Quality System Procedures


This is the text of an article published by Peter Griffin


The Quality System section of ISO9000 series requires that the company has a consistent management system; that it is documented; and that it is working in practice.

A simple documented management system provides a single source of advice to all staff on the "best practice" within the company,... and its consistent application. It would normally consist of a set of procedures describing each of the processes within the company.

What Form Should the Procedures Be In ?

The simplest possible method of conveying the information. This could include:-

A factory in the UK [assembling furniture and using a workforce of disabled people], experienced great difficulty in achieving consistently acceptable products. After trying many methods of instruction, they decided to take photographs of each stage of the assembly. These were compiled into a "cartoon-type" sequence and placed at each work station. Their problems disappeared !

A cookery book contains recipes [procedures] to enable any dish to be created to a repeatable standard. These procedures specify the materials to be used, the process to be followed, the variable factors (e.g. temperature), and often a photograph to check how it should appear on completion.

What Should the Procedures Consist Of ?

The best practice at the current time. If a better method of performing the task becomes available [tomorrow], the documented system should change in order to advise all staff that a new "best practice" has been identified, and adopted for use.

In the best systems, the staff are also asked for their suggestions on improvements. They should know the easiest way of performing their tasks.... after all, they are the experts.

If the procedures are consulted for advice, and the answer cannot be found,... the system needs to be changed to ensure that the advice is available next time it is sought.

Any system within the company should provide a benefit which is significantly in excess of the cost of administering the system. If it does not, it should not continue to exist. The benefit may include:-

increase in productivity
increase in consistency
minimization of risk, in the event of error

Ensuring that staff use the correct issue of a drawing would normally protect against the rectification resulting from incorrect instructions.

How Detailed Should The Procedures Be ?

They should be as small and simple as possible. In most tasks there is a mixture of skill [experience] and documented instruction. The procedures do not need to repeat the elements which would be known to an employee experienced in the grade.

If we are driving a car, and one of the 60 warning lights illuminates, we may not know what the symbol means. We would naturally consult the driver's manual [procedure] to gain advice on the action to be taken. Conversely, we do not need to consult the manual to drive the car, judge the speed, engage the transmission. We know all of these through experience.

Editor's Notes

Peter Griffin is managing consultant of P Griffin & Associates (PGA); one of the leading quality management consultancies operating in Europe and the USA.

P Griffin & Associates have assisted 260 companies (ranging from 3 employees to multi-national corporations) to achieve improvements in quality and ISO9000 Registration.

While the majority of companies fail to achieve ISO9000 certification at the first attempt, 98% of PGA's quality assurance clients have achieved first-time success.

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Last Updated November 19, 1995
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