ISO 9001 | Will it improve your business?
ISO9001 is an internationally recognised standard for business processes. Companies with such accreditation must meet certain quality based criteria in order to maintain the standard.
What does ISO9001 look for?
The standard looks for companies to be customer focused in their approach. They have to construct processes and procedures that are primarily customer centric. There must be a method to record and measure the success of business improvement opportunities. ISO9001 requires the control of records and documents maintained with the organisation.
It also concentrates on the fact that employees have been adequately trained in their jobs and are at a good level of competency (supported by the company’s training programme).
There is nothing that a customer likes better than knowing that their supplier is accredited to a level where it is officially recognised they are at a certain level of competency.
There are a number of customers, especially government bodies, who insist on their suppliers being accredited, therefore the standard cannot only make your business succeed by having its processes under control but also it can attract new clientele as well. It will basically ensure that customer’s service and delivery expectations should be met.
The Quality System
The standard was rolled out a few years ago with companies requiring to be fully converted over from the old standard by 2005. It centred around the principles of leadership, the management and participation of all employees, control of processes and documents, adequate investment in resources to ensure the running of the business and most importantly of all, a focus on continual improvement.
If you are thinking of implementing the ISO9001 quality system (or indeed any quality system) then its need the full backing of the management team. In the past especially under the old ISO9001 standard, it was felt by many to be too bureaucratic and cumbersome, whereas the new system has more of a feel that relates to day to day business.
There is some up front investment in creating the system, which can be done either in-house (I wrote our entire system) or with the aid of a consultant. Prices tend to vary, but as in a lot of cases, you get what you pay for, so if you are going outside of your organisation then choose carefully.
If you know other successful organisations that were happy with their consultants, then try and talk to them and get more details. Once installed it can lead to greater control of existing business and can create the confidence to stride forward with more aggressive growth plans.
There are two types of audits. The first is the internal audit. This can be conducted by trained in-house staff or an outside consultant. The aim is the test every part of the ISO9001 quality system at least once a year.
One way I have constructed the audit plans is to build a matrix of each element of the quality standard for each department, whilst in some functional areas certain clauses of the system may not be relevant, many are common, so by using the matrix you know every area, for every relevant clause, has been checked.
The external audits are performed by the organisation who has accredited the ISO9001:2000 standard and have issued the certification for your company (or if you are going for accreditation they are the ones who will ratify your competency). The main companies in the United Kingdom are the British Standards Institute and National Quality Assurance.
If you are registered under the ISO9001 standard, one of the key requirements is to get customer feedback on how you as a company are performing, the most common method is via customer surveys. The feedback is probably one of the most important pieces of information a company can have. The feedback gives a company the opportunity to ensure that each department is operating as expected (or even greater) and that satisfaction is being achieved.
In my experience, it can be the customer comments that can contribute the most to this process as action can be taken should anything where “average” or “less than average” responses to a certain question are received. This can help keep a customer who may have thought about moving to another supplier.
ISO9001 will need some time and investment up front either by internal personnel or via consultants. Once the system is being implemented it should become a standard way of life within the organisation. It can offer more control on processes and procedures and ensure customer quality assurance. The internal and external audits assist in ensuring process and procedures are being maintained and performed and that high standards are being met. The costs of becoming accredited are relatively small to most companies.