It is often asked how a Certification Body comes up with the ISO 9001 audit time calculation. The time is established by the IAF (International Accreditation Forum) who oversee the ISO standard and help to regulate the accreditation providers such as UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service).

The guidelines are contained within IAF MD5 and every Certification Body who is accredited by a signatory of the Multilateral Agreement such as UKAS, ANAB etc will have to apply those rules to ensure consistency and market fairness as well as ensuring effective auditing of management systems. You can download the document IAF Documents for free.

The rules are not black and white (so to speak) and can be applied slightly differently between Certification Bodies when calculating this time. When organisations go out to a number of different Certification Bodies to obtain quotes they are sometimes faced with different days being allocated to the assessment. Fewer days can seem like a good idea but if the rules have not been applied correctly then your certificate could be at risk if the accreditation body (such as UKAS) raises issues when reviewing files as part of their assessments.

Organisations also need to consider are they getting value for money? Businesses pay for assessments and the process can be seen as a burden, if you are paying for an audit you should ensure you are getting benefit from the process. If the Certification Body has not applied sufficient time the auditors may be rushing around trying to cover all requirements without going into sufficient detail and depth and subsequently not identifying improvement opportunities. The auditing process is there for a number of reasons but if the auditors can give some extra benefit and highlight possible weaknesses and improvement suggestions then you are getting more value for your money. Not having sufficient time will reduce the likelihood of getting this extra benefit.

We won’t go into detail in this article about integrated management system rules as that deserves an article in itself as it is more complex. But we have shown below the current table from IAF MD 5 for ISO 9001 assessments and will give some examples of how this table is applied. Please note that every organisation is different and it takes a lot of training to be able to apply the tables correctly. We have also assumed a single site organisation as the multiple site rules are also more complex.

ISO 9001 IAF MD5 Table

Effective Number of Employees Stage 1 & Stage 2* Annual Surveillance* Re-Assessment*
1-5 1.5 0.5 1
6-10 2 1 1.5
11-15 2.5 1 2
16-25 3 1 2
26-45 4 1.5 3
46-65 5 1.5-2 3.5
66-85 6 2 4
86-125 7 2.5 4.5
126-175 8 2.5-3 5.5
176-275 9 3 6
276-425 10 3.5 6.5
426-625 11 3.5-4 7.5
626-875 12 4 8
876-1175 13 4.5 8.5
1176-1550 14 4.5 9.5
1551-2025 15 5 10
2026-2675 16 5.5 10.5
2676-3450 17 5.5 11.5
3451-4350 18 6 12
4351-5450 19 6.5 12.5
5451-6800 20 6.5 13.5
6801-8500 21 7 14
8501-10700 22 7.5 14.5
>10700 Follow Progression above Follow Progression above Follow Progression above

Adjustments to the ISO 9001 Audit Time Table

You will notice that the ISO 9001 Audit Time table is referring to effective number of personnel. This is not the number of employees within the business, the effective number of personnel could be less or it could be more than the full time personnel number.

The effective number of personnel consists of all personnel (permanent, temporary & part-time) involved within the scope of certification including those working on each shift. When included within the scope of certification, it shall also include contractors/subcontractors personnel performing work or work related activities that are under the control or influence of the organisation that may impact on the organisation’s management system performance. All non-permanent (seasonal, temporary, sub-contractors and contracted personnel) and part-time personnel shall be included in this number.

If we take the example of a construction company that has 50 employed personnel. There could be 5 people within the office, 40 people working on sites and 5 contract managers floating between the sites. The Certification Body could state that they consider the 40 personnel as doing very similar activities and instead of using 40 as the number you could say 10 instead. You need to consider a number of other factors in this calculation but in essence the effective number of personnel would be 20 in this case (5 office, 5 contracts managers, 10 site personnel).

By applying the above table we would quote 3 days for the initial assessment (stage 1 and Stage 2), 1 day for a surveillance visit and 2 days for a reassessment.  

There are other considerations we would take when calculating the audit time such as how many temporary sites are in operation (how many construction sites), how many contractors are being used and if the organisation designs or not.

In reality, 1 day is not sufficient to perform an effective audit of a construction organisation for a surveillance visit. The chances are you would add ½ a day to this to allow for a site visit to be performed during the surveillance assessment.

We would also need to consider how many contractors are being used on each of the sites as we need to ensure they are audited as well so the effective number could be increased in this case.

If an organisation does not design then some time may be reduced for this as we dont need to audit it.

The rules stipulate that the audit time should not be reduced by more than 20% from the starting number (based on effective personnel time).

Ensure you are Getting Value

Many Certification Bodies will reduce the time as much as possible in order to win the work but organisations should be careful about these quotations as you need to ensure you are getting value for money and an effective audit. You do not want an auditor coming in, doing the bare minimum and leaving without raising any opportunities for improvement due to not being provided with sufficient time.

At Auva we regularly come up against competitors like this, and we would prefer to reduce our day rate to stay (competitive) than compromise on the quality of the audit. We like to ensure the auditors have been given sufficient time to perform an effective audit and give the client benefit from the process. We will always reduce the time as much as possible but our primary focus is value for money, integrity, effectiveness of the process and our accreditation.

Ensure that you are giving sufficient information to the Certification Bodies when obtaining quotes, the total employee number and details of part-timers, personnel working on sites and personnel doing similar tasks. The IAF MD 5 Document is free to download so if you are unsure about what you are being quoted then you can check for yourself.

If you would like to receive a competitive or comparison quotation you can contact us.