Thinking of “buying” your ISO9001:2000 quality manual and procedures?

Numerous websites are out there claiming you can fork over your hard earned cash….or credit card number….and receive a ready-to-roll, plug-and-play ISO9001:2000 quality management system. Nothing could be further from the truth.

With about 20 years of quality management experience, and 13 of those years working with ISO9000 and ISO9001, I’ve looked at a bunch of off-the-shelf products that seem to claim you can have your quality management system up and running in a day or 2. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!! these products drive me crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anyone who believes this bullcrap is either ignorant of ISO quality systems, or just plain stupid. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be so hard on those who don’t know any better…I’ll try to calm down…really…I will….OK, there..that’s better.

Let me state this clearly: There is no way that you can purchase your quality system documentation and implement it into your company without a lot of work on your part. There’s no free lunch. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. You know the drill. Why do you think ISO quality system consultants get paid so much? BECAUSE THEY’RE WORTH IT! Well, usually.

If you go the consultant route, which most people do, you’ll likely spend $5000 to $10,000 on consultant’s fees. And this is before ever having an audit. Depending on the size of your company, you might have to spend much more than that.

Spending a few hundred bucks on quality system documents may seem like a bargain, but be aware that your work has only begun.

Now I’m not saying that you should not purchase quality system documentation from a website. In fact, if you’re intent on creating your own ISO9001:2000 quality management system, I’d go so far as to say you should purchase sample documents from somewhere, to give you a guide to follow. But don’t spend a lot of money. You can find sample quality system documentation online for less than $50.00. There’s no need to spend more than that.

You can save a tremendous amount of money by doing it yourself. However the process will take a lot longer. If you have a customer deadline to get certified within, say, 60 days, then you have no option other than to hire a consultant, or hire an ISO experienced employee dedicated to the project. If you have more time, tho, you can save a bundle and do it yourself.

I have no doubt that most ISO9001:2000 documents you buy online are well intentioned and will be of great value to you. But think of these documents as samples of what you’re going to write yourself. There’s no such thing as plugging your company name into a few places and letting it rip. Sorry.

No two organizations are exactly alike, therefore no two quality systems can be exactly alike. You’ll want to tailor your manual, procedures and forms to your company, not the other way around. Remember, you’ll be audited by an independent ISO auditor. Whatever your manual, procedures and forms state, you’ll have to be doing. And how on Earth is someone at a website going to know what procedures are appropriate for your company? They’re not.

By taking on ISO9001:2000, of course you’ll probably have to make a few changes in your organization, and probably have to implement some new procedures, keep some new records, etc. But ISO gives you tremendous flexibility in how you achieve those requirements. You need to decide yourself how you will go about meeting the requirements of ISO. No way can some document bought online be exactly right for your company.

If you want to create your own ISO9001:2000 quality management system, here’s what you need to do:.
1. Buy a couple of good books on the subject, and actually read them. Take your time until you understand what’s going on here. It’s slightly complicated, but it ain’t brain surgery.
2. Go ahead and buy some sample quality system documents online, but don’t spend more than 50 bucks.
3. Use your newfound knowledge to write your own manual, procedures, forms, and work instructions. Use the manual you’ve bought as a kind of template, but realize you’re going to write your own manual. Use the purchased document as a guide for formatting, wording, etc. But don’t use it word for word.

Using a purchased set of documents without extensive modification is asking for trouble. It is extremely unlikely the purchased documents will have any correlation to what your company is actually doing. It will be very difficult for you and your employees to follow along. This will lead to people forgetting to follow those purchased procedures, which will further ensure the quick demise of your quality management system.

By using a purchased set of documents word-for-word, you’re ensuring a disastrous audit for yourself. Your auditor, who’s been around the block a few times, will quickly discover that you are claiming to conform to a set of documents written by someone who has never set foot in your building. Believe me, it will be painfully obvious to the auditor.

Good luck!

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