Category Archives: QHSE

ISO 9001 – Why get certified?

Why would any company comply with a standard apart from being forced by customers? One important reason is that quality is at the core of every organization. When an organization doesn’t deliver a high quality service or product, it won’t be in business very long. The ISO 9001 standard provides companies with guidance to keep quality consistent.

Customer Demand

Demand from the customer(s) should never be the main reason for implementing a quality management system, and neither should marketing. When this is the case, every effort for the system feels like a waste of time. A push from customers can be the trigger to implement a quality management system, but the main reason should come from within the company. The structure which comes with implementing ISO 9001 helps to align the organization.

Learning Company

Next to business continuity, ISO 9001 gives guidance for becoming a learning company. The continuous improvement methodology embedded in the standard focuses on identifying and reducing inefficiencies in internal and external processes. This way ISO 9001 provides companies with the right tools to figure out exactly which parts of the organization can be improved.

Rigid

A lot of people have the notion that the procedure makes the company rigid and less flexible. Although the written procedure should be followed by the employees, the procedure itself can be written in such a way that it leaves room to manoeuvre for employees. Besides, some slight rigidness isn’t all that bad especially when it comes to financial matters or quality of products and services. When you start to setup a new ISO 9001 management system it is important to be rigid in the procedure where there is no room for failure. The less critical processes can be noted with more flexibility.

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Customer satisfaction, how to approach it!

Customer satisfaction is one thing every company strives for. However, figuring out whether a customer is really satisfied isn’t always that easy. There are a lot of different variables that can influence the customer satisfaction research outcomes such as timing, means of questioning and approach. Most importantly, the timing and means of questioning can have a big influence on the results of the research.

Timing

Every company messes up sometimes, and people understand this. It is the way you solve the issue on hand that sets you apart from others. Knowing this, it would be very inconvenient to ask what the customer thinks of you the moment the problem occurs. However, if you solve the issue properly and then you ask for the customers’ feedback, you will be more likely to receive a very positive one. Trying to measure the customer satisfaction on neutral ground is the best moment to get an unbiased result.

Means of questioning

The e-mail survey is a very effective and easy to use method to ask for customer feedback. However, a lot of people are getting these e-mails by the millions. A good practice is to also allow the sales/customer support to walk through the questions together with the customer. Use tools that allow you to email your customers along with the sales team filling up the data together with the customer.

Results

The big advantage of the digital approach is the live insight in the data. The information is always one mouse click away. This insight can help you identifying difficulties in your customer support, sales process, marketing or quality of the goods or services. This all depends on the questions you ask of course.

 

If you want to know how Qooling allows you to perform customer satisfaction just contact us!

 

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How to prepare for an external audit!

Yes I know, ideally your company should be ready for an external audit every day of the year. However, most of the time, you will need at least a couple of weeks to gather all the information required. Here are a few important points that must always be checked before an external audit.

Perform a legislation compliance check

Make sure you have checked if your organisation complies with national and international laws and legislations. Most ISO standards are very clear on this. The company has to prove that it works according to statutory and regulatory requirements. Performing this check will help prevent a lot of uncomfortable discussions with the auditor.

Train Employees

It still happens often that employees get anxious when the auditor arrives at their desk for the external audit. You can prevent this by training the most anxious people in the team. The top performers on a regular day sometimes simply forget how they work the moment the auditor is next to them. If your management system is working as it should, the processes/procedures will describe how the people are working. There is no need for people to be anxious about the audit, just tell them to do their job as they always do.

Tools

Make sure all the tools are certified if required and properly calibrated. If during the external audit, the auditor spots an employee working with an uncertified tool this will most likely lead to an NCR, especially when he/she digs a little deeper and find more of these uncertified tools.

Documentation control

If you are not using any automated system then this is a must. Just sit down and go over every single document to make sure the latest version is available to the team and that the version is correct. You have to check these to prevent employees from using the wrong documents the moment the auditor sits next to them. Of course the easiest way is just to automate this, which will save you a lot of time.

These are by far all the points you have to take into consideration for an audit. If you have any more please share them in the comments.

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Corrective action, how effective is yours?

The effectiveness of the corrective action can end for a lot of companies into a NCR during the audit. These companies are having trouble to not only to describe the effectiveness properly, but mainly to measure the effectiveness. Of course the effectiveness is arbitrary because people can debate whether the action was effective or not, but a better approach would certainly help a lot.

Description of the action

A good description of the action can be half of the solution. When the target end results of the action are noted down, the action embeds the measurement for effectiveness. Example:

Action

Investigate the product and measure the outline diameter. If the diameter is bigger than accepted tolerance as per work instruction, adjust it.

This is a clear described action. If the diameter is too big, it must be adjusted. For corrective actions this might be slightly trickier as they are not always that clear.

Corrective Action

Check the purchase procedure and rewrite it if it is no longer applicable .

This description is more opaque but even here you can make this measurable. The action is either performed or not, the procedure is changed or not, and the procedure is up to date or not.

Effectiveness obligatory

The effectiveness of the corrective action is a mandatory part of the standard, however most companies struggle with this. Automation is a good solution to this problem. The current solutions allow you to force an effectiveness description when you want to close a corrective action. In Qooling you have the option to make the effectiveness obligatory. With this setup the quality automation makes it easier to stay compliant to the standard.

 

We are happy to hear how you solve the effectiveness of action struggle. Please leave it in the comments.

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SWOT analysis – Context of the organisation

The SWOT analysis is a business tool that is widely used. The introduction of chapter 4 “Context of the organisation” within the new ISO standards makes this technique applicable for management systems. Since then, it has been commonly used by quality and safety managers for improvement and development, The new versions of the ISO standards require companies to perform an in-depth analysis of the current context of the company. The internal as well as external factors have to be identified and understood properly to conduct a thorough investigation. For a long period of time, the SWOT analysis has proven to be an excellent tool for businesses to minimize their weaknesses, focus on their strengths and take advantage of beneficial opportunities.

Limitation

In order to use the SWOT analysis properly it is always good to understand some of the pitfalls that come with it. A large number of managers and academics criticise the tool because it is a “low grade” form of analysis. To have a good exercise you should consider the following flaws:

  • Excessive lists of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats;
  • No prioritisation of factors;
  • Factors are described too broadly;
  • Factors are often opinions not facts;
  • There is no recognised method to distinguish between strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Approach

Most people use the approach of starting from the inside out. This technique begins by looking at the inside of the company, and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. When those are identified they can then discover the external factors such as opportunities and threats.

The inside

During identifying the strengths and weaknesses, you should look at every factor that is related to the internal environment of the organisation. Look for reasons why the company is doing better than their competitors due to internal strengths or where the company lacks these strengths and improvements can be made. Some resources to take into consideration are:

  • Land, equipment, knowledge, brand equity, intellectual property, etc.
  • Core competencies
  • Capabilities
  • Functional areas such as management, operations, marketing, finances, human resources and R&D
  • Organisational culture
  • Value chain activities

The outside

When identifying the opportunities and threats, you should look at the uncontrollable factors outside of the organisation. These factors can be very broad, such as worldwide factors or local points when it comes to local laws. Some points to think about are:

  • Market changes such as globalisation.
  • Competitors
  • Changes in laws and regulations
  • Big macroeconomic changes such as population of country, demographical changes
  • Political hot topics

Good practices

The following bullets will help you to structure the analysis to get the most value out of the exercise:

  • Identify factors relative to the competitors. Thismakes it possible to specify whether the factor is a strength or a weakness.
  • List between 3 – 5 items for each category. By doing this, it prevents the creation of lists that are either endless, or too short.
  • Items must be clearly defined and as specific as possible. For example, a firm’s strength is: brand image (vague); strong brand image (more precise); brand image valued at $10 billion, which makes it the most valued brand in the market (very good).
  • Rely on facts not opinions. Find some external information or involve someone who could provide an unbiased opinion.
  • Factors should be action orientated. For example, the “slow introduction of new products” is an action orientated weakness.

In order to be able to make use of the analysis it is important to prioritise the different factors. This helps to come up with an actionable plan on how to make the company stronger and prepared for the upcoming changes.

 

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Transition to ISO9001:2015

The first important question to ask is why would you change to the ISO9001:2015 version. Apart from the fact that it is obligatory if you want to stay certified, it has other advantages.

Integrated system

Quite a lot of companies are certified for multiple standards. The new High Level Structure (HLS) of the ISO9001:2015 makes it easier to combine several of these standards. The HLS is embedded within more standards such as the ISO14001:2015, ISO27001:2008 and many more. This new approach makes it easier to create a single integrated management system to support all the standards that apply to your company.

Risk based thinking

The new version has risk based thinking at the center of the company. It requires companies to understand their risks and take actions accordingly. Understanding the context of the company and which opportunities and risks there are in the market. And last it should give a clear overview of the stakeholders and the power they have. All this information isn’t required to be documented but in order to properly manage all the information it is a good practice to create a specific document for it.

Opportunity to reduce complexity

The new version is less strict and gives a lot of room to reduce complexity. There are no obligatory procedures any longer and there is more freedom on how companies describe their activities. Although in practice many companies do not change or delete procedures, they could in theory. The reduction of complexity does make it easier to manage the entire management system since some documents can be delete or combined. This reduces the time of document control and redistribution of new versions, which leads to less mistakes in using old versions by the team.

Conclusion

In the end, switching to the new ISO9001:2015 standard is a requirement, but the implications for your company will not be all that significant. We see many companies first performing the minimal changes to get certified for this new version before they start to really make the system more efficient. This is a pretty standard practice because it reduces the risk of losing the certificate. On the other hand, updating the management system to the ISO9001:2015 version is a good opportunity to completely update the management system. We would love to hear which approach you prefer, put it in the comments or drop an email!

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Management review – Where to focus?

Many quality managers are having a hard time getting support from management. The yearly management review is an opportunity to get the opinion of higher management when it comes to the management system. In that respect, it can be described as a yearly check of the engine.

Management review: the structure

Every company has its own way of handling the management review. There is of course the required input which is stipulated in the standard such as:

  • Status of the action points from last management review
  • Major changes that have an influence on the management review
  • Info about the effectiveness of the management system such as:
    • customer satisfaction results
    • the extend to which the goals are reached
    • corrective actions and deviations
    • audit results
  • Company defined KPIs which may include
    • Number of ill employees
    • Number of quality issues
    • Number of safety issues
    • Number of environmental issues
  • The availability of required resources
  • The actions taken to reduce risks
  • The opportunities for improvement

Besides the review of last year a quick peek into the future is mostly part of the exercise. This covers the goals/objectives for the coming year and the major changes that are expected. These are the standards and sometimes even mandatory checks for the management review. However to really get input from different perspectives, more unambiguous question are needed. An example is:

How is the management system supported by the company overall?

This question forces management to think about how the entire company contributes to the management system, not just the quality management team. The input of every individual within the company is crucial to get an effective management system in place: the more people contribute the better. Upper management should really think about how employees perceive the management system and take away the hurdles for people to contribute to it. To achieve this it is for example important to make it easy to file issues and encourage proposal of improvements. Forcing management to think about these topics once a years isn’t that bad at all even though it might contain questions that are difficult to answer.

High Level Structure

With the new standard some new topics could be added to the management review. The management review is a great opportunity to re-evaluate the risk analysis, context analysis and the stakeholder analysis. During the management review management can check if the documents are still up to date. It could very well happen that some major market changes have occurred which introduced new risks.

Recommended is to keep the stakeholder analysis, context analysis and risk analysis active by reviewing the documents regularly. The management review is a great point in time to re-evaluate them once again.

Let us know how you perform your management review in the comments.

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