When implementing a new ISO9001 Quality Management System, it is sometimes difficult to know where to begin. A common question is 'which procedures do I need to document?". Here's a way to help you find out which procedures your company needs to control to ensure quality, and how much to document.
ISO 9001 has six mandatory procedures which you must document. Beyond those, you get to decide what other documents you need for effective planning, operation and control of your processes. You get to decide. But how?
The focus of ISO 9001:2000 is on satisfying the customer. For most successful businesses, this is the focus regardless of their position on ISO9001. When a customer has a satisfying customer experience, they will come back, and maybe even recommend you to someone else. The whole customer experience is important. It is not only the product they receive but also the service you provide.
Using a process approach to Quality Management is one of the eight quality management principles of ISO 9001:2000, so let’s use that approach to find the procedures we need to control and possibly to document. The process we want to analyse first is the one that most directly affects the customer.
We’ll follow a customer order from start to finish to reveal all the processes that impact on the quality of your product and customer service. On the way we’ll see how all those processes fit together, which gives you a process map almost for free.
The most basic customer experience begins with placing an order and finishes on delivery. If the product has an after market service requirement, then the service you provide will include your returns and/or service procedures. A less obvious part of the customer experience happens before the order is placed – it is how they find out about your product.
Let’s go through a simple example where a customer first finds out about ACME Pty Ltd’s products and makes some enquiries before placing an order.
That’s most of the procedures you’ll need. You have to evaluate your own processes to decide which ones are complex and need to be written down in a documented procedure, and which ones are simple and can be performed consistently by a competent person (i.e. sufficiently trained). You will need to periodically assess the processes to make sure that what you think is happening is really happening – that’s the purpose of the internal audit process.