audits vs inspections

Every organization should have a thorough understanding of the differences between an audit and an inspection. If this difference is not made clear, it could result in certain regulations or standards not being met, which can lead to a host of issues, including fines and decreased revenue.

Many business owners understand that inspections are typically completed by internal employees, while audits are often done by a third-party. However, there are many more differences than this simple rule.

Today, we’re going to discuss the differences between audits and inspections. We’ll examine both obvious and subtle variations between the two along with plenty of examples. 

Audits are complex, inspections are simple

Let us start by saying the above statement is general, and yes, exceptions do exist. The key takeaway is to understand that audits are typically more complex than inspections. 

An inspection is often checklist-focused and is usually a straightforward task to complete. It can be done at the end of a shift or within a few hours, while an audit can consume weeks.

An audit explores processes and procedures that will likely encompass the inspections. The results of the inspection are often used during the audit, but they’re only one piece of the puzzle. An audit is performed to dive deep into the inner workings of an organization, which is much more complex than the “yes/no” nature of an inspection.

For example, an inspection might discover that lightbulbs are missing in a conference room and have them replaced. In contrast, an audit would be an exploration into why the lightbulbs were missing in the first place.

an inspection discovering lightbulbs are missing

Audits are for processes, inspections are for actions

Both inspections and audits are incredibly important in any organization. They provide actionable insights and steps into how a workplace ensures health and safety.

Now, with that out of the day. Let’s dive into what this means.

An inspection is designed to check the status of something at a certain point in time. An audit, on the other hand, will follow the entire process from beginning to end. Audits will often reach back to the beginning of a certain procedure to discover why an issue is occurring, or to ensure quality throughout the entire process.

For example, if you are auditing the process of acquiring new customers, your audit might consider and explore:

  • Marketing initiatives
  • Cost of acquisition
  • Role of sales representatives
  • Onboarding processes
  • Lifetime customer journey

An inspection would ensure that the correct actions are being taken at each step, such as ensuring that legal agreements are being read during the onboarding process. 

Audits are expensive explorations into the procedures that an organization follows. Generally speaking, they consume a large amount of energy, resources, and time. An audit could be done on most aspects of a business even beyond simply ensuring compliance with regulations. 

While some audits are about compliance, many audits have the goal of producing valuable insights for the organization. Using our example above, an audit into the customer acquisition process might reveal new ways to provide users with a quality onboarding experience.

Audits are qualitative, inspections are quantitative

An inspection will evaluate every aspect of your business in a “yes or no” fashion. If a cooking surface wasn’t properly sanitized, it would generate a “no” and require sanitization. Inspections are often completed daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. This means a facility can complete hundreds of inspections every month while only completing an audit once per quarter.

a cooking surface properly sanitized

Audits are designed to ensure compliance or a certain level of quality throughout a specific process. Whether the audit is done by an internal department or a third party, the goal is always to ensure that proper care and attention are being paid at every step in the process. 

If an organization wants to understand why customers are only staying active for three months, this would require an audit. Understanding how many customers are going inactive would require an inspection.

Your organization will likely require both

Most organizations will require a mix of inspections and audits. Inspections often generate digital checklists that can be referenced during an audit. The two processes often tie together, which is likely why they are also often confused.

For example, a doctor’s office may have a daily checklist (inspection) that verifies that patient data is being filed properly. A quarterly audit will ensure that all patient data is being properly handled and stored according to applicable regulations.

Are you looking to improve the way you approach audits and inspections? monitorQA makes it easy for you to identify issues, document and share them, and track progress towards your safety goals. Book a discovery call today to see how other companies are using monitorQA to achieve operational excellence.



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About the author

Andrew has led operations for multiple companies. He began his career managing international operations for a global organization. Eventually he shifted to launching and selling tech companies. Today, he remains involved in several businesses as an advisor and investor. He remains passionate about helping companies achieve operational excellence.

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