How well is your ISO9001 system working for you? Do you know if it is relevant to your business and what legal implications may be lurking in a poorly designed system?
A former client recently contacted us. They had an audit coming up and they asked eQA to come in and have a look over their quality, safety and environmental management system. They were looking for some advice and clarification.
In 2015 eQA had written them a quality management system of which they successfully attained ISO9001 certification. In 2017 they asked us to include a safety management system. They again were successful in passing the official audit.
As what sometimes occurs, our client experienced business growth once they were certified (the whole purpose behind going through this process) and so they were able to employ their own quality management officer to manage their system.
In 2018 they were audited again and had five minor non-conformances raised. Nothing to panic about – it happens sometimes. Their responsibility was to address and fix the non-conformances. Unfortunately, these five non-conformances were not addressed so during their re-audit they were elevated to five major non-conformances. Now this is something to be concerned with. They were facing removal of their certification. And this would significantly impact their business.
The quality management officer had left the company so they called eQA back in to help. This company was an IT business and so they had also implemented a safety and information technology security system into their existing quality and environmental management system. This extension was implemented by their quality management officer. On the surface, the highlighted non-conformances were simple enough to fix. But once eQA started looking through their extended system it was evident that it was cumbersome, complicated and ineffective. The major concerns were that requirements in the system were not relevant to their business. As they were incorporated into their system, they were required to be adhered to within their business. It was their own system, written by their employee, for their business – they were obligated to conform and adhere to it.
So what is wrong here? Firstly, and most importantly, the owners and management team did not know their own system. They were completely unaware of their responsibilities and what they were obligated to follow. Not just in line with their system to retain their certification, but in some instances the system had included some unnecessary requirements for this business, but because it was included it became legally binding for the owners, who had signed off on the system.
It appears that the person who extended their system was inexperienced in writing systems specific to business needs. Too often we see systems written by theoretical people who do not apply business sense and relevance to the systems they implement into a business. This system was out of control, addressing things that were not relevant to the business. It appeared to be a system created by finding information on the internet or using templates they didn’t fully understand. Instead of working out if elements of the template were relevant to the business, they addressed every element of the template and as a result, they've created items to be adhered to that are absolutely irrelevant to the business. One example was their reference to a company dress code. This is a corporate office with absolutely no need for an official dress code. But because this was included into the system it became a requirement. On the day eQA visited, only two employees were compliant with their own company policy and therefore an auditor would have been in their right to hold them accountable for this. For something totally unnecessary the owners of the business could have suffered significant consequences. They were unaware of this being included and became very concerned about other parts of the system that could impact on their business. eQA will now go through this system and cut out all the unnecessary elements and bring the system back into a functioning system that focuses on the business needs and growth.
It is very important for owners and managers to be aware of their systems, their obligations and effectiveness of their quality management systems. Ultimately they are responsible regardless of who wrote the system. And most importantly, it is to a business owner’s best interests to ensure their system is addressing their specific business needs and is in place to ensure business growth and efficiencies. The system should not be a theoretical tick and flick to simply satisfy a quality officer and auditor. Your business needs should come first and foremost in the development and implementation of your system.
Check in on your system now. Work through it with your team and keep asking the question, “how does that apply and benefit my business?”
Give us a call if you would like us to give your system a “Relevance and Benefits” health check.