ISO 9001 in a small business

Any type, any size?

ISO 9001 is a generic standard. Any company, any size, any sector, any country. It is written to be equally applicable to a small service organisation to a large manufacturing organisation. Don’t believe the hype. I’ve helped a company with 2 employees implement the standard and I can tell you it was no fun at all Now don’t get me wrong. It is possible to implement an ISO 9001 conforming system in a very small company, but it needs a bit of skill, nifty interpretation and sprinkling of jiggery pokery. For example, the development, review and communication of the Quality Policy can be a bit of a nonsense in this context; the independence of internal audits is an inherent problem unless they are contracted out; if the company doesn’t sub-contract we might be able justify an exclusion purchasing (yes, really – it is in section 7 after all); value-adding process measures might be difficult to identify and justify (they should be able to tell you things you might not already know), and developing a procedure for control of non conforming product in a very small service provider may be no more than an exercise in box ticking. It should be in section 7, in my opinion. So flexibility and common sense is the order of the day After saying all of this, I’m not saying that ISO 9001 has no place in the land of the small, just that there’s an argument for specific guidance in these situations just to avoid the risk of implementation of crappy systems. Especially as I’m seeing an increasing number of small, agile companies with an eye on quality. We don’t want to cut them off, do we? The standard and assessment schemes should be more ready and able to embrace these start-ups.

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