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Quality vs. Business Improvement


Quality Assurance, Quality Checking, Quality Management Systems. All terms we're used to when describing ISO9001. I'm still amazed how confined some people think an ISO9001 system is, with many stuck in the mindset that it's all about engineering and traceability.

Now, don't get me wrong, the assured levels of quality of service and production control are a massive benefit of an ISO9001 system but, I genuinely believe there is so much more to a complete management system.

So, is it time to shake off that idea of "Quality Checking" and begin thinking about Business Improvement? We certainly think so!

Over the past years we have tried to steer our clients in the direction of considering a much broader approach but, what does that look like?

Let's start with a simple example. If we took a company who make widgets. Not overly complicated widgets, in fact, let's call them thingamabobs for now. Whatever that thingamabob is, an ISO9001 system would at very least be looking to ensure a consistent process for making them. This might involve having some procedures to follow, some measures or checks in place, some testing of the processes. Then there is the before the event stuff, like working out what pitfalls you could face whilst making them, is there a solid market, will it stand the test of time?

All of this very important control however, is quite largely focused on the product. Does it do enough to protect the business? To be clear, ISO9001 is not a product certification. It is a model to deliver a successful and continually improving business. So, let's go back to our thingamabob company. Sure, they have solid control over the factory processes but, what else could they be doing?

A business is so much more than its end product...

- It has a client journey to consider. What do your customer think of you? (Not Just Your Product)

- It has a supply chain to manage. What happens if you lose a key provider? (Services or materials)

- It has a human capital to look after. How can you make sure you get the best out of your staff?

- It wants to make money! (I mean, it's nice to have work but, let's be honest...)

These are things that could quite easily fall through the gaps of some of those "older interpretations" of what a "Quality" system is about.

Something we have been doing for as long as I've been involved with our business is not having a "Quality Manual." (What?!? Sam, we have to have a quality manual!") Instead, we help our clients to develop Business Improvement Manuals. This starts things off in the right mindset, with focus on improving the business, not just checking the product is right.

Modern ISO systems are based around identifying risks faced by the business, be they Operational, Commercial or Infrastructure risks. Up to date systems are designed to consider the things that could go wrong in any part of your business, not just with your product.

Once you have identified these risks, you can follow the same concept of developing a process to monitor and ultimately control the key steps in your business. This allows you to put visible measures against your key processes and set some objectives that, not only ensure your thingamabob does it's job but, that make sure you get what you want out of your business.

After all, you put all that hard work into getting your product right for your clients so, why not make sure your business is right for you.

In short, we think it's time to stop just thinking about the quality of your product and start thinking about the quality of your business.

ISO9001 - Delivering An Improved Business (with Quality Assured)


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