Many companies applying for public sector tenders are finding that, increasingly often, there is an edge given to those that have either the ISO 9001 quality standard and/or the ISO 14001 environmental standard.
For those in the catering equipment sector that already have one or both of these ISO standards, they would seem to be in the clear. But change is coming in the form of the reviews that are in their final stages of discussion and international agreement. The latest target date for their release is “late 2015” which is usually interpreted as December.
Both these standards were overdue for change, but this time it has coincided with a major re-vamp of how ISO standards are to be laid out in the future. At a pragmatic level, ISO has decided that it would be useful if standards followed a similar approach and also that having the definitions included within the standard in question would make things easier to understand.
There are some other changes too. For the ISO 9001 quality standard, they can be summarised as follows:
Context: from now on the focus shifts from internal controls and customer reaction to cover a wider stakeholder group to ensure that all interested parties are addressed by the quality standard, e.g. consideration of how the client’s customers may need to be taken into account
Scope: will now include external aspects of what might affect the operation of the organisation, e.g. how discharges from catering equipment impact on a city’s drainage systems
“Documented Information”: this is the approach now being adopted whereby manuals no longer have to be produced if the relevant sections can be covered by existing/new documentation – so long as it is recorded where such detail is held, e.g. policies, organograms and working instructions do not need to be combined in a manual
Control of external provision of products/services: now requiring stronger links to external suppliers, calibrators, maintenance and so forth, e.g. how well are suppliers to restaurants being assessed
Leadership: while the position of quality manager is still appropriate, this can no longer take the place of senior management/board level involvement in the operation of the quality management systems, e.g. senior management/board attendance is required at quality meetings periodically and meaningfully
Risk based approach: an alteration to the existing preventative approach now requires more demonstrable coverage of a wider range of risks both internal and external, e.g. requiring a table of expected risks together with what can be done to ameliorate such risk and how any remaining risk is to be handled to nullify/reduce its impact.[[page-break]]
The ISO 14001 environmental standard updates incorporate most of the above alterations and also:
Commitment by senior management: not just to operating the environment management system, but to the ideals behind it, e.g. not just signing up to the policy every 3 years, but making business decisions in line with and in support of the environmental policy on a consistent basis – so making equipment that needs less power/less input materials
Value chain planning and control: demonstrating that environmental impact is considered throughout the processes and is shown to be controlled at each step, e.g. components sourced in such a way that environmental impact is demonstrably considered
Lifecycle perspective: applies to the environmental aspects, the context of the operations, the scope of the environmental systems and with regard to how improvements are planned and enacted – in all cases the lifecycle of the products, the input and output materials and the subsequent end of life materials will need to be demonstrably considered, e.g. providing a clear assessment of the full life of a product, its input materials and its end of life environmental impact ahead of decisions that will impact environmentally.
The big question is how will these alterations be interpreted by the assessors? As yet there is no answer as the certifiers are not saying anything other than they are discussing this further amongst themselves and with ISO. While it is clear some of these changes could be dramatic in impact if taken to extreme, it is also clear that – as is common with all ISO standards – the pace of change is intended to be incremental for those with existing systems and not to be extreme for those installing brand new systems after the new ones are released.
For catering equipment manufacturers this means drawing on input material markets, manufacturing product efficiently and showing they have assessed the optimum end of life solutions, utilising optimum quality and environmental processes. It means showing that the whole ethos of their organisation is to run a quality and environmentally aware process – and that this is recognised throughout the organisation. A quality process does not have to be perfect overnight, nor does an environmentally aware process have to be ‘super green’ – in both cases these are the aims, not the solution expected overnight. [[page-break]]
ISO has wanted its systems taken seriously by senior management/board level for a long time. These changes mark its latest attempt to get organisations to incorporate the systems wholeheartedly as opposed to making them a bolt-on to gain a stamp of approval.
This makes sense when you look at why ISO was set up in the first place. The International Organisation for Standardisation was created in post-war London in 1946 as part of wider ranging efforts to stimulate world economies. The intent was to encourage organisations to communicate and do business with each other from across the globe by ensuring that those with an ISO standard could demonstrate their efficiency and third party assessed competency, and so stand out against their competitors while, with the reduced risks that this would otherwise have entailed, attracting wider networks of co-operation. Whether or not this turned out this way may be up for discussion.
What is clear from many case studies, academic reviews, cross-industry discussions and feedback from many quarters, is that there are generally good financial benefits to having and using an ISO standard. Over time the use of such a standard imbued throughout the operations of the organisation, pays for itself time and again.
Increased margins, thus turnover and profit; higher efficiencies, thus lower wastage, faster production times and fewer delays; improved staff morale and retention; higher customer satisfaction and retention; lower chances of accidents and consequent reduction in insurance costs; enhanced scope and scale of operations and attainment of market leadership, if not dominance, have all been quoted as being the benefits of holding and operating to an ISO standard.
So will these detailed changes make having the standards less advantageous?
It would seem that these alterations are all designed to make the standards easier to use and/or tighter in ensuring they are used correctly. The changes that will come out from the review will require participating organisations to operate to some of the best methodologies that have been taken from around the world.
Once an ISO standard is attained it is difficult to explain to an onlooker why an organisation has decided not to continue to maintain quality or environmental controls that it once ostensibly had. With the public sector move to encourage tenderers to have ISO standards and the Environment Agency having adapted its approach to monitoring organisations that have the ISO 14001 environmental standard to acknowledge the value of such systems, it looks as though ISO standards are only going to get more common. These comments apply to all sectors of all industries – the catering equipment sector is predicted to get further caught up in this too.