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ISO 9001 Consultancy

The benefits of ISO 9001 certification

ISO 9001 can help improve the operational effectiveness of any type of business, whether private enterprise, public sector or even non-profit organisations, as the framework provided by the Standard ensures that appropriate emphasis is placed on the processes relating to service or product outcomes. ISO 9001 contains a number of underlying quality themes, or principles, but that of continuous improvement, will ensure that the system does not stand still but continues to evolve and improve as the business evolves.

Implementing ISO 9001 will provide management with more visibility to be able to see more clearly how the organisation actually functions as the internal processes will of necessity become more clearly defined. The release of the recent ISO 9001:2015 version of the standard also now means that its users are expected to try to identify any risks posed to the business and its operations and to demonstrate how these are being managed. This can be a very effective way of running any type of organisation. 

During the implementation of ISO 9001 we will advise on whether any additional processes or procedures are needed, or even whether an existing system has been over documented to the detriment of the business and can be slimmed down. This can often be the case with ISO 9001 management systems that have perhaps been in place for many years. In fact ISO 9001 only mandates a small number of generic documented procedures; any others being down to whatever is considered necessary to run the operation in the most effective way.

Any additional documentation that is needed, such as procedures for example, should only include what is actually required to properly manage the operation in the most effective manner and we try to ensure that ISO 9001 does not introduce any unnecessary overheads.

One of the more immediate benefits of gaining ISO 9001 certification is of course its importance in the public sector or large contract tendering process where having ISO 9001 is increasingly a basic pre-qualification criteria.

Preparing for ISO 9001 certification

Depending on the size and complexity of the organisation implementing ISO 9001 can take anything from five months to the best part of a year, however a good rule of thumb is that with commitment and a reasonable starting base most SMEs should be able to reach readiness for certification in around SIX months.

At the outset it is important to first identify the key business or organisational objectives, or KPIs, as well as the basic service or product requirements, rather than focus on any existing internal processes or procedures as this approach may result in documenting something that provides little benefit to the business or its customers.

The new 2015 revison of ISO 9001 now requires its adherents to consider the context in which the business operates as well as the expectations of any interested 3rd parties. So called "risk based thinking" is also now expected to be embedded in the management as well as in the mindset of the organisation's management and its people.

The initial step is to draft the Quality Manual (though we prefer to call it a "Business Systems Manual") which on the one hand provides a clear description of the organisation and its processes, but also importantly shows how and where the various requirements of the Standard are being met. It is important that the various elements (or processes) of the resulting management system must be seen to operate in an integrated fashion in order that it is truly a "system".

This would then be followed by a period of progressive implementation of whatever systems, procedures, records etc. need to be put in place. In essence it is necessary to comply with the new Systems Manual, which should, by extension, ensure compliance with the ISO 9001 standard itself.

It's really important that everyone is involved in the implementation of ISO 9001 as it will not be effective if it is seen as the responsibility of just one person (often the so-called Quality Manager) as is sometimes the case.

Following, or even during, the implementation of the new system it will be necessary to commence internal audits which are necessary to not only ensure that the new system is working as expected, but also to ensure compliance with the ISO 9001 standard.

The ISO 9001 Assessment

Once the new systems are settled and a round of internal audits and management reviews have been conducted an application for assessment can be made with a UKAS accredited Certification Body.

The assessment is carried out across two stages, or visits, with Stage 1 intended to ensure that all of the required systems and processes are in place, and the assessor may make any recommendations at this point. Stage 2 would normally follow after about four weeks and involves the more in-depth auditing of the management system against the ISO 9001 standard.

All being well the assessor will then "recommend" the organisation for certification (registration) and the certificate will normally arrive shortly thereafter.

Maintaining ISO 9001

The Assessor will return to carry out surveillance visits (audits) at last once per year, and will expect to see evidence of regular auditing and reviews, and continuing improvements being made to the systems as well as ensuring that any defined performance targets are being met.

Some organisations find that maintaining ISO 9001 (the management system) following an initial certification can be difficult with various business pressures tending to derail the proper running of the management system, so it is important that the implemented system is seen as part of the business, and is really the way that the business operates.     

Need more info?

If you want practical help in achieving certification from an experienced ISO 9001 consultant, or just some information or advice, then call us on +44 (0) 1892 458156 or +44 (0) 7970 064277.

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