Quest for Continuous Improvement

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For a lot of us, now begins the post-summer quest for continuous improvement. After all isn’t that part of starting a new school year and acquiring new skills and learning?

 

Any environment where dramatic, progressive change and innovation occurs requires a process for improvement. ISO 9001 type quality management systems have a built-in means to do that and lock-in continuous improvement.

The three keys are:

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  1. Management Review
  2. Internal Audit
  3. Corrective and Preventive Action

These tools form a foundation within ISO systems ensuring ongoing effectiveness, resulting in customer satisfaction and reduced costs.

Management Review, the cornerstone of this process, involves executive management and other key individuals who regularly compare results to established, measurable goals. Actions are initiated to make improvements and prevent mistakes.

Internal Audit, a valuable management tool, provides Management Review with regular input on the effectiveness of each component of the system. Good internal auditing includes assessing compliance to the requirements of the standard and the company’s documented system as well as identifying improvements. The goal is to utilize the audit to benefit the company by ensuring compliance and driving improvement, not finding faults.

Corrective and Preventive Action provides the vehicle for management to take action when results do not meet objectives or to prevent defects or mistakes. An effective corrective and preventive action process is a valuable link to continuous improvement.

Though there is often confusion in the difference between corrective and preventive actions, there actually is a huge difference. Corrective action is solving problems.

Fire sprinklers and insurance are important corrective actions, but for them to be utilized a fire had to occur. The Fire Marshall, inspecting the premises to eliminate fire hazards, is performing preventive work. When companies are regularly confronted with the same difficulties, the odds are they’re not taking effective preventive actions to avoid the problem completely. When all personnel are involved in identifying both corrective and preventive actions and making rectifications the system truly benefits.

A company registered to an ISO 9001 type of system must be kept going with time spent working on the business, not just in the business. Like a performing plate spinner from the days of Ed Sullivan’s really big shows, it’s necessary to keep a lot of spinning plates in the air. Management Review, Internal Audit and Corrective and Preventive Action provide a means to keep the established system working and improving according to plan.

By AEM Consulting Group, Inc.

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