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What is the difference between an audit and an inspection?

Understanding the differences between these two actions is important for the daily practices within your organisation. Confusing one with the other could potentially lead to certain standards or legislation not being met, which can cause long term problems. These problems can include penalties, reduced income and damage to your brand – all of which can be easily avoided with the correct knowledge.

Below are five key differences between an inspection and an audit.

1) Inspections focus on what, audits focus on why

“Are the fire extinguishers where they should be?” is a very different question to “Who owns fire safety management?”.

The first is a binary question which will get a straightforward "yes / no" response. This is an inspection.

The second has various layers. It requires exploratory reviews involving risk assessments, training records, documentation, supplier reviews, equipment analysis, nonconformities etc. This is an audit.

The different types of questions require tools to match.

Our Q-Pulse application enables organisations to be regulatory compliant in preparation for when an inspection is due. Alternatively, Pentana Audit provides a system for internal audits to be made which can lead to departments working quicker, an improvement in audit strategy, a reduction in costs and an enhancement in productivity.

2) Inspections focus on an action, audits are the process

Another difference between an audit and an inspection is that inspections review a single point in time. Alternatively, audits follow a process from start to finish. For example, an audit of new business may consider:

  • Existing customer lifetime value
  • Existing customer satisfaction and feedback
  • Marketing process
  • Sales roles
  • On-boarding
  • Customer lifetime journey

An inspection may check the process is being completed to plan at set intervals. 

Internal audits can be incredibly expensive. They take vast amounts of time, energy and resource.

In an IIA survey of medium and large sized organisations, nearly 70% of internal audit assignments take more than 15 days to compile.

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3) Inspections are quantitative, audits are qualitative

If you’re a multi-site or large facility, you’ll be doing hundreds of inspections. Audits explore details and complexities. Many questions can't be answered with a simple yes or no.

4) Inspections are simple, audits are complex

This is a bit of a generalisation. However, inspections tend to be much more straightforward than an audit. In an inspection, you may check the lightbulbs are all there. If they aren’t, the action is to get more lightbulbs. In an audit, you might be exploring why the lightbulbs were missing. This will take more consideration. 

5) Inspections create actions, audits create recommendations

Inspections usually produce straightforward actions. In an audit there are recommendations to review. The average internal audit report contains 6-10 recommendations.

Now that you understand what is the difference between an audit and an inspection, discover how to choose the best internal audit software to benefit your audit processes.

Innovative, feature-rich auditing software

Ideagen Pentana Audit makes internal audits more efficient, transparent, and risk-aligned. This empowers teams to focus on high-value work that has more impact. Auditors get a complete view of internal audit so that no detail or deadline gets missed.

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Written by

Alexander Pavlović

Alex produces targeted content to help Ideagen’s readers and customers navigate the complex world of quality, governance, risk and compliance.

Alex has worked with brands such as BT, Sodexo and Unilever and is passionate about helping businesses build a cohesive, collaborative culture of quality.