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Remote audits: The difficulties and simplicities

Remote audits: The difficulties and simplicities


By: Carlos Reyes Movilla - Certification Director

At the end of the first quarter of 2020 our lives radically changed, affecting how we conducted our personal, social and work activities. From one moment to the next, the normal ways of relating, communicating and working with one another took a 360 degree turn and we were left facing realities and restrictions that we have not faced for many years.

Over the last two decades agro-industrial certification processes have not only been internationalized, they have also consolidated and become the fundamental engine of development for thousands of small, medium and large products all over the world. However, the covid-19 pandemic put in check the control and monitoring systems carried out by the certifying agencies through inspection visits or audits of certified production processes, which in many cases were not prepared to assume a system other than on-site verification of certification standards

Like many other activities, the pandemic forced the certification system to implement policies and procedures for remote virtual audits. This is, of course, a revolution in certification processes, where face-to-face inspection was, until a year ago, a sine qua non condition for certifying a process or product.

At Daabon Group, 100% of our production and export activities are subject to international, organic and socio- environmental certification systems, which is why we have experienced the new way of carrying out certification audits, both external and internal, first hand. After a year of having become accustomed to the new way of doing things we can, based on our experience, say that the remote audit process has its pros and its cons.

From our point of view, the advantages or benefits of a remote audit include allowing the continuity of the certification processes through the use of technology, a reduction in the overall costs and times required for audit, and the requirement for an improved document keeping and tracking system, especially in terms of historical records. Furthermore, remote audits strengthen teamwork, allowing managerial, technical- administrative and operational personnel to prepare and participate simultaneously with the rest of the company. This ensures all staff acquire first-hand knowledge of the importance of audits and their own responsibilities in their grander context.

However, the process has its downside and the preparation, attention, development and final closure of a remote audit is extremely resource heavy on companies as there are many factors, some external to the organization, that must coincide so that the results are positive. Firstly, it is absolutely essential that you have a technology system and equipment that allows and guarantee interactive communication without disruption or issue. The number of documents required is excessively greater, putting at risk the handling of confidential operational information sent to and through a virtual platform. In some cases where the use of a translator is necessary, some certifiers require that a third party conduct the translation, which means that the information is disclosed to external parties.

Despite the difficulties presented and the number of practices and methods that had to be adjusted, corrected, created and / or implemented, DAABON was able to renew all its certifications without problem. This included the organic standards of Europe, Japan, USA, China, Korea, Switzerland and Colombia, as well as the socio-environmental certifications of Rainforest Alliance, RSPO, Fair Trade, Global GAP, Kosher and HALAL, among others. Our commercial offices abroad were therefore able to serve their clients in a timely manner with all the up-to-date documentary support required, guaranteeing the corresponding certification status of our products in the destination countries.

The process has not been easy or straightforward, but DAABON has made a huge effort to fine-tune and adapt our certified production processes, according to the circumstances and demands of the certification agencies and authorities to which we are voluntarily subjected. To this end, the training system has been strengthened and the necessary equipment acquired to respond responsibly, efficiently and effectively to this new challenge.