New clients often ask, “Why do we need to have a Stage 1 assessment before our registration audit?”  As a certification body, we get asked about the purpose of the Stage 1, what it entails, and how to prepare for it. To answer this question, we consider the following:

What is the Stage 1 for?

Simply put, the goal of the Stage 1 assessment is to confirm readiness for the Stage 2 registration assessment. Because it is absolutely necessary that the parts of the management system that will be assessed are in place, such as internal audit and management review systems, the Stage 1 audit is where this confirmation can take place. If these parts of the management system are not in place, the Stage 1 assessment will need to be delayed until the activities are completed.

What is the outcome of the Stage 1?

There are three possible outcomes of a Stage 1 assessment.

  1. Ready for Stage 2- This means the customer is ready for their registration assessment.
  2. Ready with Concerns- This outcome means a customer has some non-conformances that need to be resolved, but the Stage 2 audit can take place as planned.
  3. Not yet Ready for Stage 2- If a major non-conformance is identified, the auditor will report that the customer is not ready, and a second Stage 1 assessment will need to take place following completion of the recommended actions/outcomes. Often any second Stage 1 activity can be conducted in shorter time and remotely.

What is the timing of the Stage 1?

Generally, the Stage 2 (registration) assessment is performed within 3 months of the Stage 1, however no more than 6 months may pass between the Stage 1 and Stage 2. If the time between these two audits exceeds that, a repeat Stage 1 would need to take place before proceeding with the Stage 2.

What activities are done during the Stage 1?

  • Documentation: The auditor will check the management system documentation.
  • Review: The auditor will evaluate the client’s status and understanding of requirements of the standard/specification, in particular with respect to the identification of key performance indicators or significant aspects of their processes, objectives, and operation of the management system.
  • Get to know your organization: Collection of necessary information regarding the scope of the management system, processes and location(s) of the client, as well as related statutory and regulatory aspects and compliance (e.g. quality, environmental, legal aspects, associated risks etc).
  • Plan: Provide a focus for planning the Stage 2 (registration) audit by gaining sufficient understanding of the client’s management system and site operations.
  • Evaluate: Review of the internal audits and management review processes, to ensure these are being planned and performed, and that the level of implementation of the management system substantiates that the client is ready to move to Stage 2.

Gap Assessments

If it is too soon for your organization to have a Stage 1 audit, DQS does offer a gap assessment in most standards except where specifically not allowed.  We can also do this prior to upgrades to standards.  Gap assessment service is optional and not required in order to become certified.  It does help an organization in determining major gaps in order to develop their implementation plan.

DQS will provide an assessment and report of the gaps from the standard requirements but will not make a readiness determination since premature in the preparation for assessment.  This can help the organization focus on significant aspects of the management system that do not yet meet the requirements of the standard.  DQS can focus on specific aspects of the management system which are of concern or assess the full management system.

Gap assessments are conducted prior to the start of a Stage 1 audit.

If you are ready to move forward with registering to a standard now that you better understand the process, please contact us for a quote. We would be happy to answer any other questions you may have as well.

Sara Gulo

Sara Gulo is the Marketing Specialist for DQS Inc. in the USA. She's been with DQS for 10 years in various roles, including Verification and Customer Service Professional.