We have recently just completed the long process of gaining ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 certification for our company. Today’s blog will be briefly looking at what the process involved, and what this means for us.
What is ISO 9001 and ISO 14001?
Essentially, they are the international standards that specify the requirements for a Quality Management System (QMS) and an Environmental Management System (EMS), respectively. These standards demonstrate an organisations ability to meet customer and regulatory requirements when providing products, services, courses, etc. (9001) Whilst maintaining a consideration for the environment and demonstrating that any activities undertaken by the certified organisation are always done with the intention of minimizing any potential harmful impact. (14001)
Both standards can be acquired by any organisation, regardless of size and/or industry.
Why did we decide to get certified?
The main reason that we decided to get ISO certification was due to the fact that our company often partakes in tender bids. Some of these tenders specified that successful organisations must have ISO 9001 and/or ISO 14001 certification. Although not every tender required this, and we could have quite easily gotten by had we not been certified, we decided to research the benefits of having this certification and decided that it wouldn’t just be beneficial in terms of tender bids, but it would in fact be beneficial to the company as a whole.
The process was admittedly extremely long, and often tedious. You will sometimes find that bigger organisations hire consultants to design and maintain their QMS and EMS. There were two main reasons why we decided against this:
- The process itself isn’t cheap, hiring consultants to do the work for us would have proven to be considerably more expensive. For a new company like ourselves, this wasn’t feasible and we couldn’t justify spending money like that. However, more importantly…
- We felt that hiring a consultant defeated the object of a QMS and EMS, as this would mean that we wouldn’t be completely engaged in the process. We wanted all of our staff and contractors to not only know what our processes were, but also, why we were doing them. Using a consultant to both design and maintain the system would mean that, in theory, a lot of our staff wouldn’t need to be involved in the process at all.
Of course, we didn’t want this to be the case. We wanted everyone at RPI to be fully committed and involved in the design, implementation and maintenance of our ISO systems.
So then came the task of designing all of our processes, and to achieve this, we needed to effectively tear our company down (metaphorically of course!) to its bare bones and build it up again. We looked at each individual product and service that we as a company offer first, which we then narrowed down in to the following categories:
Courses, Consultancy, Venue Hire and Procurement.
We then had to design a number of forms and flowcharts around each service, the end goal being that each service has a simple, universal template that anybody in the company can follow, to ensure consistency across the board and justify our QMS.
It sounds simple, and it is! I could go in to detail with what the forms and flowcharts consisted of, but that would be extremely boring. We noticed as we were creating these documents, if you know your company, then it is rather easy, it’s just time consuming.
As well as the forms needed for processes, everything surrounding the company needed an individual log that needs to be constantly updated: Purchase Log, Supplier Log, Enquiry Log, Invoice Register… These are just a few of the logs needed to achieve ISO certification. Keeping these updated was a challenge, but luckily as we became more and more involved with our QMS, the updating of logs became the norm, now that we have a solid system in place, our company runs smoother as a result.
Everything we had done then needed to be accumulated and become part of the QMS/EMS Manual, which essentially would serve as our master document and our “go to” guide.
The certification visit
Once we were confident that we were ready to go, we booked in a two stage visit. These worked like audits, where an external assessor would come and review our entire QMS/EMS.
On our Stage 1 visit, we came to realise that our QMS/EMS Manual didn’t adhere to the current standards, as the new 2015 ISO requires the Manual to be contextualized in relation to our company. We made the mistake of creating a fairly basic and general manual for both the 9001 and 14001. We were also advised that we did not need two seperate manuals for the two seperate standards, we would be allowed to combine the two! This would make things a lot easier in the long term for us, but in the short term it meant that the Manual was going to have to undergo extensive revisions, to the point that we were basically rewriting it.
Overall, the Stage 1 visit went well. Our forms and policies only needed some minor revisions, (which was to be expected) the main change was going to be our manual. We had a week to get everything in order before the Stage 2 visit.
After many long days and late nights, we completed the new manual and we felt that we had done everything we could have possibly done to achieve certification…
And we did! The Stage 2 visit was a great success, our new manual was up to scratch. The only real points we were brought up on was the odd bit of wording on certain policies and forms that needed tweaking, this wasn’t enough to warrant a “failed visit” however, so we were recommended for certification and those improvement advisories were amended the same day. As of this writing, we are just waiting for our certificate to come through.
The entire process was a very interesting journey, it was tough at times, it was long, but we are all in agreement that we are so glad that we did it.
We feel that our company runs smoother and better as a result of the system we put in place for this certification, in fact, we can’t imagine a life before it!
Obviously, this blog hasn’t gone in to the specifics in much detail, mainly because if it did, you’d have to be reading for hours! However, if you are considering getting ISO 9001:2015 or ISO 14001:2015 (Or both!) and would like some more information, feel free to get in touch, we’d be happy to help!
Until next time.
The RPI Team.