When we talk about helping companies obtain ISO 9001 certification, people often ask us, “Why does our company need to be ISO 9001 certified?” Good question.
ISO 9001is a quality management system (QMS) standard and it produces numerous benefits for any company willing to go that route. So, why should your organization obtain ISO 9001 certification?
Many companies want ISO 9001 certification just to satisfy one customer requirement. The customer states that it will only do business with vendors that are certified as ISO 9001 compliant, so to get (or keep) the business they need that certification. The problem with these companies is that they’re looking for a short-term payoff. They see nothing but that one benefit — we need money — and ignore the long-term benefits, like “if we keep the customer well satisfied, they will want to come back again and again”.
They don’t embrace the concept of quality through continual improvement. They don’t understand that continued customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal of a QMS. In other words, these companies haven’t “bought into the program”. See, you may obtain a piece of paper (that ISO certificate) that claims ISO 9001 certification without seeing much actual quality or improvement. Focusing only on that one benefit — your immediate gain — without putting the customer in front will end up costing you much more in the long run. Hopefully, some of the quality management system ideas may rub off and eventually stick…but wouldn’t you rather have a plan than trust to luck?
A quality management system standard is all about quality (really!) so, of course, one result of adopting a QMS should be an improved level of quality for the entire organization — every process, and every product. There are many definitions of “quality”, but Philip Crosby and Joseph Juran provide two of the best. Crosby defined it as “conformance to requirements”; Juran called it “fitness for use”. A well-designed, effectively implemented ISO 9001 Quality Management System will put your company on the Road to Quality.
Quality means whatever you produce will work as your customers expect. You will meet not only their stated requirements — you will meet more of their implied requirements, too. Quality also means far fewer complaints and doing a better job of resolving those you do. If your quality management system is working correctly, you should know what your customers expect and you should be providing it, resulting in increased customer satisfaction.
The ISO 9001 QMS standard requires that you identify and describe your processes using business metrics, the purpose of which is to better manage and control your business processes. Quality objectives form the center of your system. Metrics are used to understand and communicate your system’s performance relative to your quality objectives. If you make an honest attempt to conform to the requirements of getting ISO 9001 certification, you’ll learn more about your business.
Implementing an ISO 9001 Quality Management System can empower your employees. Your QMS will provide them with clear expectations (quality objectives and roles), the tools to do their job (procedures and work instructions), and prompt, actionable feedback on their performance (process metrics). The result? An improved company culture and a more professional staff!
What is consistency? Well, one way to think of it is “decreased variation”. Reducing the variation in your processes is the definition of consistency. Is your customer better served by you supplying them with a consistent product — same dimensions, same weight, same tolerances, same output every time — or by your products being unpredictable and “all over the place”? (I hope you’re not thinking too hard on this.)
Of course, they won’t accept variation, and neither should you! And how do you decrease variation? Increase control of processes! Control comes from having a clear target to shoot for (objective), collecting data on the process (metrics), and understanding how to adjust the process (procedures and work instructions) to maintain the target output. If your ISO 9001 QMS is working, you should be increasing operational…and product…consistency.
We’ve discussed quality objectives, metrics, and procedures used within an ISO 9002 QMS. Having the right objectives, metrics, and procedures, management and employees should be able to focus better on what’s important. Yet, this isn’t always the case — it’s easy to lose focus over a period of time.
The ISO 9001 QMS has a way to ensure the company stays focused, and that’s quality auditing. Internal audits, registration (and surveillance) audits, and self-process audits. ISO 9001 certification requires that the company periodically audit its quality processes. Regular process audits and as-needed audits, when done correctly, provide the objective feedback needed to correct any deviations from the quality path and keep the company focused on its goals.
An ISO 9001 Quality Management System isn’t perfect; no process and no one is perfect. (Why else would the standard devote a clause to “continual improvement”?) A well-run QMS does enable your company to approach perfection. As your processes improve, become more consistent, and you achieve your target objectives with greater regularity, you will see tangible results. Your process waste will decrease, for one.
Waste is money lost forever. Waste results from poor quality and inefficiency. Inefficiency results from variation and inconsistent processes. Reduce variation, improve consistency, and you’ll have less waste…and more money. It’s that simple!
ISO 9001 is a worldwide standard administered by the International Organisation for standardisation(ISO), based in Switzerland. ISO 9001 is currently in use by close to one million organizations around the world! It is truly a world wide standard for quality! Obtaining ISO 9001 certification puts your company in a very select group.
Although you may have a fully functional and even certified ISO 22000/FSSC 22000 food safety management system, you need to appreciate that this system focuses on the production processes of your business. ISO 9001 looks at all the processes that impact on customer satisfaction. You can have a safe product but it’s never delivered on time or there is always a short delivery. You can have a safe product but it tastes bad or looks inferior when packed. You can have customer complaints with incorrect invoices, certificates never arriving with a delivery or poor after sales service. Customers make critical buying decisions on quality.
Food is intended to be enjoyed – there are many more attributes of your product that relate to quality than food safety. ISO 9001 has a more holistic impact on an organisation and is intended to help you achieve your strategy.
Look out for our articles on how to implement a quality management system and how to integrate this with your food safety management system