IFS Blog

When the auditor doesn’t come alone

The roles of different types of auditors and the responsibilities of certified businesses

It's getting time for the annual IFS Audit, and tension is high because your company needs to pass. Then your CB informs you that an auditor trainee or a witness auditor will accompany the lead auditor. Thoughts like "two auditors see more than one" or "I don't want more visitors accessing my production areas for safety reasons" may go through your mind. Accordingly, businesses sometimes refuse to give witness auditors or auditor trainees access to their premises. Also, IFS Integrity Program (IP) auditors sometimes find themselves in such a situation.

What to do in this situation?

We can answer this very short and to the point by saying you must let them in because giving access to witness auditors, IP auditors, and trainees during the audit is beneficial to you and included in the contract with your certification body.

To create a better understanding, however, we explore the role of the witness auditor and the audit trainee and your responsibilities as a business being audited in this blog. We also address the IFS Integrity Program and its auditors in this context.

Auditors are professionals

Giving third persons access to your business premises is a sensitive topic, and you might be reluctant to accept more visitors than necessary. Everyone fully understands that. Therefore, we emphasise that all auditors previously mentioned are professionals. They are appropriately trained and fulfil specific requirements. You can be sure they know all safety and hygiene regulations and will behave accordingly.

The roles of witness auditors and auditor trainees.

Witness auditors and trainees have different roles during an audit:

The witness auditor assesses the IFS Auditor during a full IFS Audit on-site. The IFS Standard specifies that the witness auditor is an experienced IFS Auditor and that he or she is not part of the audit as a team member. The witness auditor focusses on the performance of the IFS Auditor.

Auditor trainees are auditors needing to gain audit experience. Having audit experience is a prerequisite for being approved as an IFS Auditor. A trainee is part of the audit team.

Benefits of the system

Realising their roles also clarifies why working with witness auditors and trainees benefits your company:

  • It guarantees the competence of the IFS Auditors and the quality of the IFS Audits:
    Certification bodies (CBs) must check an IFS Auditor's performance at least once every two years according to the IFS Requirements by performing a witness audit. New auditors are witnessed when performing their initial IFS Assessment. Passing it is one of the requirements for being approved as an IFS Auditor.

We attach great importance to the qualification of auditors so that you, as an audited business, can rely on the competence of the IFS Auditor. It ensures our audits' quality and IFS Certificates' trustworthiness.

  • It contributes to ensuring sufficient auditor capacity:
    Taking part in IFS Audits is an essential part and prerequisite for becoming approved as an IFS Lead Auditor. An IFS Auditor candidate can gain the necessary audit experience by being present as a trainee at an audit. In a market where the number of auditors is declining while the demand for certification is growing, it is in the interest of all parties involved to build further auditor capacity. It contributes to having enough IFS Auditors in future.
    It is a prerequisite for the recognition of IFS Certificates:
    IFS Food, Logistics, PACsecure, Broker, Cash & Carry and HPC are accredited by the national accreditation body or IAF. To comply with requirements, certification bodies must perform witness audits to monitor the performance of the auditors regularly. Also, GFSI Benchmarking Requirements demand that. For many IFS-certified businesses, accreditation and GFSI recognition are essential prerequisites that their customers expect.

The role and responsibilities of the IFS Integrity Program Auditor

Sometimes, you may also encounter an IFS Integrity Program Auditor on your doorstep. You may ask yourself what role he or she plays within the system. In addition to the qualification of auditors, the IFS Integrity Program (IP) is another important pillar to ensure the quality of our certificates. Within the framework of the IP, IFS employs its own integrity auditors or auditors working on our behalf.

Part of the responsibilities of the IP is to check the performance of auditors. Therefore, the IFS Integrity Program Auditors regularly perform witness audits on-site. Here, the IP auditor joins an approved IFS Auditor during a certification audit to observe if he or she acts in line with our expectations.

Verifying if IFS certified companies comply with the IFS Requirements is another IP task. Therefore, we monitor and evaluate the data in the IFS Database. With our risk-based approach, built on the evaluation of specific administrative indicators and empirical values, we identify the companies we want to investigate more closely. IFS IP Auditors will visit the site to perform an on-site check if appropriate. Having received a complaint can be another reason for performing such a check. The focus of the IFS Integrity On-site Check is always on compliance with the IFS Requirements.

Your CB is responsible for informing you about the current version of Annex 4 of the framework agreement with IFS, which sets the responsibilities regarding the IFS Integrity Program.

What are your responsibilities as an audited company?

In the contract with your CB, you will find clauses regulating which persons you have to grant access to your business premises in the context of the IFS Audit. You will find that the contract includes that you must admit the aforementioned auditors to your facilities.

Having skilled auditors and robust IFS Certification benefits all stakeholders

We at IFS strongly believe that all stakeholders benefit from our company's policy of working with excellently qualified auditors and ensuring the integrity of the IFS Certificates so that everyone can rely on the quality of and put their trust in IFS Certification.

In this blog, we have therefore clarified the different roles and tasks of the auditors who come to you in order to contribute to a better understanding of them. Also, we have pointed out that everyone benefits from having well-trained auditors conducting IFS Audits and being committed to attracting more auditors. Valid product safety certification is a requirement in most supplier contracts and to meet this demand we need trained auditors now and in future. Let's all take our responsibility and work on this together.

Learn more about

IFS Auditor Qualification

IFS Integrity Program

Find IFS Requirements for certification bodies and auditors always in Part 3 of the relevant Standard. You can download the standard relevant to you from one of the standard pages.

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