The most significant revision to the ISO 9001 management system in 15 years has come at a critical time for the U.S. manufacturing sector. CEOs are battling serious headwinds, domestic and global, and the democratization of the system is an opportunity for businesses to potentially gain some traction.
The International Standards Organization has sought to make ISO 9001 more relevant to today’s globalized, information-driven marketplace and to turn it into a customer-focused business tool. Central to the overhaul is a more customer-centric approach, a greater focus on risk management and more emphasis on performance.
So, what does this modernization mean for manufacturing sector CEOs? The most important impact is that the revision has put the strategic priorities of businesses at the heart of the management system. It does this while still retaining enough flexibility for it to be used to tighten the bolts on a remarkably wide spread of business models. The standard now asks what a business’ core objectives are and then looks at how to help a company get there.
“The most important impact to CEOs is that the revision has put the strategic priorities of businesses at the heart of the management system.”
The greater focus on risk management is a good example. Risk-based strategy shouldn’t focus solely on managing risks, it should be about getting out in front of them. The new ISO 9001 draws out the risks and enables manufacturers to consider, plan and mitigate for them.
Interested-party strategy is a case in point. Businesses need to think about more than just their customers, shareholders and the regulators. The new standard encourages companies to broaden their view to include their supply chain, neighbors, the media, social media, etc.), and consider the risks associated with each one.
Another substantial impact is the notable reduction in paperwork. Companies are no longer required to have a ring binder with lots of paper that only gets looked at once every three years at audit time. Now, businesses only need to retain the paperwork they deem useful to achieving their strategic objectives, and even this can be stored in whatever way is most useful to the company (tablet, cloud or even just the CEO’s mind).
The physical requirements of the changeover, for which there is a three-year implementation period, depend on the size and sophistication of a business, but this process is an opportunity. While ISO 9001 used to be driven down the supply chain by procurement managers who use it as a cornerstone of their risk management protocols (and to an extent this is likely to continue to be the case), more business value can now be drawn from the standard with it’s new format, providing it is approached with the right attitude. The important thing is for businesses to use the standard in the way they need to use it. Doing so will make ISO 9001 an extremely useful business tool.