ISO9001 Cringes

Over the years since BS5750:1979 was published, I’ve dealt with hundreds of companies certified to that, or the more modern ISO9001, standard.  “Dealt with” either as an auditor acting on behalf of one or more customers, or handling supply chain issues from within a single customer.  I’ve never been involved with the certification process directly (other than when I’ve been advising a company on the process), so I can’t speak from a Certifying Body (CB) standpoint, but I’ve come across situations and claims that have made me smile (or cringe):
  • I still hear arguments that the product realisation clauses of ISO9001 don’t apply to services – it was an argument I used to hear back in the BS5750 days and, even with an ISO9001 standard rewritten to ensure its scope could encompass any organisation, the argument rumbles on.  The standard can apply to everything you want it to – claiming exclusions, in my view, is an admission that the service is not going to be controlled to a satisfactory level.
  • I recall a pressure vessel manufacturer who became certified to BS5750:Part 2 (an option that excluded design control requirements) because they didn’t design pressure vessels – they only interpreted the code (BS5500, ASM VIII, etc).  The argument was accepted by their CB but not by the customer I was working for at the time.  As far as we were concerned, the decision to omit design control from their certified scope meant they didn’t have adequate control over their engineering system , that they knew it and that they were satisfied with the situation.  We stopped buying from them!
  • I lost count of the number of companies that used to claim that BS5750/ISO9001 clause 4.20 on “Statistical Techniques” didn’t apply because they didn’t mass produce.  As manufacturers, they almost all applied sampling inspection at some point, even if only on the nuts and bolts they bought; if I asked about sampling plans the common response was “about 10%”.  Enquiring further about acceptance or confidence levels would yield little beyond a blank look.  And forget about any use of statistical tools to analyse their management and performance data.  With the current standard (ISO9001:2008) no longer having its manufacturing focus and heritage, the requirement for statistical understanding is, nowadays, totally ignored.
  • On one audit, the company’s Managing Director pulled the “Quality Manual” from a filing cabinet.  “We. Got it from our certifying body when they wrote it for us.”  “They wrote it?” I asked.  “Yes, they said we needed a Quality Manual before they could issue our ISO 9001 certificate.  We don’t use it, of course, because it’s not how we work – we just bring it out for audits.”  I couldn’t complain about his honesty and, at the end of my visit, I was able to write a positive report for my client, but there were a number of caveats.
Just a selection – there are others but writing them would probably breach confidentiality…

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