09 Sep 2013

A positive approach to quality management – Keep it simple!

Category:
  • Quality Assurance

Another year has gone by and we have regained our ISO 9001:2008 certification!!

Within the first quarter of the new year I was filled with apprehension as my thoughts return once again to the looming ISO audit in May.... ekk..... why does it come round so quickly..... must be something to do with my age, but time does seem to gallop by at an alarming rate these days. No sooner has the certificate plopped onto the door mat it seems like we are off again preparing for the next review.

Although the process is a continual one throughout the year the inevitable happens and the paper work and systems need updating to reflect the numerous changes that have gone on. Sleepless nights, endless paper work and numerous meetings to review return and the inevitable deluge of last minute panics ensue.  I must say that despite the pressure that any audit....even the word “audit” sends shivers down my spine..commands, it is a really positive experience for the whole team. 

Certification can seem immensely complicated and has inherently demanding requirements and can seem difficult to achieve but the time and effort everyone puts into it is truly worth it.  The process enables you to formalise clear and organised systems and procedures are put into place which are reinforced over time and enhance the various functions and profitability of the company.

The trick is to not over complicate things.... keep the systems simple, practical, workable and most importantly flexible.  Processes are meant to change, refinement is paramount and this can only be achieved with an open, flexible and straightforward approach, dialogue and co-operation throughout the company; making the quality management system both valuable and relevant. 

Open and frank discussions and a non-blame culture must be encouraged so that any problems or issues are not hidden away, hoping not to be found, quick and resourceful solutions save time and money.

Our Quality Management system is an integral part of our business and we pride ourselves on this, we have over the last 3 years identified areas for improvement, the gaps and the changes needed to fine tune and streamline our core processes and what best suits our organisation.

Having many years experience in quality management I must admit to being somewhat overzealous with the amount of paper and evidence that I produce.... my tip to you would be to keep it simple, ensure that anything that you have mentioned in the manual as a process or objective can be backed up by measurable evidence and ensure that all documentation is kept up to date and relevant as you go along.  Ensure that you update your paper files and electronic files as and when processes or documentation is produced, this will save time hunting for copies prior to the audit and ensure they are version controlled and any old versions are archived.

Another tip..... ensure that you keep all documentation showing evidence of changes, e.g. scribbled notes on an policy document that has been updated during an internal audit, the amendments made to the Quality Manual prior to resubmission, changes made to a HR form due to changes in legislation etc.

Vital.... keep all your colleagues informed of processes, get their input in decision making for the process that they are involved in... this way they take ownership immediately as they have had full involvement.  Ensure everyone knows and has sight of any relevant company documents via your company intranet or similar and keep these up to date and relevant.

During the audit ensure all relevant personnel are available for the auditor to talk to to explain their own areas of responsibility appertaining to the quality manual i.e. Quality Tester for all testing processes, Administrator for financial and admin processes, HR for recruitment and training processes.  Sharing the load on the day is less stressful for the Quality Representative and also ensures engagement by other departments and responsible individuals and accurate dialogue of with the auditor.

Finally don’t let it become a burden either on the company or the individuals involved, make the system suit and support your organisation, keep it simple, effective, relevant and customer focused.

Having an instant rapport with the auditor who has experience with our type of business is essential, having a sound knowledge of software development and being able to analyse our systems and processes made the experience a good one.

Finally we sailed through the audit.....

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