George Ward is an Exemplar Global-certified QMS Lead Auditor who has held certification for nearly 25 years. As he approaches retirement, he offers his thoughts about his experience in the auditing and quality professions.
As I reflect on the request of Exemplar Global to provide a profile on my experience as a QMS lead auditor, I realize I have had the good fortune of an exciting career full of change and growth. My educational background is mechanical engineering and business administration. Both disciplines have served me well in my career, along with the continual pursuit of knowledge and experience through 25 years of auditing many various and interesting organizations.
Upon completing school in the 1960s I chose not to pursue design engineering. Rather, I pursued managerial training in large sophisticated manufacturing organizations as foreman, quality control supervisor, general foreman, quality manager, and engineering manager. Eventually I became a lead auditor and team leader working for a Canadian registrar in January 1992 when the Canadian CSA Z299 inspection standard was prevalent for Canadian industry.
Although the ISO 9000 standards were issued in 1987, they did not start to catch on in North America until 1993 and then became widely accepted after the 1994 updates, with support provided by the North American automobile industry standard (QS9000).
I’ve experienced three terminations for plant closures, reorganization, and management change. Unwilling to sit back, in 1994 I decided to start my own company as an independent lead auditor and consultant in quality management systems.
Working for oneself is indeed a challenge. The initial challenge is getting your first customer, the ongoing challenge is to focus on continuously satisfying your customer who hopefully will recommend you to other prospective customers. I never worked longer hours (including weekends, etc.), never worked harder, never made more money, and had more job satisfaction than I did working for myself.
I turn 75 this year and have delayed retirement to next summer due to the great amount of pleasure I have enjoyed as an auditor/consultant. Note: the consulting requires a change of your “hat” and occurs after the completion of an independent and unbiased audit. I found consulting and assistance with helping customers solve problems and continually improve considerably more satisfying than simply identifying and recording deficiencies. Another bonus of the auditor discipline is the ability to identify and effectively respond to any situation in your private life involving life’s nonconformities in services or products.
It’s important for an auditor/consultant to recognize that every customer running a business these days must be doing many things right. Otherwise they would not be in business. To my mind there are four key areas: quality, delivery, value for the dollars charged, and customer satisfaction. These are just as important as success/profitability and people. In as much as I taught my clients as a consultant, they taught me their best practices which added to my audit capabilities and knowledge.
The world is more technical and electronic in 2017 than it was in the 1960s and staying up with all the latest technology is a challenge. I have several technical experts that I refer to when I have questions regarding my iPhone, computers, iPads, etc.—my grandchildren.
Exemplar Global and previously RAB was kind enough to provide me with certification for the past 23 years, plus offered me the opportunity to share my thoughts in The Auditor Online and provided me with some sample questions. The last question they sent was, “What will auditors be focusing on in 10 years?” My thought as above is to focus on customer satisfaction and use all of the excellent requirements contained throughout ISO 9001.
Thank you all, and good luck with your careers in auditing.