Category Archives: ISO14001

Buying an ISO Certificate: Is It Worth It?

After interviewing a couple dozen auditors, we heard the expression “Buying Certificates” quite a lot. It basically comes down to companies only caring about the certificate and not about the management system. In general, it happens more often with smaller companies than bigger ones—but it happens everywhere.

Most of the time, ISO certification is simply forced upon by a new customer that requires an ISO certificate. The real question is, is it worth it? It depends on the industry you are in, of course, because some industries you simply cannot do anything without. In general, it isn’t really worth all the things you are required to do if you really only care about the certificate.

The Situation

A new project or customer requires ISO certification, and the company starts to look into the requirements. A consultant gets contacted and a plan is created. Most companies have some form of Quality and Safety controls, so these are extended and adjusted to fit more into the requirements of the standard. A responsible person is appointed internally and he/she is working together with the consultant to get the management system in place.

The Pain

Because of the lack of support and awareness of the importance of the Quality and Safety management, it will start to feel like a big burden on the company. During the audit there should be some sort of proof that the team follows the procedures and processes described and that they are somehow involved in the stakeholder analysis and risk management. This can be quite challenging and lead to lots of irritation, with the most common phrase:

“We have to do it for ISO”

This of course is nonsense because the standard doesn’t write
your procedures.

The Numbers

If you only do it to get a project/customer, which we don’t recommend, then it should at least make economical sense. Getting certified isn’t really hard, the real pain lies in maintaining the management system. Let’s make a small calculation. (These figures highly fluctuate among sectors and countries and therefore you should always make your own.) Just make sure you not only include the certification and the auditor but also the internal resources.

We expect 3 months of consulting by an in-house consultant.

  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
Consultant € 10000 ,- € 4000,- € 4000,-
Internal
Resources 200 hours 1 year (100 hours year 2 & 3)
€ 9000,- € 4500,- € 4500,-
External Audits
(3 years)
€ 2000 € 2000 € 2000
Grand Total €42000,- For 3 years  

This is just a simple, relatively small company but it already turns out to be some significant costs.

The Real Implications

Because the management system isn’t really part of the company and not integrated into the operation, the audits will be a real pain every year. Things will be forgotten or aren’t up to date and control measures aren’t checked on effectiveness or simply don’t exist. This will lead to very frustrating situations during the audits.

A Good Thing

To finish with a positive note, we do see lots of companies that start to see and embrace the value of the management system when they have to implement it. They start to use it as a vehicle to improve Quality and Safety and structure their organization. If this is what you plan for, ISO is most definitely a good framework to do this and the ROI on the certificate will be great. So even if a company starts off as a Certification Buyer, it can still become a company that really leverages the standard to improve the business.

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How to Implement a QHSE Platform

Buying new a new SaaS solution always requires changes within the way the company works. Sometimes these changes might be minor and sometimes they will be major, but either way they are always for the better. However, not every employee will experience it this way. Some might feel they simply don’t need to change, as most people are resilient to it.

When a new Quality and Safety solution has been purchased, this is no different. Whether you previously worked with Word and Excel files on your server or with an on-premise solution, there will be changes that come along with this new solution.

Key Users

These are mostly the easiest to convince to change. They use the solution quite frequently and have experienced the downfalls of the current way of working. The Key Users are therefore eager to change and might have even been involved or consulted during the selection process. This is relatively easy to do. However, there is another important role for the Key Users and that is a lot harder to convince them of. They should become the internal trainer/consultant. When other people experience problems or difficulties with the solution, they should be able to consult with a Key User. The Key Users are crucial in having a wide adoption on the platform because of this role. Hence, make the Key Users aware of their important role and thank them for this. They are the specialists and they should be made aware of their importance. Everybody wants to feel special in some way, so make sure they feel appreciated.

What Is in It for Me?

The regular users are much more resistant to change. Some might experience the day to day problems but most don’t see many problems with the current way of working. They don’t follow the process completely or somebody else always takes care of this. The introduction of a new solution will force them to do a bit more or simply follow the processes properly. When this is known, make sure you clearly show to the people why it is important that they start to work this way. Explain to them why the solution has been purchased, which problems it solves and how it will help them. For example, now the employees can file issues with their mobile phone thanks to a mobile app. Previously they needed a printed form for this. There is a lot of time saved, not just by the regular user but also by the quality department. Make them not only aware of the time saved for them but also for the entire company. Most people do want what’s best for the company and if they don’t, you have a completely different problem.

Celebrate Success

When the new platform shows good results and gets adopted, celebrate the successes. The success can be big or small, but celebrate them no matter what. When a significant number of hours has been saved or incident costs have been reduced significantly, celebrate this. Order a lunch, get cake or grab a beer with the team. Think of something special and celebrate the success with everybody, not just with the Key Users. Even though you bought a new online solution, in the end you need everybody to make it work.

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CAPA Management and how to structure this

Corrective and preventive actions (CAPA) have been subject to changes the last years due to some modifications to several standards. These recent changes made a lot of companies choose to get rid of the preventive actions. Regardless of the changes, the struggles of managing these tasks is still present. There are still multiple actions pending per employee, regardless of the wording.

Origin of the Task

The different tasks can originate from a number of different sources. Activities like a management walk, incident, customer complaint or an audit. These tasks are then stored in Excel documents or similar, which leads to long lists of actions with different due dates and statuses. Tracking the origin of the task is not only crucial for analyzing the data, but also to track the progress. One incident can hold multiple tasks, these origins show exactly which tasks need to be done to finish the incident report.

Manage the Sheet

The Excel doc that holds all the tasks (CAPA) quickly holds hundreds of records. To organize the data, multiple tabs get introduced and more columns are added to allow better shifting of data. The concept behind this Excel document is that every employee checks his/her tasks in the document and changes the data when something has been done. This sounds great in theory, but it is not so good in practice. Some things that happen to the file are: ● Employees don’t close the file and therefore “keep it occupied”. ● People start to add a bunch of fields to keep in the data or don’t know where to store it. ● Employees cannot find the document. The list is pretty long, which is why this method breaks pretty quickly when you some employees. In order to solve this, companies make the Quality Manager responsible for managing the list. This method is undoable and requires a lot of time and effort.

Automate CAPA

Picking a proper solution for managing the tasks will give instant structure. The employees will not be able to change the sheet whenever they see fit. Everyone will get notified when tasks are due and they can access it from anywhere in the world. The integration with other parts of the management system makes it very easy to track why a certain task was started. This makes task management on certain incidents fairly easy because it is simple to filter which tasks are pending on the incident. Tasks management is a crucial part of the improvement plan. Make sure you structure this properly in order to keep track of the improvement plan in the best way possible. Published by:

How To Identify Environmental Aspects

How to Identify Environmental Aspects

Creating an environmental overview is a key part of your environmental management system. Basically the environmental aspects are the activities of your organization that have an impact on the environment. In this post we will give a few tips on how to identify them. As a general practice it is good to involve multiple people from different departments to have as many points of view as possible.

The Organization

First look closely at the organization and what it does. Which processes are having an impact on the environment? For example your purchasing procedure might not have a direct effect on the environment but it can have an indirect effect as you can choose the suppliers. In line with activities of the company it is important to look closely at the scope of the certificate, and whether there are certain activities outside the scope of the certificate.

The Activities

The activities are basically everything the company does. Good practice is to start with the core processes of the company and go on from there. A good first step is to look at the operations part of the company, which is mostly where the majority of the impact on the environmental can be found. Just list every activity the company performs. However, it is also important to take the supporting part of the company into consideration such as heating the building and waste management.

It is important to take every activity into consideration that falls within the scope of the company.

The Aspects

The aspects are basically the type of impact the activity has on the environment. An activity can have multiple aspects like for example, cleaning has an aspect of wastewater but it also has an impact on water usage. Some examples of aspects might be:

  • CO2 emissions
  • Usage of water
  • Usage of electricity
  • Impact on wastewater
  • etc.

The Impact

When all activities and aspects are identified it is important to score the different activities. It is undoable to actively manage all environmental aspects so scoring them helps the company prioritize them. Some criteria that are used a lot to score the activities and aspect are things like:

  • Frequency of occurrence
  • Size of potential impact
  • Stakeholders that are impacted and their influence on the company

Pick the Right Battle

Now when all the activities and aspects are prioritized, they should then be managed by the company. It is fairly easy to focus on the top five that have the highest score on the impact score list. It is not necessary and simply unmanageable to mitigate all the aspects all at once. The company can assign five activities and start improving on them.

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