After completing a successful certification, many companies tend to take a laid-back attitude towards ISO 9001 and believe that this is the end of the process. Achieving an ISO certification is not the end to your certification journey, rather it is the beginning. The road to actual improvements and seeking the benefits of the ISO certification actually starts now.
Surveillance audits are conducted every year by the certification body to ensure that the systems are in place and maintained as were defined during the certification. ISO 9001 also expects that you constantly improve and change your systems with the changing business needs. This is not possible if you do not maintain and keep a constant focus on the ISO 9001 requirements.
Let’s now have a look at some of the key elements that you need to focus on to maintain your ISO 9001 system. Maintaining a continuous focus on these areas will ensure that you derive all the benefits that ISO 9001 has to offer. This will also ensure that you have stress-free external audits and you are ready with all the elements that the auditor will be looking for in your next surveillance audit.
Training is an area which companies completely lose focus on after the certification. At the time of certification, many trainings are planned to make the employees aware of the Quality Management System and its importance. This need to be in-grained as a practice and not an activity that should be done just prior to the audits. This will ensure that employees are aware of their role in maintaining a Quality Management System and how adherence to the practices is important for the overall achievement of objectives of the company.
Monitoring and measurements
This is another important area which is ignored after the certification is over. While employees carry out the operational activities to deliver the products or services to your customers, ensuring that that the products/services being delivered are as per the specifications of the client is also critical. This will ensure that whatever you deliver to the customer is as per the quality required by the customer. So, adequate monitoring and measurements should be carried out and recorded wherever required.
Quality Objectives or Key Performance indicators is a mechanism established to achieve the business goals that you have set for your business. Management should ensure that the Quality Objectives are tracked and reported at the defined frequency. Momentum should be built in the organization in each department/ function and the importance of capturing the data required to calculate these objectives should be communicated frequently to the teams. These objectives serve as a lead indicator and give you insights into the performance of each function/department and help the management correct the course before it is too late. Putting enough emphasis on tracking and meeting the goals set for each KPI will ensure that you achieve the strategic goals that you have set for your business.
Internal audit is a vital tool to evaluate if each department/ function run in the way that is prescribed in the procedures developed in your Quality Management System. The non-conformities found in the internal audits and then ensuring that these are fixed ensures that you are always complying to ISO requirements. Also, remember that the internal audits can only be effectively done when they are done by a trained auditor and a person who is independent of the department being audited.
A good and detailed audit done by a trained auditor will give management the required inputs on the level of compliance and help them make appropriate decisions that will lead to continual improvement of the system. This will subsequently improve the efficiency of the company and the effectiveness of the processes.
Addressing the Non-Conformities
ISO 9001 also expects that all the non-conformities are addressed with root cause analysis and effective corrective action taken. Once the certification is over, many companies go slow on this process and do not take the right corrective actions which literally stops the process improvements that should happen in the organization. A detailed root cause analysis and subsequent corrective actions help to resolve the problems and reduce the chances of recurrence.
ISO 9001 is not a static system which once developed will remain as it is. The basic premise on which ISO 9001 is built is process improvements. An evolving and changing Quality management system as per changing context, depending on the external and internal environment is an expectation from a company certified to ISO 9001. So, focus on this area shall remain consistent and changes to QMS should be done as and when such opportunities appear. Also, these changes should be done as per the procedures defined and should ensure that the integrity of the QMS is maintained when you are making these changes.
Customer focus is at the core of ISO 9001 standard and usually is demonstrated through measurement of customer satisfaction. The company shall define the mechanism and frequency of conducting surveys to determine the level of customer satisfaction. This should be carried out as per the frequency defined, analysed to ensure that the data becomes an input for the growth of the company and the products and services you deliver.
Management reviews should at least be carried out once in a year; though their frequency can be increased to make sure that the Quality Management Systems work as defined. Management shall review changes to Quality Management System, Quality Policy, Quality objectives, External provider and supplier’s performance, Resource need, Customer satisfaction and perception, Audit results, Non-conformity and corrective actions, etc.
A management review is an extremely important part of the success of your quality management system and a significant source for improvements. It is a great tool to tie together all the elements of your Quality Management System and bring cohesiveness between the business and the quality systems.
Author: Phil Lane
Phil joined ISO Global after a long career as a professional engineer. Phil has thirty two years involvement in large and small companies as a maintenance engineer, plant superintendent, logistics manager, engineering manager and operations manager.
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