Mountain? or Mole Hill?

Achieving ISO 9001/SN 9001 certification may not be as difficult as contractors imagine. Tammy Johnson, who conducts pre-certification assessments, shares what she experiences in the field.

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As you begin working with companies, what questions, topics or issues seem to pop up pretty regularly?

Most of the time the concern is that they don't have their procedures written down and they are afraid of the time it will take to get them written down. The misconception is that ISO will require way too much work before they will get certified. One thing that does take some thought is identifying their processes. As you know a snow company has many many processes and that scares them. I tell them to think about the big buckets that all of those processes fall into and start there! For most companies those big buckets are Sales, Administration and Operations. There may be another one or two depending upon the company and how it operates but for most those big three are all they need to start with.

What misconceptions do contractors typically have about the ISO process?

The biggest misconception is the time it will take to get certified and the amount of work that it will require. In most cases, the company is already doing most of what is required with certification. Some believe that ISO requires them to open up their books from a financial perspective which is not even close. ISO does require them to have stated metrics in each of their processes and to strive to meet those metrics but it does not require them to open up their books.

As you work with people toward certification, what is their general attitude about this process?

Before I walk through the door I think the general attitude is that of fear and sometimes frustration. However, once we have talked through the ISO standards and discussed their operations and how they are meeting the standards or what they may have to do to tweak what they are doing in order to meet the standard their attitude is one of excitement and determination.

Briefly walk me through a typical ISO consultation.

I will sit down with the owner or key personnel sometimes that is one person and sometimes it is many different people. I spend the day asking a lot of questions about the company and how they operate. We discuss the standards and I try to tie in what they are currently doing to each of the standards. One of the biggest items is discussing the metrics that are required. Each process must have a minimum of 2 metrics tied to it. Nobody needs more work so I ask them about the items that they are already measuring and those are the items we tie to the processes. Often, we can identify the metrics that same day but sometimes they need to give it more thought. When I leave the office that night I work on writing their quality manual and the assessment. The assessment shows them which standards that they currently meet and which ones they need to work on. Those that they aren't currently meeting gives them details of what we discussed to get them to meet the standard. The next day I go back to present this information to the company and to discuss their next steps. There are things that must occur before having a CB come in to do their stage 1 audit. The company must have had an internal audit, held a management review meeting and have one closed corrective action. So, these items are also discussed and planned prior to me leaving. I also encourage them to schedule with the CS right away (4-6 weeks from the assessment) because I firmly believe this gives the company plenty of time to correct anything that needs correcting, have an internal audit and hold a management review meeting. What it doesn't give them is time to procrastinate.

Lastly, what sort of questions would you ask or insight you’d like to gain to better prepare yourself for your job?

Basically, I need to get to know the company. So I ask questions like how long they have been in business, what is the company mission statement or philosophy, how many employees do they have, how many sites do they take care of, do they use service providers or only employees, do they have more than one location, etc. I also get their website address so that I can learn more about them. I will ask them if they have concerns about the process and what those concerns are so that I can try to set their mind at ease.

August 2019
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