disregards technical competence.
In the Quality 4.0 Impact and Strategy Handbook (2017), data analysts SAS Analytics define Quality 4.0 as “the digitalisation of quality, management systems and compliance” (Dan Jacob, 2017).
Quality 4.0 does not focus exclusively on the technology itself, but rather on the improvements in culture, collaboration, competency and leadership made possible by that technology.
Auditors need to quickly develop a new set of expertise concerning machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality, in order to understand process requirements, capability and limitations.
The traditional quality management system has been evolving into a wider context to match current industry trends. Industry 4.0 technology is moving towards an enterprise quality management system to manage content and business processes for quality and compliance across the value chain.
This can be viewed as a quality management platform, with an integrated IT architecture and data model that facilitates cross-functional communication and collaboration. Auditors should understand the functions, capabilities, and limitations of EQMS processes in order to attain the pursued value from the audit.
These considerations should help the auditor to effectively navigate and lead the audit process to attain the ultimate value of an audit, which is to assess the management system’s effectiveness through confirming compliance and detecting potential areas for improvement.