Right? If the standard doesn't say we need it, then we don't need it. One less document to maintain. Finally, life as an ISO 9001 certified company is getting easier!
Let's hold on a second...
A common practice to create and maintain a Quality Manual for the ISO 9001:2008 standard (and earlier versions) was to create an exact copy of the verbiage in the standard, change all of the "shall" words with "will" or similar term that fits, change all references to "the organization" to the name of your company, slap a few logos on it, give it a control number and publish it.
And then...nothing. Let it sit for years until the new standard is published and then repeat this copy-paste process all over again. That practice, although common, doesn't help anyone.
It's Time to Re-Think the Manual
Now is the perfect time to rethink the Quality Manual. Take a step back and really consider what a manual should do for your company - provide the framework for your entire management system. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Start thinking about the manual as something you can hand to a new employee that will help give them an introduction and overview as to how you do business - in plain English with the terms and acronyms that are used in your company - not in "standard speak". Build this manual within the framework of the standard but in a way where the general employee won't know it.
- Rename the Quality Manual. I don't know how many times I have heard a Quality Manager complain about their organization's culture viewing the management system as something separate from how business is done, as in, "the quality stuff is for the auditor". Start dissolving that problem today - change the name to Business Manual. Because that is what it is - a document that describes how you do business. And we all know, well executed business processes result in top notch quality.
- Keep that thing updated! Considering many Quality Manuals were nearly a carbon copy of the actual standard language it was understandable that Quality Manual revisions were uncommon as well. In order to make this Business Manual an ally, it needs to be current.
Keeping your Business Manual Current
Even if your ISO Certified Company has a thorough and accurate Manual for the previous year, it is still very important to keep this document up to date. Here are some things to watch out for that may trigger the need for an update.
- Significant changes to business structure or business processes. Keep in tune to changing reporting structures, new processes (manufacturing or service), acquisitions, partnerships, etc.
- Rules and Regulations. International rules and regulations are fluid, and it is vital to integrate such changes into business operations. Any change in an Industrial Standard, big or small, could necessitate a change for your employees, external providers, managers, or customers.
- Technology. Technology changes very fast and new systems are installed yearly, monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily. Technology changes can come in various forms: hardware, software, machines, equipment, etc.
- Safety. Changes to the physical building structure, layout and environment happen as time goes on and ensuring the manual stays up to date with these changes will assist with the awareness of the safety rules and conditions to ensure a safe work environment.
So, there are some things to think about. Even though the Quality Manual is not mandatory, it is still very much necessary. Use this opportunity to increase the role of the Manual within your business management system.
Do you have a have an interesting way that you have made your manual more valuable? Please share in the comments below.