'New normal' audits are a time saver - Lisa Vittitow from DuPont Water Solutions

As businesses adjust to the ‘new normal’ of operating in a Covid world, more companies are turning to remote audits to keep the wheels moving. DuPont Water Solutions did precisely that for its annual quality and security audit this summer. The remote auditing, carried out by Kiwa, was stress-free and went without a hitch, says Lisa Vittitow, product stewardship and regulatory analyst at DuPont Water Solutions, in the United States. Lisa was surprised by how much time it saved. She shares her story.

Who is DuPont Water Solutions?

“FilmTec, as part of DuPont Water Solutions, based in Edina, Minnesota, provides a range of reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration elements for a variety of industrial, municipal, commercial and home drinking water applications. FilmTec serves the military, water vending, commercial water treatment, and food and dairy markets. We also provide products for restaurants and the pharmaceutical and beverage industries. FilmTec is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of RO filter elements.”

What are the most critical processes that need auditing and how often does it happen?

“We’re usually audited once a year on our processes – checking the bill of material, or BOM, for our elements, checking various quality aspects of our processes and elements and customer satisfaction.”

How did you handle audits before Covid-19?

“Kiwa would come on site once a year and do the audit – looking at the paperwork for the raw materials from our suppliers, talking with our quality department and reviewing quality documents. The auditor would also get a tour of our facilities – RO and membrane manufacturing and the warehouse.”

How has auditing changed for you since Covid-19 and what role does remote auditing play in that?

“This year, Kiwa scheduled the audit with plenty of notice and included a list of products that the auditor was going to be looking at. This allowed me time to pull up all the information on the raw materials and get the documents in one convenient location. Kiwa included the quality coordinators in our audit and gathered the information related to quality and customer satisfaction, including any complaints, after reviewing the BOMs.”

What have been the most significant differences for you between remote auditing and on-site auditing?

“The main difference I noticed was that there was no tour of the facilities… The auditor has seen our plant many times and it really hasn’t changed much. I also appreciated the advance notice of the elements and products that Kiwa was interested in auditing so that I could get all the information gathered. What I did miss was the lunch after the audit! It was nice to sit and chat and learn more about our regular auditor and Kiwa itself.”

In your view, what are the biggest advantages that remote auditing brings to your business?

“This audit went so much quicker – because I was able to be more organised and because we didn’t do the plant tour. Instead of taking the whole day, it took only several hours. I saved at least four hours out of my day.”

Have you experienced any important downsides to remote auditing?

“One of the limitations is that there was no physical tour. If there were any issues on the floor, it wouldn’t have been seen by the auditor. I feel comfortable in our plant with how things are going though: I have been working with FilmTec for almost 20 years and I know that our processes and procedures and quality are top notch. Our honesty and integrity are the same.”

How would you compare the standards of quality and security audits between remote auditing and on-site auditing?

“I don’t see any reason why the standards can’t be equally high for both types of auditing – so long as all the quality is properly documented and the company has a history of good audits. I was very happy with how our audit went this year. Kiwa’s auditor was very professional and that helped make the remote audit go smoothly and finish all reviews on time. Later, I was involved in another remote audit by a different company, which went horribly bad – the auditor showed up late to his own scheduled meeting – kept going off track and then just abruptly said “done” and left. With a less professional auditor, the outcome is be very different.”

Is remote auditing a step in the right direction for your business?

“Yes – with our history of good audits. It saved us time and therefore money. My workload has slowly increased over the years, so anything to save time is a plus.”

Do you think remote auditing here to stay?

“Yes, with caveats. I think remote audits are great – they save time and money – but I also think they should be used only for companies that have had a good history with the auditing firm. And not every year. There should still be on-site visits every few years. New companies and those with a questionable history should have on-site visits when possible.”