Integrated Management Systems – Are they worth the effort?

Published: 09th November 2010
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The downturn in the economy in the UK has hit many small businesses hard. Not only do customers have less money to spend but they are becoming more choosy about where they spend it and are more demanding on the quality of goods and services they expect.

Being customer focussed and delivering valued products and services is achieved by being attentive to customer’s changing demands and planning products and services to deliver on expectations.

Previous research studies have shown that independently certified companies to the international quality standard ISO9001 are less likely to fail than non-certified companies. It is easy to be sceptical about these types of statistics as it could be argued that it is generally the better organised and customer focussed companies that choose to pursue the ISO9001 certification route in the first place.

However it is a fact that the ISO9001 management system standard provides a sound and proven framework for managing quality effectively in a business and that many major purchasers both in the UK and overseas see it as a practical way of pre-qualifying potential suppliers. In fact in some business to business trading sectors it is a pre-requisite to inclusion in the tender list.

My experience in helping companies to implement ISO9001 over a consultancy career spanning several decades is that any well-run business will already meet a tidy percentage of the requirements: mainly because a bulk of the standard is based on business common-sense. There may be a few activities which ought to be a bit more formal and almost certainly the organisation will require some additional processes which are designed to manage a quality system. However these are pretty straight forward once the requirements are understood.

The standard does require the management to adopt a particular style of management which we commonly call management by objectives and to manage the activities undertaken to fulfil customer orders as a set of inter-related processes. Setting objectives (or Key Performance Indicators, KPIs) for improving business performance and tracking our progress, making corrections when we falter and stretching further when we achieve is a sound strategy for business growth and prosperity.

Planning appropriate checks and balances into our processes will ensure that they are robust and that they are delivering the faultless products and services that our customers have come to expect. Customers are hard-won in a recession and we can’t afford to disappoint them.

AR Engineering Industries Ltd are a small engineering business based near Dartford in Kent. Introducing a Quality Management System and gaining ISO9001 certification was a key part of their survival strategy when faced with a fall in demand for their services at the start of the recession. Claire Cooper, their operations director focused on obtaining formal recognition of the company’s reputation for quality with ISO9001 certification and followed this up with a pro-active marketing strategy. Claire quotes " Using processes and procedures mapped out within our quality manual helped us all work more efficiently and effectively. As a result of taking the time to implement a comprehensive system throughout all operations within the business, we can now deliver goods and services much more quickly and consistently".

AR are under no illusion. ISO9001 certification has helped them secure new business and improve the future prospects for the company. However certification on its own is not enough. Potential customers need to know who you are and what you are capable of and for this you also need a pro-active marketing strategy.

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