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If your shop is considering ISO 9001, there are a number of things you can do to simplify the effort:

Define your company’s goal.

Obtain top management support. Experience shows that establishing a quality management system that conforms to ISO 9001 is virtually impossible without solid support from top management. Management must understand the costs and benefits of ISO 9001 and how it relates to other business goals and initiatives. Management also must provide the resources needed to implement the quality management system.

Identify a project champion. This can be an outside plastics consultant. Someone should coordinate the work needed in order to keep the quality management system implementation moving forward. This individual should be an effective project manager and work well with a variety of people. Experience with management systems and quality issues are an obvious plus.

Build a cross-functional team. Virtually every function in an organization can affect quality management and performance. This approach enhances ownership of the quality management system, brings together the people who will need to implement the system and helps to ensure that processes and procedures are practical and effective.

Conduct a preliminary review (or “gap analysis”). An outside plastics consultant can be helpful here. This review will help your company understand where its major implementation challenges are likely to be.

Develop a plan and schedule. Based on the results of the preliminary review, the project team should be in a good position to prepare a detailed plan and schedule for ISO 9001 implementation. As part of this plan, consider how you will monitor and report on implementation progress.

Involve your employees. Employees can make an invaluable contribution to the ISO 9001 development effort and will obviously play a key role in system implementation.

Document the quality management system. ISO 9001 requires documentation of certain processes and operating procedures. Keep in mind that the most important audience for this documentation is your own employees. Keep documents simple and clear for users.

Conduct employee training. Again, an outside plastics consultant can be helpful. Employees need to be aware of the ISO 9001 and the elements of the system that are relevant to their work, among other topics. Training and communication are often cited as the most challenging aspects of ISO 9001 implementation.

Certification of compliance. Obtain logos and a certificate of compliance to ISO 9001 for the plastics industry by a second party.

Third-party registration. If your company decides to pursue third-party registration, the selection of the right registrar is a critical part of this process. Keep in mind, their role as a registrar officially starts when a company has in place an auditable quality management system.

The responsibility for the integrity of financial reports has shifted to the company’s senior management and board of directors. Financial analysts, investors and shareholders want more current, reliable and accurate financial information and, more importantly, operational data. Fortune 500 financial statements are beginning to include ISO 9001 along with external financial auditors’ generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Quality does not just happen. It requires an intentional effort on the part of top management and employees within the quality system. Obtaining certification to the ISO 9001 standard clearly shows customers and shareholders that consistent quality in products and customer service is important as well as vital for continued success.

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