The Roadmap to Successful Quality Management
Throughout our industry, ISO 9000 is a common tool used by companies in developing, deploying, and documenting their internal quality standards. Yet surprisingly, there are some misconceptions about what the ISO quality standard really is.
ISO 9000 Provides a Broad Roadmap
What is ISO 9000? It is a family of international standards for quality management and quality assurance, and one of many sets of standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization. The ISO 9000 standards lay out the fundamentals and terminology of quality management systems, providing guidance in areas such as customer focus, leadership, engagement, process approach, improvement, decision-making, and relationship management.
Not specific to any one industry or any one type or size of organization, ISO 9000 was created to provide a broad roadmap that helps companies maintain an efficient quality system and provide assurance to customers that certain standards have been met.
ISO Registered and ISO Compliant Are Not the Same Thing
Metal Cutting Corporation is ISO 9000 registered, with a quality management system (QMS) that is carefully planned to help us achieve our goals and deliver the highest products and services. However, some suppliers may say that they are ISO compliant — which means they may not have completed the process of being evaluated by a third-party registrar that audits companies and registers them as certified ISO suppliers.
Unlike “ISO compliance,” ISO registration demonstrates that an organization has put in the extra time, money, and effort required to have its adherence to ISO quality standards officially verified by an independent auditor.
ISO Gets Revised
All ISO standards are reviewed every five years to determine if a revision is needed to keep the standards current and relevant for the marketplace. The ISO 9000 standards are revised every few years, and the newest standard — ISO 9001:2015 — was unveiled in September 2015. All organizations that use ISO as their quality management standard have until September 2018 to make the transition and be certified.
Metal Cutting has been continuously ISO 9000 registered since 1994 and is in the process of meeting requirements for ISO 9001:2015. In fact, we are on target to be certified as ISO 9001:2015 registered by the end of 2017, far ahead of the mandated deadline.
One of the things that is different in ISO 9001:2015 is that the standard no longer mandates a quality manual or written procedure; rather, it leaves it up to the individual organization to determine the best way to document that ISO requirements are being met. For example, a supplier might use very detailed job travelers or existing equipment manuals to show the quality process that is in place.
However, here at Metal Cutting, we have had great success with our quality manual and think it is still the best way to document that our processes and procedures meet the highest standards. Therefore, we will not be doing away with our manual from ISO 9001:2008; instead, we will be expanding our internal written work instructions and procedures as needed to reflect the changes in ISO 9001:2015.
New ISO 9001:2015 Adds a Focus on Risk
Another new aspect of ISO 9001:2015 is an increased focus on risk — encouraging companies to think about not only risks within their organization, but also where those risks intersect with their stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, and even the neighborhood where the business is located, as well as individual job holders. This risk-based thinking is a natural outgrowth of a focus on customer experience and the increased use of customer surveys. At Metal Cutting, we find a lot of customers are using surveys including risk-based questions and asking suppliers about external audits and their risk assessment processes.
While the new standards do not seem all that different from ISO 9001:2008, ISO 9001:2015 does add a new level of deliberate thought to business planning. It requires a more formalized, structured way of thinking about risk and how to manage it to achieve business goals, in everything from having enough equipment and tracking materials from end to end, to knowing how to respond should an issue arise anywhere within the production process.
It’s Not “Just Paperwork”
Over the years, we’ve heard a lot of people complain that “ISO is just more paperwork!” However, we strongly believe that each iteration of the ISO 9000 standards is a very important tool — one that compels businesses to not only formally commit to certain quality standards, but also continuously look inward for ways to keep improving the quality process.
The ISO quality management standards tell an organization what needs to be done, but not how to do it; rather, each organization decides the best way to meet the standards. This “forces” a company to consciously think about risk assessment and all the procedures that are in place, including contract review, traceability of materials, calibration of tools to particular standards, and sampling and inspection.
When every step has been carefully considered and documented, customers can be assured they will get a consistent result and quality product. In addition, the internal auditing and peer-to-peer reviews that are part of the ISO 9000 process offer ways to open up communication within the organization — for example, allowing employees to suggest new tools, process improvements, or other ideas they might not otherwise get a chance to provide.
It’s Our Quality Standard Commitment
ISO 9000 is an important quality indicator in many industries, including our own. Adherence to these standards by an organization tells customers that it is committed to implementing structured quality management practices. You can read more about Metal Cutting’s adherence to ISO 9000 and other quality measures on the Quality Commitment page of our website.
In addition to ISO certification, there are other important things to looks for in a potential partner. Learn more by downloading our free guide, 7 Secrets to Choosing a New Contract Partner: Technical Guide to Outsourcing Your Precision Metal Fabrication.
This week’s blogger, Barbara Osborne, is the Quality Assurance Manager at Metal Cutting Corporation.