Document Control in your Quality Management System

It is extremely important to control the documents used in your quality management system. In fact, it is a requirement of ISO9001:2000 that you do so.

How you control your documents is up to you, as long as your method is effective and passes the scrutiny of your auditor.

A very small number of people, preferably one or two, should be responsible for controlling documents. This is a case where too many cooks could easily spoil the stew. It’s a good idea to solicit input from many in your organization before writing your quality documents (such as quality manual and procedures). However, when it comes to managing the documents, making changes, additions, deletions, etc, it’s probably best to have just one or two people in charge. Less chance for confusion and unauthorized changes.

The old fashioned way to control documents is to have a limited number of paper copies available to people who need them, and to have all copies accounted for. This is fine for small organizations, and before we had computers it was pretty much the only way to go. However computers have made this little task easier.

Having to keep track of multiple copies and ensure that they’re all updated simultaneouly can be time consuming. I believe its a better idea to have one document in a folder on your company’s computer server, and protect the files with a password known only to one or two responsible people. You’ll also have to make sure that anyone who needs the documentation has access to the files, but on a “read only” basis. This way everyone who needs to see the documents can see them on their computer. And any time you make changes to a document, everyone sees the same thing at the same time.

More on document control later.

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