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Continually improve with ISO 9001

Ted Spiller, CertiKit’s technical author is a lead auditor for ISO9001, ISO14001 and auditor for ISO45001 and ISO22301. In his latest blog post he explains the importance of ISO9001 for continual business improvement.

Continuous improvement is one of the most important principles within the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System. It plays an important part in keeping the organisation competitive and must be a permanent objective within the organisation.  History shows the reason that many organisations go out of business is simply because they are not able to improve as quickly as their competitors!

What is continuous improvement?

So, what is continuous improvement? It is defined as: ‘a recurring activity to increase the ability to fulfil requirements’.

Within ISO 9001:2015 its focus is on increasing the ability to fulfil quality requirements.   Improvement activities are similar to problem solving activities.  The big difference is that improvement activities are planned and usually organised as part of a larger program, whereas problem solving is usually more reactive and unplanned.

What drives continual improvement?

Continual improvement is driven by the objectives set by the Senior Management Team. As a minimum, quality objectives should address:

  1. The improvement of internal efficiency
  2. Individual customer requirements
  3. The level of performance that your market sector expects

There is no requirement for an organisation to set improvement objectives for all its processes at any one time. It would be unrealistic to expect an organisation to make progress in all potential improvements simultaneously. Each improvement will require the commitment of resources, which should be prioritised by top management, especially if investment is required.

How do you identify sources of improvement opportunities?

Inputs for improvement opportunities are obtained from the following sources:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer complaints and feedback
  • Market research and analysis
  • Inputs from employees, suppliers and other interested parties
  • Internal and external audits of the quality system
  • Identification of product or process non-conformances
  • Data from process and product characteristics and their trends

Opportunities for improvement may also be identified on a special project basis. The following are examples of such projects:

  • Non-value-added use of floor space
  • Excessive inspection/testing
  • Excessive handling and storage
  • Excessive failures and costs to quality
  • Machine set-up changeover times

The improvement process

The majority of organisations with a Quality Management System use some form of the PDCA cycle; a repetitive four-stage model used in business for the control and continual improvement of processes and products. The logical sequence of the following four repetitive steps for continuous improvement and learning are Plan – Do – Check (Monitor) – Act.

P – Plan

  • Resolve a problem: define, analyse and identify root cause
  • Improve a process: change to create improvement

D – Do

  • Resolve a problem: devise a solution
  • Improve a process: encourage changes on a small scale to induce improvement

C – Check (monitor)

  • Resolve a problem: confirm outcome and identify deviations and issues
  • Improve a process: investigate selected processes to verify if changes are working

A – Act

  • Resolve a problem: standardise solution, review and define next issue
  • Improve a process: to secure the greatest benefit from change

So, if you’re looking to stay ahead of the competition and embed continual improvement into your daily process, aligning to ISO9001 may be the right next step for your business.


Download our free 10 step guide!

Download our free ISO9001: 10 steps to certification guide to learn:

  1. Each step of the process from project planning to the certification audit
  2. Expert tips from the CertiKit team on best practise for easy implementation
  3. Key insights into building a successful QMS

Download free 20-page guide

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