If you are struggling to understand ISO Accreditation here are the ‘whys and hows’
“For three days in March 2013, my head has been pre-occupied with acronyms, audits and re-accreditation. For in March, we have reached the three year anniversary of our initial ISO 9001 & 14001 accreditation, which means that we were due the external auditors to come to our offices and delve into the daily processes and procedures that we are reliant upon for a smooth running business as well as managing our Environmental waste.”
ISO 9001 & 14001 are ISO Accreditations that are recognised by the International Organisation for Standards; 9001 relates to Quality Management Systems and 14001 to Environmental Management Systems. TEAM decided to put ourselves forward for audit in 2010. These voluntary ISO Accreditations give us the chance to reassure customers of our commitment to environmental best practice, our drive to continuously improve our processes and customer service, as well as ensure a consistent level of service to all of our customers. Some organisations specify that suppliers have an ISO 9001 accreditation, we find it can be requested during the tendering process where businesses are looking for an organisation they can be confident can deliver to agreed requirements.
At TEAM we are used to the auditors visiting the office – each 6 months our external auditor(s) complete a ‘surveillance’ visit, which means that we have to open up our internal systems to allow visibility of all nooks and crannies. One of the key elements of ISO 9001 is that we have a robust mechanism for storing all of our processes and procedures and, just as importantly, we continue to ensure that we follow the documented procedures. Further, our auditor wishes to see that as a company, we are striving for continuous improvement.
The first thing to note is that achieving the ISO Accreditation for both standards is not a simple matter of spending a couple of days dusting down procedures prior to the arrival of an auditor. We administer our Quality Management System using an internal bespoke Wikipedia style software (Wiki). Developed in-house, the Wiki stores our processes and procedures under systematic categoristation i.e. so that they are easily available through a quick search when a user wishes to find a process. When I say that we don’t just ‘dust down’ the processes pre-audit, this is because in total, our Wiki system has 6,632 pages (at time of writing). In total, there have been 48,378 edits to our Wiki pages, meaning each page has on average undergone 7.29 edits. This is reflective of the fact that we encourage staff to keep their processes up to date at all times – if the way you do something changes, make sure it is documented.
Best practice tips
At the beginning of each calendar year, I plan out a 12 month audit plan. Each month, on rotation, one department within TEAM is audited by myself (aside from my own Bureau department, which is audited by others). This way, each department will be audited at least twice within a rolling 12 month period – in other words, it keeps people on their toes. When I undertake an internal audit, I try to replicate as much as possible the process an external auditor would undertake when looking at the business processes – this will usually involve picking 7 or 8 individual processes for the department and seeing if I can work through them from start to finish as a desktop exercise. For some processes, these will flow beautifully without issue. However there are times that I am unable to follow the written process and will then sit with someone in the department who undertakes the task, and ask them to show me how they would do it. This gives me the chance to analyse where the theory of the process has fallen down. Just as an external auditor would do, the idea is not to trip up the individual, but to look for improvements in the way that work is completed and documented.
Everyone takes responsibility
Only recently in my own department, we had a member of staff on two weeks planned leave. Before anyone goes on leave, they are asked to ensure that their procedures are up to date on Wiki That way, we are able to ensure that our own deliverables are met when individuals are out of the office. In fact before we achieved the ISO Accreditation three years ago, the internal Wiki system was adopted within our Bureau department . The ISO accreditations aren’t just about the customer facing staff processes, it includes everything from IT and HR to Facilites, equipment and internal training.
Another advantage to a Wiki system is that it is paperless – with such a drive on environmental management, a paperless system is a great way of showing our commitment to the environment. The ISO 14001 accreditation also shows that we are considering how we use and manage our energy, not just on site but also once we have disposed of it from our offices. For instance, I never thought i would give so much consideration to where our shredded paper ultimately ends up! It’s not just about our responsibility to hand it over to a company and claim a transfer note, but we have to make sure we use responsible and ethical companies who aren’t found to leave 30 bags of shredded paper down the dump every Wednesday.
Singing our praises
I am pleased to say that we achieved both sets of ISO Accreditation with flying colours. In fact, our auditor has been singing our praises to other clients of his, and has recommended our route of developing a Wiki system. To date, two major train companies have used the same idea for their own ISO Accreditation. Of course, because we have the accreditation is does not mean that all of our processes and procedures are flawless. The key element of continuous improvement is trying to find where there are areas to become more efficient, items that perhaps need updating or processes that are no longer relevant. Our own internal audit programme is designed to find these areas, but we still have an emphasis on individuals responsibility. After all, you won’t find me auditing all 6,632 pages each month!!
News: TEAM retains certification for ISO9001 and ISO14001
Find out more about TEAM Accreditations and TEAM Wiki paperless systems.