Implementing and seeking certification for ISO 9001 is an important decision many organizations make to improve their quality management system (QMS) and increase their competitiveness within their market. After the decision is made, one of the first concerns is: how long will this process take? Will it take three months? six months? a year maybe? or two years?
This question does not have a definite answer, implementing and seeking certification for ISO 9001 requires time, money and effort and the overall time spent will depend on several factors:
- The size and complexity of the organization.
Is it a small or medium-sized organization? Is it a single site organization or a multinational? Does the organization have complex processes such as design, manufacture, installation, test, etc.?
- The maturity of the quality system that is in use.
Does the organization have a well developed and structured QMS? Does it have a simple one with deficiencies?.
- The resources available (money and time).
Does the organization have a team dedicated exclusively on the implementation of ISO 9001? Do employees have only a couple of hours a week to dedicate to this project? Will the organization be able to hire a consultant to guide them through all the process?
The major time consuming activities organizations need to consider when implementing ISO 9001 are:
- Understanding ISO 9001. Time will need to be spent in studying and training the people responsible for the implementation.
- Conducting a gap analysis. This analysis will allow organizations to identify exactly what needs to be done to meet ISO 9001 requirements.
- Getting busy with the documentation. A number of documents (policy, manual, procedures and forms) need to be developed.
- Implementation and training. Employees need to know and understand key ISO 9001 requirements, and their work needs to be aligned with what is required.
- Preparing and conducting an internal audit. At least one internal audit needs to take place before the certification audit.
- Correcting non-conformities. Audit findings need to be addresses with an action plan to permanently correct them.
- Selecting the certification body (CB). A registrar or CB needs to be selected to undertake the audit certification.
- The certification audit. After all the hard work, a certification audit is scheduled with the CB and if the audit is a success, the organization is certified.
Carrying through all these activities can take an organization from 9 to 18 months; however, it will all depend on the organization and its specific situation.
It is recommended that organizations take the time needed to effectively implement ISO 9001; a well established and implemented QMS will provide organizations with a valuable tool to improve their quality performance and continuously meet their client’s expectations.