Documented Management System – Is this the end of the ISO Manual?

Companies that have – or are looking to implement – ISO certifications involving the development and usage of a Management System must, as part of the Standard, produce and maintain a series of documents describing and supporting the operation of their processes. What they may not know is what format these documents should take. The International Organization for Standardization does provide a guide to documentation for ISO 9001:2015 which sets out what needs to be documented for this Standard, but the specific format that this should take is never mentioned.

Although the processes that need to be documented may change depending on the type of industry you are in, the general aim is to allow for a consistent level of performance to be maintained. For example, if you describe how a process is to be carried out, it should always follow this format. Documentation also allows for knowledge sharing and provides evidence that your Organisation is conforming to the Standard by showing what was planned and what was done.

Documents that describe your Organisation’s processes are referred to as a documented Management System. This is not a specific type of documentation process or structure and as such the documents themselves may be held in separate locations and even kept on separate media. Such systems may be indexed and formatted similarly for convenience and ease of use but this is not always the case and certainly isn’t a requirement for certification.

A more thorough method of documenting your Management System is a Manual. A Manual covers all the features required of a documented Management System but it is written as a single document. A Manual has consistent formatting and, as it is a single document, is stored in one place. Manuals also follow a set structure which makes it much easier to be updated, especially if the structure of the Standard is used. In addition, if the Standard being implemented is based on the key principles of the ISO 9001:2015 (which some of the most popular Standards are) then you are more easily able to develop a Manual that covers – and prepares your Organisation for the introduction of – additional Standards.

At QMS we can provide a fully compliant Manual for your Organisation that follows the structure of the ISO Standard that you are seeking certification in. A summary of the benefits of a QMS Manual over a more general documented Management System is shown in the table below:

Benefit QMS Manual Documented Management System
Enables your Organisation to operate in a structured way
Ensures responsibilities are clear to everyone
Maximises efficient use of time and resources
Ensures nothing important is overlooked
Keeps all documents in one place
Has a consistent format
Follows the structure of the Standard
Easy to update for a change in the Standard
Easy to manage version control
Easy to distribute throughout the Organisation

If you are interested in the QMS approach to documentation, contact a member of our team at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to talk you through your options.