Key factors for successful implementation of ISO systems in SME
Management systems are not just tools for large organizations. Given the trend towards outsourcing activities and the growing importance of cooperation in the value chain, effective implementation of management systems by SMEs is of key importance in facilitating trade and promoting sustainable development.
There are many factors that influence the success of a quality management system implementation by an SME.
Build the quality system based on your existing processes
Any organization that provide products and services to its customers on an on-going basis operates a management system, however lean or informal. This system is the starting point for developing an ISO 9001 quality management system. Implementing ISO 9001 does not mean you “build” a (new) quality management system, but that you evaluate your current management practices against ISO 9001 requirements, and adapt and add where necessary. Informal practices sometimes need to be formalized (for example, some records should be maintained to demonstrate that things have been done), but in many cases this contributes to the effectiveness and efficiency of the operations, and thus adds value to the organization.
Every business is different and therefore every Quality System is unique to the business it was developed for. Businesses should avoid buying a handbook from the Internet or applying standard procedures provided by a consultant. The risk is that these tools may not fit, will add bureaucracy, will not be seen by employees as adding value – and are only likely to be activated when the annual certification audit is imminent !
A quality management system doesn’t necessarily mean documented procedures
A management system is a tool to help achieve organizational objectives. Any measure taken should be consistent with the basic objective of the system : does it help in doing a better job, in being more successful, and in achieving the business plan ? There are many measures that can contribute to this objective, for example raising personnel competence, adopting “foolproof” technical devices, using pictograms, handy forms to check and fill out (which later become records as well), etc. However, small business should be careful not to establish extensive documented procedures, especially in SME situations, because in many cases this does not align with organizational culture and daily practices.
Follow the fundamental concepts
The following concepts should be part of the organization’s quality management system. Considering the requirements of the standard with these basic concepts in mind will assist SMEs in interpreting and applying them when developing the quality management system:.
- Process management and control: ensure that your processes deliver the intended results and that they meet the requirements of management, customers, legislation and relevant standards.
- Plan-Do-Check-Act approach to management: the PDCA is a model for continues improvement. You start with defining the processes and targets needed, monitor progress and compliance, take action where necessary, and consider improvement opportunities
- Risk management: identify your businesses and processes risks, threats and opportunities; Implement controls to minimize negative effects on performance and maximize potential benefits
Keep it simple
When developing a system remember that less is better and small is beautiful – especially for SMEs. It is possible to conform to the requirements of ISO 9001 without extensive documentation.
Consider using flowcharts and forms – you will find that in many cases they are more effective than documented procedures, and records often provide more added value than process descriptions. Specifying what to do is preferable to describing how to do it, and can be done more concisely. It is important that the design of controls be in line with the culture of the organization and the level of competence of the personnel.