IFS Remote Audits & Split Audits
Update: February 2021
IFS audits can now also be performed partially remotely. IFS Broker audits can even take place completely remotely. This new regulation is not a temporary exception, but rather applies regardless of how the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. In the following, we present the new IFS regulations on remote auditing.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, many IFS certification audits had to be cancelled because auditors could not travel to the site. Doing audits remotely was not possible, as the scheme rules did not allow this. IFS developed a non-accredited alternative: the remote surveillance check. However, the remote surveillance check did not result in an accredited certificate, which is exactly what many sites require.
When GFSI updated its requirements in June 2020, this opened the door for a more permanent, widely accepted solution. The new rules IFS is developing should be seen in this light.
Fully Remote Audits for IFS Broker Standard
The first IFS Standard to be audited fully remotely will be IFS Broker. Sites that are certified to the IFS Broker Standard can choose to have their annual audit entirely remotely. Doing the audit remotely is optional and needs to be agreed between the certified site and their certification body. The remote audit option only applies to announced audits and is ideally carried out by the same auditor who led the last surveillance audit or initial audit. Doing the audit remotely remains optional and should be agreed between the site and the certification body. The remote audit option only exists for announced audits and is ideally performed by the same auditor who conducted the last surveillance audit or initial audit.
At DQS, we are ready to serve our customers with remote audits immediately.
Split Audits for other IFS Standards
The IFS Split Audit applies to recertification assessments of all IFS Standards and Global Markets programs (intermediate level). Since good manufacturing practices or good distribution practices and hygiene are essential aspects of these standards, it is not possible to perform the certification audits completely remotely. Auditors will still need to physically visit the site. IFS has therefore introduced the IFS Split Audit: an on-site audit combined with a remote part.
Unlike BRCGS and FSSC 22000, IFS requires the on-site part of the audit to be completed before the remote part is started. This enables the auditor to get a better overview of the products, processes and facilities of the company.
Here too it is important that the split audit is optional and must be agreed between the site and the certification body. The certification body will be required to evaluate whether doing the audit partially remotely poses any risk to the audit effectiveness. Only sites with a positive risk assessment are able to choose the partially remote option.
Conducting IFS Split Audits - Here's how it works
The on-site portion of the IFS Split Audit can take place announced and unannounced. The unannounced option gives every company the possibility to fulfil the new GFSI requirement that at least every third IFS audit must be performed unannounced.
The on-site visit requires the presence of only those employees who are necessary to run production and related areas smoothly and in compliance with the law and customer specifications. In the subsequent remote part of a split assessment, for which a fixed date is determined, interviews with other relevant staff members can be completed.
The on-site audit is supplemented by the remote part, which includes a review of further documented information and a careful cross-check of documentation and records.
The remote audit must take place within 14 days of the on-site part. The certification body and the audited company must determine a mutually convenient date so that every staff or management member the auditor still needs to speak to is available.
Planning and preparing for an IFS Split Audit
There are several steps to planning an IFS Split Audit for certification renewal:
- The company should clarify in advance with its customers whether they accept a certificate based on the IFS Split Assessment.
- The site to be assessed and its certifications body (CB) need to perform a risk evaluation to make sure that an IFS Split Audit is technically possible.
- The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) during the audit process requires a written agreement between the company and the certification body. The certification body and the assessed site shall have appropriate information technology (IT) infrastructure and environment (e.g. internet access) in place.
- The assessed company needs to ensure that they have all relevant documents and records available digitally.
- IFS has identified in each standard and global markets program checklist which requirements can be assessed on-site, which ones can be assessed remotely, and those that must be cross-checked. This helpful document gives companies and auditors clear guidelines of how to conduct an IFS Split Assessment. You can download the checklist here.
After completing the IFS Split Audit, the CB will include the following statement in the audit report and on the IFS Certificate: “part of the assessment has been performed using ICT – split assessment”. This increases transparency with a company’s customers, retailers, and other stakeholders.
Remote, on-site or both: DQS is your Certification Partner
As one of the pioneers of remote auditing, we are happy to support our customers with remote options. Contact us with any questions you may have.