Certification plays an important role in business growth. On the one hand it allows to grow on good organizational underpinnings, and on the other hand it ensures business development. Achieving certification requires good preparation. Here are some tips for doing this.
Initially, the goal of certifications was to meet the very definition of quality:
ability (or suitability) of the product (and / or service) to meet the expectations (and / or needs) of the customers
Roughly, the standards were to ensure customer satisfaction. They then became a selling point and are now a requirement for some exports.
It is important to note that these certifications rate the quality of the procedures of a company. Unlike labels that aim to ensure the quality of a product or service. As a reminder, there are 2 types of certification:
- International ISO standards (ISO 9001, 22000, 14001 etc.) internationally recognized.
- Private benchmarks, recognized in specific countries (BRC for UK mass retail, IFS for German, French and Italian mass retail, or Qualibat for building in France).
Preparing for certification
Assess the company’s scope
First of all, you have to know how to assess your scope of action. What are the sites concerned, the activities ...? The commitment of the management team or the duration to obtain the certification are criteria that cannot to be undervalued. Indeed, thinking you can obtain a certification in 4 months is not reasonable. ISO 9001 certification takes time; it usually takes between 1 year and 1 year and a half.
Self-evaluate and implement actions
To go from self-evaluation to the action plan, several key steps that are absolutely necessary must be followed so as not to omit normative requirements. The issue with standards and benchmarks is that they do not clearly define what to do, which tools to use, or in general, which actual steps to take. Building a point-by-point approach is therefore essential to ensure compliance with a certification.
Step 1 - Current State
There, you must be at the top of your concentration to be able to read the standard in its entirety (to be done over several days ... :) ). The purpose: to identify the sections of the standard on which you already meet the certification. At each reading section, ask yourself the following question "Do I have a tool, a work method, an action which makes it possible to answer the point?".
Step 2 - Understanding of the standard / benchmarks for sections that you don’t meet yet
I think it's the hardest step. The standard is a guideline on which what is written needs to be interpreted. We are talking about interpretation because we have to translate sections of the standard / baseline for requirements that call for tools to be set up.
Step 3 - Setting up tools
We are in the Quality field, so we can talk about actions. It is necessary to set up an action plan and create tools that will allow to meet the expectations.
For example: point 7.2 (c) of ISO 9001:2015, which addresses skills:
"Where criteria are not met, some action is required to fill the gap then assess the effectiveness of these actions".
→ The Sharing of Experience that aims to use the experience of certain employees to the benefit of "junior" profile can for example be a tool that allows to meet this requirement of the standard.
For this step it is sometimes useful to use an expert consultant for the desired standard / benchmark. He can translate the requirements into tools according to your sector, and determine what is truly relevant to your company.
Step 4 - Establish evidence
For each section of the standard / benchmark, you must associate one or more documents (action sheet, procedures, etc.) as an evidence. The point is to create a kind of checklist that lists all the tools used to obtain the certification.
To be noted
Involving an external consultant is quite expensive, but an external eye can actually have a positive impact on your certification. You can choose the easy yet expensive way by involving the external consultant in every step of your QMS (Quality Management System) creation / adaptation.
Conversely, if you want to do it yourself I would still recommend carrying out a white audit with an external consultant. This will allow you to do a "check" before the actual audit of the certifying body and to be guided towards requirements that you have not identified.
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