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procedures

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Documented Information for ISO 9001:2015

With the relatively recent release of ISO 9001:2015, many companies are still asking themselves what documentation is required. Back with the 2008 release, most companies were comfortable with the six mandatory procedures that were expected of them as well as the need for a quality policy and manual. The update to 2015 has however removed the requirement for a quality manual and blurred the distinction between procedures and records.

With the new release, both documents and records are termed “documented information” and must be controlled and maintained. This is what will form the evidence required to show that you are conforming to the requirements of your quality management system.

Clause 4.4 of ISO 9001 requires your organization to maintain the documented information that is required to support the operation of your processes and to retain that information to be able to have confidence that those processes are being completed as planned.

So what is required by the standard?

The following is a clause-by-clause breakdown of what is required by the standard. However, some of these clauses can be excluded if the company does not perform the relevant processes:

Mandatory records:

  • 7.1.5.1 – Monitoring and measuring equipment calibration records
  • 7.2 – Records of training, skills, experience and qualifications
  • 8.2.3.2 – Product/service requirements review records
  • 8.3.2 – Record about design and development outputs review
  • 8.3.3 – Records about design and development inputs
  • 8.3.4 – Records of design and development controls
  • 8.3.5 – Records of design and development outputs
  • 8.3.6 – Design and development changes records
  • 8.5.1 – Characteristics of product to be produced and service to be provided
  • 8.5.3 – Records about customer property
  • 8.5.6 – Production/service provision change control records
  • 8.6 – Record of conformity of product/service with acceptance criteria
  • 8.7.2 – Record of nonconforming outputs
  • 9.1.1 – Monitoring and measurement results
  • 9.2 – Internal audit program
  • 9.2 – Results of internal audits
  • 9.3 – Results of the management review
  • 10.1 – Results of corrective actions

Other Mandatory Documents:

  • 4.3 – Scope of the QMS
  • 5.2 – Quality policy
  • 6.2 – Quality objectives
  • 8.4.1 – Criteria for evaluation and selection of suppliers

So what does this mean?

You should still tailor your quality management system to meet the requirements of your own business and all of the interested stakeholders. This can be done in any way that your organization sees fit; although a quality manual is still one of the easiest methods. As long as these processes and associated records can be shown to meet the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 effectively then that is fine. If not then the relevant action should be taken to ensure that all of the required clauses are covered.

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ISO 9001 System

Here are some of the most common mistakes made by organizations when managing an ISO 9001 system:

Mistake 1. Top management is not committed to the ISO 9001 system.  If top management is not involved in quality, if they don’t provide the resources and mechanism to plan, control and improve their products, services and processes, ISO 9001 can not be sustained over time. It’s essential for top management to take decisions that demonstrate that quality, improvement and customer satisfaction are an important issue.

 

Mistake 2. Not training key personnel in ISO 9001. Not knowing what ISO 9001 is all about can be a big mistake. It is important for organizations to train key personnel (someone who has a decision-making role) in ISO 9001, in order to understand what ISO 9001 really is and what it requires. Not knowing nor understanding ISO 9001 can take organizations through a path of disappointment and despair.

 

Mistake 3. Not training all personnel. Everyone must receive training on the important quality aspects of the activities and processes they work in. Everyone must understand the importance of quality and how they can achieve it. The training must be consonant with their responsibilities and the activities they perform.

 

Mistake 4. Making the system complex. If the organization is working to keep the system alive, it is a sign that it is too complex and all the work of filling out forms and documenting procedures is not adding value to the organization. The system must be kept simple and practical, and it should focus on results and improvements, and not on documents.

 

Mistake 5. Not using the corrective action process properly. Organizations need to take the time to investigate their problems and involve the right people in the investigation process. Most problems are recurrent, so using the corrective action process correctly will reduce or eliminate their recurrence.

 

Mistake 6. Not knowing what customers want. One of the objectives of ISO 9001 is to improve or increase customer satisfaction, and if organizations do not take the time to listen to their customers, they will not be able to reach this goal. A long and complicated survey is not necessary nor recommended, just by asking a few key questions will give organizations enough information to determine and plan for changes that will aim to fulfill this goal.

 

Mistake 7. Rushing into the implementation process. To build a solid ISO 9001 management system takes work and time.Trying to implement the system in a short time will be counterproductive. Organizations need to take the necessary time to plan, do, check and act in order to implement a system that will improve their products, services and processes.

 

Mistake 8. Not having a trained and experienced internal auditor. In many cases, internal auditors lack the necessary training and experience to distinguish small details from big issues in the QMS. Auditors need to focus on the issues that will help organizations improve their processes and the system itself.

 

Mistake 9. Believing that what works for one organization will work for their own. Every organization is different and what may work for one, may not work for another. Organizations need to focus on their specific context in order to build and develop their management system around it.

 

Mistake 10. Leaving the responsibility of the QMS to one person. ISO 9001 needs to be the work of an entire organization. If people do not take ownership of the QMS, it will not work out. People need to incorporate quality in their work and activities and an outsider will not achieve that. Guidance and training is needed, but if quality is not done on a daily basis in every process then the system will never add value to the organization.

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Top 5 Tips for Effective Procedures

The ISO 9001 quality management system requires for organizations to write different procedures to prevent non-conformances and to guaranty that specific jobs and processes are carried out correctly.

When writing these effective procedures it is essential to take the following into account:

1. Identify what type of procedure or document needs to be developed.

 

Different documents are essential in the QMS and each type of procedure or document has a specific role and objective. Some of the most commonly used documents in an ISO 9001 QMS are:

  • Manuals: define the general aspects of business management (Quality Management Manual).
  • Operating Procedures: Explain how an activity or process unfolds. Usually the most common documents.
  • Technical notes and instructions: further develop the content of an activity. They are mainly focused on fieldwork.
  • Guides: These are similar to the procedures and technical notes, but with the proviso that they are not binding guidance.

2. Know in detail the structure of a procedure or document.

Organizations need to define a structure and a standard way to write these effective procedures in order to guaranty that they are written in a consistent manner. Knowing the structure will facilitate the process of gathering the essential information necessary to write an effective procedure.

The structure may vary from organization to organization; however, a structure that many organizations use is provided below:

  • Home: the first page of the procedure usually includes the title, code, date of writing, version number (or revision), table of contents, total number of pages, name and signatures of the persons who have prepared, reviewed and approved it.
  • Purpose and Scope: Describes a summary of the purpose and content of the procedure.
  • References: documents that have influenced the development of the procedure are listed.
  • Definitions: technical words that are used in the content of the procedure.
  • Responsibilities: list of individuals or departments responsible for carrying out the activities described in the procedure.
  • Development (or description): describe in detail the activity performed.
  • Annexes: everything that is considered important but that takes up too much space to include it in the description section (tables, drawings, diagrams).

3. Review the document with the people that will use it.

In order for a procedure or any document to be effective, it must be understood by the people who will ultimately use it. That’s why it is important for these people to review the document at different stages of its development. Effective procedures have been reviewed directly by the people who will be using it the most.

4. Consider different people’s views and perspectives.

A procedure should not be developed with the view or information of just one person. Most processes or activities that need to be document could be complex and having different perspectives can enrich the procedure. Effective procedures will multiple views into account.

 

5. Make it simple.

Procedures should not be difficult to read. On the contrary, they must be clear and concise. Sentences must be as short as possible to make sure that it is comprehensive and easy to read. If procedures are never read or understood by the intended audience, they are not likely to serve as an effective tool in any process. Effective procedures need to be readable by everyone involved in the process.

 

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Procedures for ISO 9001:2015

The new ISO 9001:2015 does not identify any required documented procedures, at least not as it was required in the 2008 version of the standard. The new standard refers to requirements of “documented information” and in the clause 7.5 it states that:

The organization’s quality management system must include:

  1. documented information required by this International Standard;
  2. documented information determined by the organization as being necessary for the effectiveness of the quality management system.

Throughout the new version of the standard, there are a number of references for organizations to maintain and retain documented information. It can be inferred that where the standard states that the organization is required to maintain documented information sufficient to support the operation of processes it is implying the need of documented procedures.

The specific procedures required for the quality management system will depend on the organization itself. The standard also states that:

The extent of documented information for a quality management system can differ from one organization to another due to the:

  1. size of organization and its type of activities, processes, products, and services;
  2. complexity of processes and their interactions;
  3. competence of persons

Each organization will need to identify which procedures are essential for the correct operation of their processes in order determine which ones they’ll need to create. If an organization does not have any documented procedures, it will need to demonstrate how people know what to do and show acceptable evidence to support that their processes are carried out effectively without them.

Organizations that have already implemented ISO 9001 will not need to throw away the procedures that are in place. If these procedures serve as a useful tool within the organization, they should be maintained. However, the new standard presents an opportunity for organizations to take a second look at the procedures that are part of their management system in order to determine which add value to the system and which don’t.

Organizations wishing to be certified with the new ISO 9001:2015 must meet all of the requirements within a standard, including those regarding documented information, and they must be able to show evidence that they have all the necessary procedures in place.