Thursday, 29 July 2010

Why write a Quality Manual?

The quality manual is the essential cornerstone for any organization venturing on the ISO 9001:2008 accreditation route since it manifests top management’s commitment to operating an effective quality management system.

Like any document, the quality manual must be written in such a way that it provides employees, customers, auditors and other interested parties with a sound overview of how your organization satisfies customer requirements. People throughout your organization will refer to it when they want to see the big picture of the system, or what policies have been established.

One of best ways to understand and implement ISO 9001:2008 is the actual task of compiling the quality manual. By reading through the requirements one-by-one and assigning each requirement a relevant document, process or procedure that exists within your organization, you will find that more than half of the requirements have already been addressed. The quality manual just needs formalise the relationship between the processes and the documents.

Format and content
Write your quality manual so that it works for you, for your company and the way you work, it is entirely your choice but always ensure that it supports your organisation’s objectives. The quality manual should not contain any confidential or proprietary information as it should be readily available to third party auditors and customers.

You should also ensure that a clear distinction is made between the contents of the quality manual and the procedures. The quality manual defines the intention of top management for the operation of the quality management system, while the procedures define how these intentions are implemented.

Three things that must be included in the quality manual:
1. The scope of the quality management system including details of the justification of any exclusions

2. The documented procedures established for the quality management system, or reference to them

3. A description of the interaction between the processes of the quality management system

Who will use your Quality Manual and Why?
Customers and Clients want to see how your system takes care of their requirements. If your quality manual comprises two pages, it may not inspire confidence that your system is robust enough to be an effective quality management system. Customers and Clients want see assurance that you know how to plan, implement, and control the processes that affect their products or service delivery.

Auditors will want to know how you've met the requirements of the standard and if the quality management system is effective in achieving your organization’s objectives. Auditors will use the quality manual as a guide to help identify and source the objective evidence which they need to see in demonstration of your company’s compliance with the standard. Internal auditors can audit the organization against their own requirements instead of a generic external document.

Management should be able to determine, from the manual, how the various processes and systems interact, and at a high level what policies and methods have been established to maintain and control the processes and systems.

The quality manual is often given to new recruits to familiarise themselves with the organization’s quality management system and the manuals are often used as an in-house training resource.

Most importantly, your quality manual should not sit on a dusty shelf or be hidden in an obscure location on the computer network; it is an active and dynamic document that demands exposure in order for it to develop and improve.

To learn more about our Quality Manual template please visit ISO 9001 Checklist.