A number of companies now require ISO compliance to be considered for a contract. To me, it means that you have completed the work needed to earn a ISO certification. Your potential client may have a different opinion.

My customer wants us to be ISO compliant. Where do we start?

Obtain a recent copy to use as a guide. While many are similar, specific requirements may range significantly. Updated versions are released from time to time so make sure your copy is up to date.

Compliance is driven by a number of factors.

You need to document each step, have a written procedure for each step and double check the procedures are what your team does every time. Consistency is the key.

You need a quality manual (who is in charge of quality, the rules of how your company manages its quality system, how and who can change a procedure as well as signed copies of each procedure and a mission statement).

Lastly, you need a training manual to track process changes and ensure employees / contractors are up to date.

To start, take the time to write every step required to fulfill your customer’s requirements.

Include how the client contacts you (phone, email, fax) and any scripts your employees may use. Include the quoting process and how the contract is initiated. 

Next, document STEP BY STEP how will you perform the work required — planning, processing, quality assurance, packaging, shipping, etc. (specific software/websites, standard processes/questions as well as how the information is organized and stored.

Paper trails – how long you store printouts, how you protect them and how you dispose of them. How you check for errors and the steps you take to prevent them (double checks and periodic employee audits).

Once you write down each step, use someone unfamiliar with your processes to perform a double check.

You might be surprised at what you may miss the first time through. Get your employees involved. Ask them to document the same process you just did — while it is more time and effort, this is an opportunity for employee engagement. Your team may not be performing their jobs like you think they are.

When you start writing procedures, make sure there is agreement on HOW AND WHEN tasks are performed. A number of the procedures and work instructions I wrote in the past where reviewed and corrected by the person doing the work — it saves time and creates buy-in.

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