Implementing ISO 9001 as a Quality Management System can improve your business. In fact, that is why it was created. It is broadly recognized as a proven method of using a systems and process approach to make your business better. It can make your organization more effective, and therefore more competitive.
Implementing ISO 9001
Why say “implementing ISO 9001? instead of “becoming certified?” Gaining a certification is nice, but it should not be the ultimate point of using the standard. Organizations who view gaining certification as the reason for using the ISO 9001 are missing a great opportunity for improvement. As frequently stated, ISO 9001 is a journey, not a destination.
If you sincerely start implementing ISO 9001 as business improvement tool, then gaining certification sometime down the line, if you choose to do so, should be a simple step.
A common misconception about the ISO 9001 Standard is that it is a document nightmare. Actually, there are very limited document requirements in the standard. So, how can implementing ISO 9001 help your organization become more competitive?
What causes problems in your organization? Wasted efforts due to changing demands and requirements? The lack of a strategic vision that helps the organization pull in the same direction? Poorly defined processes and poorly defined responsibilities? Supplier problems? These are common issues that can be improved using ISO 9001.
Using the Process Approach
One of the first steps in implementing ISO 9001 is to define and determine the core processes of the organization. Imagine the benefit of simply conducting this reflective exercise; identifying what is important to the organization and to its customers. When you attach goals and objectives to these processes and communicate them throughout the organization, suddenly everyone understands what is important and what they should be focused on and working toward.
Framed this way, we can see how using the process approach to understanding organizational functions can produce positive results. Now consider using a continually improving process approach, another foundation of ISO 9001. With a continually improving process approach;
- A clear plan is created for how each process should be conducted (Plan)
- Process activities are carried out while capturing key information (Do)
- Process results are regularly reviewed, comparing actual results to the plan (Check)
- Lessons learned as a result of reviews are used to improve performance (Act)
The Most Important Person in Your Business – The Customer
Another key element of the ISO 9001 Standard that can improve competitiveness is in understanding customer requirements. Several of the ISO 9001 required records relate to capturing and reviewing customer requirements. How many times has your organization been caught off-guard due to a lack of understanding of what your customer wants and needs? How many more times do you want it to happen? Implementing the customer focus clearly spelled out in ISO 9001 (along with the continually improving process philosophy) will make it happen more infrequently, until perhaps it happens rarely or never at all.
The earlier that misconceptions or mistakes in customer requirements are caught, the easier and cheaper it will be to correct. I am sure most of you have heard of the 1-10-100 rule. (Mistakes caught in production are 10 times more costly to fix than if they were caught in design, and mistakes caught by the customer are 100 times more costly to fix.) Improving the focus on understanding customer requirements as called for by ISO 9001 provides two important benefits: 1) significant savings through catching errors and oversights sooner; 2) increased customer satisfaction because customers are highly pleased with the products and services they buy. Just imagine how being highly effective in these two areas can improve the competitiveness of your organization.
Supplier Relationships Enhance Effectiveness
Along with a customer focus, the ISO 9001 Standard emphasizes supplier evaluation and relationship based on a total cost perspective. Sure, the union shop across town may not be able to compete on a per unit price basis with a third world supplier, but what about when you incorporate total costs? How expensive is it to deal with delay and dissatisfaction caused by defective or wrong material, especially if it takes 4-6 weeks for replacements to arrive due to great supplier distances? What about the cost of sending quality and purchasing managers half way around the world to deal with supplier issues, not to mention the lost time that they could have doing more productive and valuable tasks?
Suppliers are an integral part of many businesses, and creating strong relationships with good suppliers while avoiding relationships with bad suppliers provides a firm competitive advantage. With implementing ISO 9001, your organization can discern good suppliers from bad suppliers because regular supplier evaluation is a requirement.
If you believe that defining and continually improving key processes, understanding what your customers want, and determining who the best supplier is on total cost would not help your organization be more competitive, then perhaps ISO 9001 isn’t for you.
Meanwhile, if you are interested in learning more about using ISO 9001 to improve your organization then Bizmanualz can help. We offer a range of products and services from off the shelf manuals and ISO 9001 Internal Auditing courses to consulting engagements that build or enhance your ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems. We believe that ISO 9001 isn’t just about getting a plaque;, it is about getting better.