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ISO 9001 Implementation Approach

28 May 2021

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You've been tasked with ISO 9001 implementation. Now what? Where do you start? Just get a quality system consultant, or do it in-house? Maybe use a certification kit?

The best ISO 9001 implementation approach depends on your situation. Let's review and compare your options so you can make an informed decision.

ISO 9001 Consultants or DIY Implementation Approach?

You could do it all in-house, and without outside help. In fact, many small business owners initially consider this as their first option. And it can be done if you've got one or more staff members with the necessary experience.

An internally developed quality system can become a great asset for the company. Implemented by insiders, the ISO system could fit the organization and its culture extremely well. And having numerous staff members involved in the implementation, the resulting quality management system will likely enjoy broad employee support.

However, this implementation approach requires not only internal expertise but also a great deal of time. The in-house approach can easily occupy one or more employees full-time – and for several months. In addition, the likelihood for expensive mistakes is high. All in all, it can be a viable option if your company has idle internal expertise and is in no rush to reap the benefits of certification. Most companies tap into external expertise.

ISO 9001 Consultant

A specialized ISO 9001 consultant can be hired to manage your entire ISO implementation. Most tasks can be completed by the consultant, while the rest are performed by your staff under the consultant's guidance. Some quality system consultants offer a choice between on-site and remote consultancy.

Hiring a consultant to set up your company's ISO system is the quickest and most convenient approach, with only minimal effort required on your side. In addition, a skilled quality system consultant can contribute experience and best practices to improve your operations. The authority and credibility of an external expert can also go a long way in dispelling doubts and fears among staff, and help a lot to generate employee buy-in.

This approach is costly and to a large extent success hinges on the consultant's ability to gain a good understanding of your company and its culture. Consider too that the sustainability of your ISO certification will be greatly affected by the manner in which the consultant hands over the new system and shows staff how to take responsibility for its operations. This point is especially applicable if the consultant has micromanaged the implementation and created a dependency on his knowledge and expertise.

Certification Kit

Certification kits are a popular solution. A good kit provides the guidance and tools necessary for in-house implementation by staff members without ISO experience. Though this approach utilizes the time and capabilities of employees, the burden on your staff is much reduced through pre-written templates, step-by-step instructions, and online or video training.

The certification kit approach is also the cheapest solution. With a proven, tried and tested toolkit, implementing ISO 9001 can be surprisingly easy and fast. In addition, an internally developed ISO system can account well for corporate culture and gain employee acceptance and support. As the quality system is developed by company staff, all the knowledge and skills remain in-house and certification tends to be sustainable long-term.

However, even with a good certification kit, the DIY approach requires some effort and a willingness to learn. Creating initial momentum can sometimes be an issue, so it's generally best to have the implementation spearheaded by a senior individual who inspires confidence and understands the importance of staff training.

Each implementation approach has its pros and cons, and in the right circumstances both can maximize the pros and minimize some of the cons. Ultimately, your choice will depend heavily on factors like budget, urgency, and staff availability.

No matter what, the consultant approach requires a significantly larger budget than implementing ISO in-house. Is it worth hiring an ISO consultant? Will quick certification enable you to retain an important customer and close a profitable deal? Will it be financially more rewarding to have staff time focused on regular business than on implementing ISO 9001? These and other questions need to be answered.

Certification kits and online training are inexpensive, practical, and viable solutions. But due diligence is required as quality varies. How easy is the kit to use? Are the included procedure templates flexible enough to be adapted to your company's unique situation? And how about the quality of the resulting ISO system – will your ISO processes be efficient and add operational value?

The answers to these questions are simple: it depends on your choice of certification kit. A good toolkit can certainly lead to excellent results. Even without prior experience, a small company should be able to achieve certification within a few months and without neglecting regular business activities.

On the other hand, implementing ISO 9001 from scratch and without external resources will require the most effort and lead to avoidable mistakes. Even if your company has internal ISO expertise, you could use templates to cut down on documentation time, and video courses to improve staff training.

Hybrid Approach

When comparing ISO 9001 implementation using a consultant versus a DIY kit, it's important to remember the two methods aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, it's possible to combine the best of both approaches to create a solution that's perfectly tuned to your company's needs.

For example, you could buy a certification kit and then hire a consultant to jump start your implementation. You could also write your own documentation and then get a consultant to examine it remotely for ISO compliance. These days it's even possible to get consultants to do remote internal audits. The possibilities aren't endless, but there's certainly a lot to think about before getting started. Take a look at typical implementation scenarios to get a better idea of what's possible.

Conclusion

Choosing an ISO 9001 consultant or a DIY kit, combining both approaches or doing it all alone, is a decision that depends on your company's situation. No matter which option you choose, it's possible to achieve excellent results. Contact us anytime and have our experts evaluate your situation and plot a path to success.

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