Category Archives: compliance

Lets Talk about Stakeholders

Ever since the introduction of the HLS (High Level Structure) in several ISO standards, the stakeholder analysis has a more prominent role in most Management Systems. This is a good thing if you ask us. However, most companies have been able to list and somehow categorize their stakeholders, but they are having a hard time managing them. Don’t get me wrong, managing stakeholders isn’t easy and requires a lot of effort. We ourselves can do a better job on this aspect every now and then.

Identifying Stakeholders

This is the most straightforward and easy exercise of managing stakeholders. Every company is capable of identifying their stakeholders and the impact every stakeholder has on the organization. Most analysis show a breakdown that look something like this:

  • Name of stakeholder
  • Impact on the organization
  • Level of influence
  • How to manage the stakeholder

It is not a hard science, but most of the assessments of the stakeholders hold some information like this.

Managing Stakeholders

After the identification of the stakeholders, they need to be managed, which is the hardest task. Every company manages their most important stakeholders with care, their customers. Yes, things go wrong here as well, but most processes in the organization are built to make customers happy. Hence, this stakeholder is managed pretty significantly. Then, the employees are well taken care of in most companies, bad actors aside. Without the employees, there is no company, so they need to be taken care of as well. Then we have the suppliers, these are well taken care of because a significant part the company depends on them, especially the critical suppliers.

In essence, most stakeholders are well informed when they are part of a process and when things are going as planned. It is when something doesn’t go according to plan that things start to break. We experience this over and over again, not just with our suppliers, but also within our company. This isn’t really a bad thing, as long as you are aware of the fact that you dropped the ball and this is where things are going wrong. When you point out that you haven’t been well informed, you see that people start to point to processes or systems. But like I mentioned before, the problem is that things didn’t go as planned, hence the missing information. Just make sure there is some kind of feedback loop in the organization to identify such situations and update the stakeholder analysis.

Conclusion

The stakeholder analysis is a great tool and helps lots of companies. The problem with it is that most companies only look at the situation when everything goes according to plan, which it doesn’t all the time. Make sure you have some kind of way to handle these situations as well to manage the stakeholders even better.

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Compliance is a Moving Target

Last week we had a great talk with an esteemed consultant about compliance and how to go about it. He had quite a nice way of approaching it. It was during this call he dropped the phrase:

“Compliance is a moving target”

This made me think about being compliant and how it changes all the time. It actually is a moving target, and that’s what makes working in compliance such an exciting job.

Everything Changes

Within the environment of a business, changes happen all the time, new employees enter, employees leave, laws change, standards change, customers demand change, and so on. Every change has an impact on the compliance of a company and can definitely be seen as a moving target. It would be a utopian vision to think you as a company is 100% compliant—it is mostly based on best efforts and, sometimes, interpretations. Hence, stating that a company is compliant simply because it passed an audit doesn’t make lots of sense, although it is common to do this. There are always changes that have an influence on the level of compliance. When a law changes, the organization needs to adopt this change. When a new employee enters, they need to be trained how to work properly. 

The Fun Part

Because compliance is a moving target, it comes with so many challenges. This is for most people working in compliance what makes the job exciting. Changes are required, and support by the employees is a necessity. This balancing act between the hard requirements and the human touch is what makes working in compliance so great. Chasing that moving target and getting as close as possible to being 100% compliant is the goal and is something compliance managers don’t do on their own. Compliance is most definitely a team sport and something that is done with every single person in the company. This isn’t always easy because not everyone is as excited about compliance management as we are, but they all have the power to break the compliance chain, with ease.

Technology

Even as a compliance platform, we don’t believe that buying a compliance platform makes you fully compliant. Technology is there to support not lead. All the rules and regulations, laws and standards are man-made and, therefore, can be pretty fuzzy. Because of that, people need to interpret them in order to place it in the right context. Technology isn’t in the same league as humans when it comes to this. You need to be involved in the compliance processes as a human for quite some time. Which is great because it is a great job to do.

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Remote Auditing, How to Set It Up

After last week the world looks quite different. People in most countries are working from home, which means that audits need to adapt as well. This week, one of our customers had their first completely remote Certification audit due to COVID-19. They were able to give the auditor access to all the required documentation and information via the Qooling Platform for remote auditing.

Requirements

Of course, the most basic requirement for remote auditing is a proper internet connection. This may sound trivial, but not every location has access to stable internet. Secondly, it is important to have a good, structured and easy-to-use QHSE platform for the auditor to have access to. This way, he or she can easily navigate through your management system and check your compliance. For a more human touch, a video conferencing option would also be great. Solutions like Zoom or Webex are great solutions to facilitate this.

Access control

Access control is hugely important when you set up for remote auditing. The auditor should have access to most, if not all, of your Quality and Safety related information. However, you don’t want him/her to accidentally change something in the system, so a dedicated auditor role should be set to prevent this from happening. Obviously, such an account should be view-only and prevent the auditor from doing anything else. Besides preventing the ability to change anything, it is also important that the auditor has access to all the files. Great platforms allow you to give document-level access to certain employees, so you can tailor the management system to the role of the employee in the company. However, with the auditor, it is crucial to give them full access to all documents. Don’t forget to set this correctly to avoid mundane questions.

Compliance

With the remote setup, the auditor has a great way to check for compliance to the standard. Of course there are still parts of the audit that cannot solely be covered by the platform, such as the interviews. However, the platform does hold the information to prove how things are going within the company. The actual interview can be done via web conference solutions with the data in the Quality and Safety platform as information to support and verify the claims that are made during the interview. This way, compliance to the standard can be shown completely remotely.

Conclusion

After being forced to move to remote auditing due to this devastating pandemic, perhaps remote auditing will become more common than before. If companies are able to facilitate it for the auditors, it should be getting much easier. This does require some form of online platform for the Quality and Safety Management and a suitable web conferencing solution.

Take care and stay safe during these extraordinary times.

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Make sure you calibrate equipment

Having the right and best equipment for the job is crucial to guarantee the highest quality level. Monitoring and Measuring Resources is the clause in the ISO9001:2015 that focuses on this. Regardless of the standard you are certified for, having proper equipment is crucial to do a good job. Make sure you manage it properly and calibration is done on the equipment.

Definition

Before a company can even start managing the equipment effectively, it is important to have a clear description and list of tools that need to be monitored. Especially in the definition, there are endless debates on which tools should be part of this calibration and which don’t. A couple of tools that are always up for debate are the roller gauge and measuring tape. Some claim they should be calibrated, while others claim them to not be that critical. Whatever approach you take, make sure you have a clear definition on this, and of course, this definition can change over time.

Take Inventory

When the definition is clear, make sure all the tools within this definition are known and identified. A clear time interval for calibration should be set. Either based on time or usage is a great way to define this. The list should hold the important information for the organization to identify the different tools—and don’t forget to calibrate intervals. Most of the time, it also helps to list the brand of the equipment and the location where people can find it. Some common registrations we see are something like this:

Name Brand Location Supplier Serial nr. Comment Picture Next Inspection Date Time Interval Inspector

Calibration

Most of the time, a third party performs calibrations or inspections. Make sure you find a reliable party relatively close by. Together with them, plan the calibrations based on your needs. Some companies have breaks during which they can calibrate most of the equipment. Other great approaches are during holiday seasons or, if possible, when production is in a low season. Make sure you create a schedule that fits the needs and characteristics of the company.

Monitoring

When the equipment is selected and added to the calibration plan, make sure this plan is monitored. It is important that the equipment/tools are calibrated and inspected within the intervals to keep the quality of the products they are used for high. To manage all the tools properly, notifications on when equipment needs to be calibrated will help a lot. These notifications allow the company only to act when this is required. Also, this way, no equipment falls through the cracks, which means that it is less likely that uncalibrated equipment is used.

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The word of an auditor

Over the past months, we’ve interviewed about a dozen Quality and Safety external auditors. We have asked them about their experience and what they have seen in the market. The auditors were so kind as to share their experiences with different types of companies across the globe. We deliberately selected international auditors from many countries to get a good feeling of whatever is going on in different parts of the world. They also came from different certifying bodies.

We would like to thank every auditor that has been so kind to participate in the interviews.

General Impression of Auditors

The auditors that participated have experience in different kinds of organizations, from small organizations with ten employees till large organizations with more than a thousand employees. Next to the company size, they have experience in different markets. These can range from ICT, automotive, logistics, food production, oil and gas and large manufacturing plants. The auditors work with organizations all around the world from different cultural backgrounds.

Experiences of Auditors

There are quite some similarities among the experiences of the auditors. The most important topic, the involvement of management, is different within companies. Although every company needs top quality products or services, this clearly shows that not every top manager sees the QMS as a vehicle. In the case of the first, there is a high involvement from top management. In companies where management doesn’t see the importance, there is not so much involvement from management. This is a pretty challenging situation for a QHSE Manager to be in.

Another big factor of management involvement is the size and maturity of the company. When everyone in the company knows his or her role, everybody helps each other to make the process run smoothly. For a less mature and smaller company, the manager finds it difficult to hand over tasks and wants to do everything on their own.

Tip From the Auditor

At the end of every interview, there was the same question: do you have a tip for other auditors? Here are three examples of tips the auditors gave:

  • Don’t be dogmatic. There is no universal truth; every company has its own approach, which isn’t good or bad per se. Don’t be fixed to the exact wording of the standard either, there is a lot of room for interpretation. Look at the company, its size, its status, and its health and assess the company for its own capabilities. This is true for auditors but also Quality Managers.
  • Invest in your employees. Of course, within the financial capabilities of the company. Take a snapshot of your employees today and create a plan on what they should do in five years in terms of competence and skills.
  • A tip for auditors. Clients are very clever and resourceful. If you want to find out what is really going on in a company, ask questions to the operators and let him/her explain to you how the program works within the company. Don’t take way the appointed contact say for face value, talk with others in the organization, you will be amazed about what comes up.

These are just some general outcomes, but every auditor has a different experience. Are you curious about the experiences of the different auditors? Please wait till the end of the year and read the e-book for more details on this subject.

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