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We are problem solvers. We are organisers. From the project start-up to the very final evaluations and analysis, we can bring enthusiasm to each and every part of your project.

We are problem solvers. We are organisers. From the project start-up to the very final evaluations and analysis, we can bring enthusiasm to each and every part of your project.

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04 Apr 2012

The ISO Curry: ISO 9001 Made Easy

The mere mention of the words ISO 9001 often sends shivers down the proverbial spines of most business owners and employees, accompanied by the old adage that “the auditor is the man that went into the battlefield to shoot the wounded”. The reason the above interpretations of ISO 9001 exist is quite simply that many organisations gain certification for the wrong reason (i.e. a certificate on the wall), and are led to believe that the standard is more complicated than it actually is.

This leads to processes being applied to already established processes, creating bureaucracy on top of bureaucracy. The purpose of this article is to expel some of the myths and enable the reader to understand the simplicity involved in ISO 9001:2008.

ISO 9001:2008 is designed to be an international quality standard that sets out the basic requirements of running a successful business that meets client’s expectation. Unfortunately it is very common for a system to be made over complicated and applied on top of existing business processes.

The standard quite simply lists the major ingredients, and then asks for you to produce objective evidence that demonstrates the ingredients are there. The ingredients can be defined as follows:

  • Document Control
  • Record Control
  • Management Responsibility
  • Resource Management
  • Product Realisation
  • Measurement, Analysis & Improvement

If the standard is used as it should be (i.e. as a basic framework identifying requirements not solutions), then it should be possible to apply it to any business model. To test this out, let’s think of our business activity as ‘cooking a good curry’. Alas, a justification for the title and the random image contained within this article! Table 1 identifies the key processes applicable to ISO 9001:2008.

Document Control

You have 5 curry recipes strewn over the table, all printed out from the internet and surreptitiously placed back in your cookbook. You know you have tried them all, but you cannot recollect which ones impressed your guests and which one’s sent them running for their bottle of Tiger beer to quench the flames. Luckily you have scribbled “steer clear unless serving to in-laws” on the back of one and “hhhmmmm tasty!” on the back of the other. To put it simply, you are controlling the documents so that you know which one should be used.

Record Control

After identifying the correct recipe you realise that some of the qualities have been changed, i.e. “half a teaspoon of curry powder as opposed to one full teaspoon”. Quite simply, a record has been made.

Management Responsibility

Cooking the curry is only a small part of the “event”; if you are inviting guests, you may have other commitments that require management, time allocations and costs. You have to be committed to making the meal a success, perhaps managing your partner to get the wine, or set the table. In a business environment, management commitment is demonstrated by ensuring that resources, infrastructure and support exist to produce the other 5 ingredients.

Resource Management

It doesn’t matter how good the recipe is, unless you have the correct ingredients, tools, and knowledge, the chances are the curry may not turn out how you would hope. Resource management ensures that you are suitably equipped and trained / experienced to carry out the tasks in hand.

Product Realisation

In order to cook enough curry you need to determine why you are cooking it. It could be for a family meal or a Friday night in with friends. The sheer fact that you have decided to cook a curry is part of product realisation, the other factors that need to be determined are quite simply, is a curry required, or has everyone already eaten, do you have the resources, and do you have the skills. We have all been in a situation where we have invited friends round for a meal, only to realise upon their arrival that one of them is vegetarian and probably won’t be too eager to eat the huge slab of roast beef in the middle of the table!

Measurement, Analysis & Improvement

The curry has been eaten, everyone was impressed, however you felt things could be improved; more poppadum's, less curry powder and the cooking time needed to be reduced slightly. That said, the only major issue was that at 10pm you ran out of beer or wine! It is important to ensure that processes exist to enable improvement in a structured form (such as objectives, recording of problems etc.), otherwise it would be simple for them to be missed or forgotten for the next time.

Although the above is obviously a rather crude representation of the requirements, it is meant to show that ISO 9001 can be applied to almost any situation. In most cases, if a business is functioning correctly, keeping staff enthused and meeting client’s expectations, then it will meet the majority of the standard’s clauses.

The areas that usually require attention are those over and above what is needed for the company to function on a basic level, and these tend to be focused around management processes such as seeking opportunities to improve. For example, people will continue with an inefficient task due to the fact that they feel they do not have time to make it efficient. The standard encourages this time to be taken in the form of reviews, audits and the recording of problems to identify possible root causes or trends.