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Documentation and Work Instructions

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ISO 9000
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ISO 9000 - Good for Your Whole System, Not Just for Quality

Standards are becoming a way of life. They help to communicate consistent requirements across industry, nationally, and globally. The tools and techniques they introduce can help the whole organization. In an effort to limit the amount of effort to get registerred many companies I audited wanted to exclude as many departments from the registration process as possible. I could not understand why you would want to exclude a purchasing or marketing department? Is advertizing not that important? If it is not, why not get rid of it completely?

ISO 9000 QualityEvery department or operation in a company or organization has a managment system of sorts. Some departments may funtion like a swiss watch. Every task is synchronized, planned and executed without waste of time or resources. Other departments may function like a constipated turtle, constant fire fighting, accmplishing things slowly and inefficiently. When the departments are functioning at different levels constant frictio and disagreements further result in waste for the company. A great example of this was an old episode of "I Love Lucy", when she found a job in a chocolate factory. A conveyor belt would bring in candy that she needed to pack. The conveyor started to go faster and faster to the point that she could not keep up and the candy was everywhere.

In similar way if your organization select one or two departments for any improvement initiative and the rest are left unchanged, the remaining departments will eventually slow the improved ones and your improvement efforts will eventually fail. A management system is like a train where departments are connected to each other like cars in the train. You can't move the train any faster than any individual car in the train. The departments that do not function will eventually drag down the whole system.

One of the biggest reasons management systems fall apart is because there are multiple sub-systems interacting with each other under one organization. From my experience, when implementing standards you will have a more successful implementation if every person in the organization is involved in the process. Long term everyone will understand the requirements and the requirements will become part of the way you do things.

Let's look at a basic requirement that most management system standards have for control of documentation. The standard requires that you have a systematic way of maintaining your documentation so that:

-it is always current and reflects present practices (like procedures, work instructions, forms, etc.)

-it is clearly identified, so that when you are using it you know that you have the right document and it is complete.

-you eliminate access to obsolete documentation, so that someone does not accidentally use an old copy to perform a task

-the documents are changed by authorized personnel, so that someone with the right skills makes changes to the document

- the information is quickly communicated to all those affected by the change of the document

Is it important in an organization that each employee perform tasks in a consistent manner? Unless your company is an art studio producing originals the answer is yes. Suppose a customer requests a product brochure from your technical service or marketing department and a wrong or outdated piece of information is sent to the customer. The customer may use the information to purchase thousand pieces of your product and realize that the product was changed since the brochure was outdated. He or she will probably unhappily return all your product and look elsewhere.

Your cost of one outdated brochure:

- packaging, labeling, materials and time, processing of order

- shipping

- billing of a customer, resolving the issue, responding to complaints, reports and communications to management

- accepting and warehousing returned product

- crediting back customer

- loss of possible recommendations

- loss of customer

- other lost sales when customer shares the story with other potential customers

Customer cost:

- product evaluation time

- processing order time

- receipt, storage and handling of the wrong product

- potentially delayed customers production process and delayed his/her orders

- repackaging and returning the product

- time, aggravation...

So if you decide to exclude a department or two from your registration process, think again. Is there anything that this department does that will affect your customer or future potential customers? If so include everyone in the registration process, otherwise why do you have this department?

Danuta Highet

Foqus, Inc. April, 2006

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