The introduction of the new ISO 9001: 2015 a couple of years back set off a widespread belief that companies don’t really need procedures anymore. We have seen companies cutting down their procedures, some by around 60 to 70 percent. For some Quality Management Systems this was a good thing, but many companies found out that they actually needed the procedures to have some form of guidance in the organization. These companies have been reintroducing the binned procedures into the organization.
Let’s start with the definition of procedure. We always define it as:
“Documents that describe how the company operates.”
Procedures can be all kinds of documents from processes to work instructions and safety procedures. We use this broad definition because these are the documents that describe how the company operates. These are the documents that describe how the company builds its products or delivers their services.
Getting rid of too much of these documents will make it confusing. Employees should be able to find documents that describe how the company functions and what they should do in the process.
Companies should have some form of documented procedures as reference materials for employees. However, the key is to keep them as concise and clear as possible, a 400-page procedure won’t be read by anybody and therefore isn’t very effective. Furthermore, procedures are quite important in keeping consistent quality of products and services. You don’t want every employee to have his or her own level of Quality. Documenting this in a procedure or work instruction gives employees clear guidelines on what to do and what others expect from them. The same goes for processes, it is always a good idea to have the core processes mapped out with the related procedures. You don’t really need to document everything in detail, but some documentation is recommended.
This is where the shift to the new ISO 9001:2015 shows some of its power. The process doesn’t have to be documented when it is automated. Automating processes is a great way to get rid of the documents while keeping a certain level of Quality. The process is covered now by the platform and certain steps or data points are now forced. This is the ideal way to take out procedures for auditing, NC management, document control and management review. The other big advance of course is that people have to follow the system so the process is controlled.
Hopefully you didn’t get rid of all the procedures and work instructions, so you can simply put them back in place.