If you’ve reached this step in the process, then you are well on your way to certification. In the previous two parts of this series, we talked about initial on-site training and creating all of the necessary documentation.

Once you complete those steps, you’ll almost be ready for your certification audit. Before you move forward with certification though, it’s important that you have a pre-assessment. A pre-assessment is a like a dress rehearsal for the actual certification audit.Preassessment

The pre-assessment is helpful in a couple of ways. First, it shines a light on areas where you may still need work. During a pre-assessment, you may find that your documentation is still missing a few components. Or you may discover that some of your processes aren’t being performed exactly as the documentation describes. You can  tweak those areas before you go through the real thing.

The pre-assessment also helps prepare your team. A certification audit can be stressful and nerve-wracking. Your staff may get rattled if the auditor asks them questions or observes them while they work. A pre-assessment audit will give them the chance to go through that process without any pressure, so they’ll be more comfortable and confident when they go through the real audit.

Your pre-assessment should be run by an Exemplar Certified Quality Management System Auditor, which is what Shoptech provides when we do pre-assessments for our clients. If performed by a certified auditor, the pre-assessment will satisfy your annual requirement for an internal audit. As you’ll learn in Part 5 of this series, internal audits are critical when it comes to keeping your certification.

The most commonly asked question at a pre-assessment audit is, “Did we pass?” or sometimes, “Will we pass the real thing?”

You usually don’t get a pass or fail rating with a pre-assessment audit. Rather, you get a list of items that you need to work on to meet the ISO standard. If you have few items to work on or you only have minor issues, then you may be rated as being in good shape to meet the standard.

However, you shouldn’t feel that you have “failed” if you get a finding that has multiple areas for improvement. The items uncovered during the assessment are things that will not only help you get certified, but will also help you improve your quality and service for your customers. View those findings as constructive feedback and then work to get them resolved before your certification audit.

Your pre-assessment will be most helpful if you treat it like the real thing. Try to simulate real conditions and instruct your team to participate in the audit as if it were the real deal. If you do that, you’ll likely go into the certification audit with a lot of confidence.

To learn more about the certification audit and how to keep your certification, check back here soon for parts 4 and 5 of this series. You can also download our white paper, The ISO Certification Playbook, which is a complete guide to walk you through the certification process.