Robert T. Ware has been in the auditing profession since 1974—before the term “audit” existed and when MIL-Q-9858 military standard audits were the norm. Speaking to The Auditor, Ware shares his opinions on the changes and challenges of completing manufacturing audits in North America, and the value of internal audit teams.
“Back when I started they called it an assessment, they didn’t like the punishing word of audit,” Ware reflects. “The word ‘audit’ came out in 1987 when ISO 9000 came into effect, and they called it internal audits.
“I remember a lot of people were upset about that word because it means pass/fail, where assessment means continual improvement.”
Ware spent the first 13 years of his career working in reliability, before making the transition to quality assurance. In his current role, Ware works for Zoll Medical looking after quality assurance and regulatory affairs/reliability for the resuscitation division.
“I lead a team of engineers that investigates all failures, return goods authorizations, and returned material,” Ware explains. “I am responsible for design and development, through to manufacturing, distribution, and post market surveillance.”
Having worked in the manufacturing industry for most of his auditing career, Ware is saddened to see a lot of businesses move their manufacturing offshore.
“In the 1960s, manufacturing was booming,” he says. “Forty-three years later, I have to look hard to find a company that manufactures here. Even Zoll, we do assembly and testing, and China makes all of our boards. Big manufacturing firms like Intel, Texas Instruments, Digital Equipment Corporation, and J&J, they all do the same thing.”
These changes present challenges for auditors who have to work on an international scale to get the information they need.
“We just have to keep coping,” Ware says. “We do audits over the phone. I have spreadsheets and word files that I send out. The auditee will send me back the information and then we look at the information and evaluate it, analyze it, and get results.
“We do a lot of virtual audits. We can do an audit over the telephone or by Skype. It has evolved because everything is global.”
Throughout his career, Ware has worked with standards such as TL 9000, ISO/TS 16949, and ISO 14000. Ware also served on the U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 176 from 1987 to 2006, and he worked to revise ISO 9001 in 1987, 1994, and 2000. Through his experiences, Ware has learned how industries and standards work, and has noticed some key similarities.
“Once you audit [different industries], the basic processes and products are the same in terms of how you would manufacture them,” Ware explains. “You just have to understand the process and audits to help you break it down.”
Having worked in internal audit teams for most of his career, Ware sees great benefit in the internal audit function. However, he fears young executives today don’t see the same value.
“Back in the 1970s and 1980s we had big audit teams,” Ware says. “Now I see a lot of companies outsource their audit teams. In reality, if I didn’t know anything about an operation and went in and did an audit versus working there—working there you are more of a Tasmanian devil. You can do some really good digging. It’s not like it used to be, but you have to make the best of it.”
However, Ware uses management review as an opportunity to reinforce of the value of an internal audit team.
“When I do a management review and they start discussing issues and problems, I love to bring them back to people and products,” Ware says. “These are the main parts of the business.
“I think the people who work in a company would find more value and would feel empowered. Why not take someone from the manufacturing line and make them an auditor? Especially women; they do a great job because of their intuitive nature. I think it’s a lost art.”
- Do your preparation. Never do anything blind. The more information you know, the better you can question.
- Keep your eyes open. Just like Yogi Bear said: You can always find something if you look. Just by observing you could not even audit and see is that how they do it? Are they sure they want to do that?
- Just listen. The only time I talk during an audit is to ask a question. You have to let the person you are auditing do all the talking.