“Plan, Do Check, Act”: 

If you’ve been working towards certification, you know firsthand that implementing an ISO Management System is no easy task! Once you have successfully received certification, you may sigh a breath of relief and think the greatest part of the job is done. However, many businesses forget that maintaining certification can be just as stressful especially if all procedures and processes are not followed.

To maintain certification, businesses need to ensure that all necessary information and paperwork relating to tasks performed by management, staff or contractors are recorded and completed prior to surveillance audits. Completing regular checklists for incoming and outcoming stock, machinery repairs and training staff are also requirements.

Many businesses come to me for assistance leading up to or following their first surveillance audit as they often underestimate the maintenance required to retain certification. Here is my simple advice to ensure you are ready for third party audits by keeping in line with the ISO methodology of “Plan, Do Check, Act”:

Plan

It is a great idea to keep an ISO yearly planner. This planner sets out all the activities that are required to be undertaken by staff at all levels of the organization to satisfy ISO requirements. It’s an even better idea to ensure that certain activities, such as management review meetings, inspections, and internal audits are in everyone’s diary. These meetings are immovable, and every certified business should have a strong business rule with regards to this.

Do

Many businesses find it easier to create procedures for their management system rather than execute them. It is true that many activities existed within the business prior to documenting them, however very often new ones would have been written in order to satisfy ISO requirements. Take time to train your staff and ensure they know what documentation needs to be filled out for each activity performed.

Management and Staff training

As part of an ISO management system, businesses are required to build a framework to identify and plan the training of their staff. This important part ensures that staff are competent in their roles and are aware of all hazardous and risks associated with all aspects of their job. Recording inductions will ensure that professional development days and training are conducted regularly throughout the year and any further development for individual staff are monitored.

 

Customer satisfaction

Customer focus is an enormously important ISO principle, it is demonstrated through monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction. Every certified business must define how and how often it will conduct surveys to determine the level of customer satisfaction. Receiving customer feedback enables insights on how the customers perceive the organization and have direct input into continuous improvement opportunities on their products and services.

 

Check

Next, analyze your results against the expectations that you defined in the ‘Plan’ phase, to assess whether your management system is operating successfully. You may decide to try out more changes and repeat the Do and Check phases.

A thorough internal audit will provide you with additional information regarding compliance and the overall condition of your management system. In addition, and with information gathered along the way, businesses will be able to conduct good, value-added management reviews and make decisions that lead to continual improvement of the system and the company.

 

Act

Gathering relevant information about the system through monitoring and measuring and following the process procedures will enable top management to exercise the last principle of ISO, and that is evidence-based decision making.

Having all these elements of the system in place means a business has covered off the first places where the auditors will be looking. Having this covered will prepare any business for the audit!