When is it time to change your quality objectives in your ISO9001:2008 quality management system?

OK, so you’ve gotten your ISO9001:2008 certification (or registration, whatever you want to call it). Maybe you’ve had it for a couple of years now, and things are going OK. Your third-party auditor is generally happy, at least for now. You’re showing continual improvement…well, a little anyway. Sure, when you first created those quality objectives you knew you had some wiggle room, and you knew it would be pretty easy to improve upon those objectives.

But now, after a few years, getting that extra bit of improvement is tougher. Let’s say one of your quality objectives started out as “number of customer returns in a quarter due to paint issues at .05 percent of orders shipped”. Over the years you’ve recorded some improvement in paint quality, and you’ve ratcheted down the objective to where it’s now at .01 percent. It’s going to be pretty hard to improve upon that. So what do you do?

You can revise the objective to make it harder to achieve, such as .005 percent. Or if you truly believe it’s impossible to further improve the performance of this process, maybe it’s time to look at different areas of the department. What other areas could be measured, to provide meaningful data that will help improve your processes?

This isn’t always easy to do. I work with a couple of companies who really have their act together, producing nearly perfect parts. So we have to be creative when looking at their quality objectives. We don’t want to just create random, meaningless objectives to satisfy the auditor. While we certainly want to keep the auditor happy, wouldn’t it be nice to also measure objectives that could be useful in improving customer satisfaction or improving a process? How about an improvement in shipping time? Maybe start looking at other processes that haven’t yet been measured? It can take quite a bit of thought, but its important to keep your quality objectives current, relevant, and meaningful to your company’s operations.

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