Tips, tricks and tools to make audits easier and cheaper

Tips, tricks and tools to make audits easier and cheaper for maintenance teams

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We break down the most common types of audits and what maintenance teams can do to make them easier, cheaper and more successful.

Irving Pulp and Paper, The Wood Group, Fiera Foods and Cericola Farms all have one, unpleasant thing common; they all recently faced huge fines after failing audits. Although each case was different, ranging from environmental infractions to a food safety violation, the cost for each company was steep. The fines equalled more than $11 million.

These production facilities are just four of the hundreds of companies that paid fines after failing audits over the past half-decade. In some cases, the violations cost more than money. In 2016, a worker at the Fiera Foods production facility was killed as a result of a failure to maintain a safe work environment. Unfortunately, this is just one example of how noncompliance can lead to the worst case scenario.

But here’s the thing: most failed audits are preventable, but only if they are a top priority for those responsible, especially the maintenance team. Focusing on compliant maintenance practices can prevent a disastrous domino effect, and reduce the likelihood of fines, lost production, high turnover, workplace injury and bad publicity.

Types of audits (and how to make them easier)

Audits happen in almost every industry for a variety of reasons, such as safety, compliance on environmental regulations, and to gauge the health of a company ahead of potential business deals.

But even though they’re common, audits aren’t always easy. They are often time-consuming and expensive. Information can slip through the cracks, accurate data is hard to get, and a lack of accessibility makes the data you do have useless. Without a centralized source of knowledge, it’s difficult to make audits easier and a passing grade is never certain. With the high cost of failure comes huge headaches and a potential loss of thousands or millions of dollars.

Focusing on compliant maintenance practices can prevent a disastrous domino effect, and reduce the likelihood of fines, lost production, high turnover, workplace injury and bad publicity.

Having the right tools and processes is crucial for a successful audit. Collecting important data and organizing it digitally can substantially raise your chances of passing. Digitization also opens the door to a variety of tools that make audits easier and cheaper. The maintenance team will be able to access records, create reports and implement preventive maintenance strategies more effectively.

The following are some of the most common types of audits that manufacturers face and how digital knowledge hubs can help make audits easier for facilities.

Environmental audits

Environmental audits measure how manufacturers affect the environment based on set criteria. These criteria are usually dependent on industry and can include wastewater management, carbon emissions and energy use. Environmental audits also identify ways manufacturers can reduce their environmental impact. These audits usually happen because of environmental legislation (such as the laws set forth by the EPA), certification (like ISO or LEED), or overwhelming customer request.

Digital maintenance software, such as a CMMS, can help facilities prepare for environmental audits. It can keep a database of assets and procedures, track documentation on pollutant discharges, and build work histories. It allows facilities to quickly analyze and correct failures, which improves efficiency and lowers emissions. Software makes it simple to compile data, create reports and show auditors how a facility is operating to standards.

Food safety audits

Food safety audits ensure manufacturers are meeting all food handling and processing standards. Food safety audits can be used to prove compliance (like for the FDA), for certification (like ISO 22000 or GFSI) or to recapture the public’s trust after a highly publicized recall.

A recent FDA survey identified “no preventive maintenance” as the 5th most common problem in the US food processing industry. Facilities can tackle this issue and pass audits using a CMMS or other digital maintenance solution to create a knowledge hub. Maintenance software provides audit logs and a history of work for every asset, which makes improvements easier and preventive maintenance routine. Technicians can also keep better tabs on equipment with a database of parts and can ensure replacement parts are clean, up to standards and free of contamination. Documents, such as safety manuals and maintenance checklists, can be attached to an asset’s profile. This not only makes PMs quicker, but also reduce the risk of contamination often associated with maintenance work. Lastly, technicians or managers can retrieve data or create reports to prove compliance in a few clicks.

Business audits

Manufacturing facilities are often audited when a company is being acquired, merged or joining a new partnership. These audits ask facilities for information on subcontractors, yields, backlogs, inventory, environmental performance, safety records, and asset reliability. Audits can also help facilities save on insurance as they prove assets are likely to be well-maintained.

Some organizations require facilities to have preventive maintenance programs in place before working with them. Using a digital maintenance platform to collect, store and access information can go a long way to creating a solid PM strategy. Digital tools can reduce downtime by making it simple to schedule maintenance, process work orders, and create a library of documents. They can also make managing health and safety, inventory and environmental records easier. These steps improve productivity and make facilities more desirable.

Health and safety audits

Health and safety audits are usually conducted by government agencies to ensure compliance with legislation, like the OHSA. They can also be performed by a third-party auditor and used to evaluate a company’s health and safety strategies while identifying areas of improvement.

Digital maintenance software allows maintenance teams to create an accurate and in-depth library of information. Having this information available on the mobile device in your pocket can make audits easier. Mobile maintenance software can trace work histories, link OSHA guidelines to equipment, and create maintenance checklists. Having these resources in one place reduces the number of potentially dangerous corrective tasks. Software can also track employee training and certification, safety inspections and reports that show how a facility has improved over time.

How audits affect your bottom line

When you add up fines, lost business, lost production, waste, extra parts and overtime, it’s clear that inefficient and failed audits cost a lot of money. A knowledge hub can help to cut these unnecessary costs out of the equation.

Having information on a digital platform makes it more accessible for technicians so they can do preventive maintenance quickly and correctly. Inputting and analyzing all data in one place, with a few clicks, speeds up the reporting process. Providing work histories and facility improvements to an auditor takes a few minutes rather than a few days. Saving all this time means more productivity and fewer labour costs. An improved auditing process can even lead to certifications and a stronger reputation, which gives your company a competitive edge.

Click here to see how maintenance software made audits easier for one manufacturer

How to make audits easier and cheaper with Fiix’s CMMS

Step #1 – Track employee health and safety records

User profiles can be set up on Fiix’s CMMS and populated with important health and safety information. This includes certifications and training. Technicians can then be organized into different categories with the user group tool. Maintenance managers can customize what each person can see and do in the software. This comes in handy when making sure all employees have the proper credentials to perform a task and proving it to auditors.

Step #2 – Attach important materials to equipment profiles

Fiix’s CMMS allows users to attach health and safety materials and media to asset profiles. Asset profiles can include MSDS forms, SOPs, OHSA guidelines, maintenance checklists and more. Technicians can also add photos to a profile to show that a problem was identified and corrected. These actions show a commitment to health and safety. This makes an audit easier and quicker, and a passing grade more certain.

Step #3 – Master the reporting function

Fiix’s reporting function gives users the ability to collect data, select relevant metrics and create a report in minutes. The CMMS allows a facility to track stats like emissions, asset efficiency, and number of inspections, among others. This information is used to quickly generate reports to show auditors proof of compliance and make audits easier. It can also be used internally to ensure improvements are being made and the facility is being run as efficiently as possible.

Step #4 – Create a history of audits and work orders

Track and archive work orders, audits and other maintenance tasks with Fiix’s maintenance software. For example, the root cause analysis (RCA) function can identify the cause of failure in an asset and track the steps taken to correct it. Because this information is in one place, it is easy to retrieve the history of assets or a group of assets. This makes it easy to prove a pattern of compliance and show all necessary activities were completed on time and according to standards.

Step #5 – Use the scheduling feature

Fiix’s scheduling feature makes it easy to plan health and safety tasks according to compliance timelines. This function triggers an alert when maintenance is needed, so you can make sure you never miss a task again. Once the necessary maintenance is put into the schedule, it also acts as a secondary record of compliance. The schedule also ensures health and safety checks happen at a time that optimizes productivity as well.

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