Managing a Successful ISO 9001 Transition

Motion Industries learned many valuable lessons and gained great insight that may be of benefit to others seeking certification to the new ISO 9001:2015 standard.

Motion Industries is one of the industrial parts distributors certified to the “International Organization for Standardization” (ISO) Quality Management System standard. In 2015, we were presented with the daunting challenge of transitioning Motion Industries’ sixty ISO 9001:2008 registered multinational sites to the new ISO 9001:2015 standard. These sites covered four business scopes: sales branches, distribution centers, fluid power shops and hose/rubber shops. In addition to the sites needing recertification, we also had three locations seeking their initial ISO 9001 certification. From the beginning, we knew that the transition would be challenging and that we had our work cut out for us. Throughout this process, we learned many valuable lessons and gained great insight that may be of benefit to others seeking certification to the new ISO 9001:2015 standard.

Effectively Plan Your Path Forward

Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Our quality team began planning for the transition almost immediately upon hearing the news of the new ISO 9001:2015 standards. Countless hours were spent researching the ISO changes and how these would affect our company. We knew we needed to understand our gaps and make a plan to change our processes and systems to accommodate the new standard.

Identify and Track your Goals

One of the best tools we used during this transition was our Gap Analysis Tool. During the planning process, we identified weaknesses observed in our current system and the proposed necessary changes to meet the requirements of the new ISO 9001:2015 standard.

Each gap was assigned a “champion” to resolve the issue. Champions provided periodic progress updates to keep everyone involved in the transition up-to-date on where we stood with the task.

Control Your Processes – Control your Success

Managing a quality system for a multinational multisite organization can be very challenging. And, with the added complexity of the ISO transition process, we not only had to ensure each site continued operating in full compliance with company and ISO requirements, but we also had to congruently manage the transition and recertification process as well.

We used internal audits as the primary method of monitoring progress. We found that an effective internal audit program is the most reliable barometer of the health of our system. We admit that a “barometer,” from time to time, may need calibration. During this transition process, we determined that our internal audit process was not fully accomplishing our goals and needed some adjustment.

To eliminate this gap, we sent our quality team to a training course to attain certification to audit to the ISO 9001:2015 standard. Through classroom courses, online training, and information gained from seminars, we were able to develop a highly skilled internal audit team.

We believe our internal audit program is a more valuable tool now than ever before. We are getting better internal audits and enjoying a cost savings from our former method of auditing. Our sites are benefiting by having visits from an internal Quality Specialist who truly understands the company’s quality standards and systems. 

Remain Fluid and Stay On Top of Changes

Throughout the ISO 9001:2015 transition process, we needed to adjust systems and processes that had served us well for many years. While some of these changes were relatively minor, others were very significant. Navigating through the changes required focus, attention to detail, and patience.

We tested the patience of our Site Quality Administrators at times with our push to implement changes to the quality system at a rapid pace. We had to understand that changes sometime take time to comprehend and we needed to do everything possible to avoid burying our administrators in an avalanche. We pushed changes out in easily understandable packets. In doing so, we successfully implemented change while simultaneously managing the chaos of change. Our sites embraced the challenge more enthusiastically, which helped us achieve success during this transition.

Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate

The importance of a strong communication plan cannot be stressed enough! James Humes said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” We strive to keep the information flowing in all directions and have found that things that may seem inconsequential can have major impacts. For instance, something as simple as wording within the quality manual can lead to problems in interpretation. By keeping everyone in the loop and encouraging feedback from our sites, we found we could keep everyone working together and focused on the game plan, while minimizing confusion as much as possible.

During our transition to ISO 9001:2015, we frequently engaged our registered sites through numerous teleconferences and group emails. We utilized these resources to go over system changes and to provide training on general quality related topics. When our Quality Specialists went out into the field to conduct internal audits of our sites, we allowed additional days during the transition process to further train and provide consultation services. We also developed and publish a monthly Quality Nuggets training program to feed information related to the quality system to our sites by email. This has helped increase the knowledge of our staff and communicate topics of interest within the organization.

Encouraging and Empowering the Team

The greatest factor to the success of our ISO 9001:2015 transition came from the efforts of our team. They were frequently called upon to “adapt and overcome” during the process. They did not let us down. This project was a testament to the quality of people we have working for us. The entire process of transition was certainly impressive to observe.

We also found that empowerment encourages ownership, and ownership fosters motivation and pride in work. Our results show that the team had pride in their work as we found that the meticulous details of the project were accomplished to the highest level of professionalism and detail. We challenged our team to “step-up” to the next level and impress with results. We gave the team the tools to get the job done right, and they did. Our organization is better for it.

In conclusion, we successfully transitioned our company’s quality management system to ISO 9001:2015. In doing so, we were one of a handful of multisite organizations to achieve this milestone on the first try. By creating a good implementation and communication plan, setting realistic goals and timelines, gaining new controls of processes, and remaining flexible we were able to overcome the challenges of this transition and build a stronger and more efficient quality management system for our company.