We use terms such as ‘compliance’ and ‘conformance’ regularly as part of accreditations and certification processes. Even when you have successfully gained the award or certificate, your company needs to remain compliant – in other words, you can’t let standards drop. But how do you go about discovering non-conformances? How do you correct them?
ISOs are just one band of accreditations that your business can subscribe to. Like all accreditations processes, including health and safety ones such as CHAS or SafeContractor, once the hard work of accreditation or certification has been achieved, it doesn’t mean that as a business you can rest on your laurels.
You now have to maintain compliance and that means hunting down non-conformances and taking steps to correct them. Here’s how…
The first step is to put in place a process of regular review and analysis of what you are doing (or not doing) and measuring these processes and practices against the detail of the standard or accreditation.
These need to be scheduled and conducted regularly – many businesses assign this responsibility to a key member of staff – but this analysis should also be apparent as part of your way of working too.
When you find an area of non-conformance, you need to resolve it. By being methodical, you can identify what the problem is and, more importantly, how you can resolve it.
Finding an issue is one thing but this is superficial in many ways: you need to determine why this is happening, where the problem is coming from and how big the issue is. By simply putting something in place to deal with the immediate problem, the likelihood is you will not be dealing with the root cause of the problem.
Most non-conformances happen because something in the chain of events or production has changed. This can be a visible change, one that is meant to happen or it may have happened as a result of external factors.
You need the answer to all these questions and more and that means investigating the issue.
3 The wider picture
With the root cause identified as to why the non-compliance or non-conformance is happening, you need to cast your net wider and look at the wider picture.
This includes looking at issues such as:
- Have suppliers changed?
- Have suppliers and their products changed?
- Your staff, their responsibilities, skill base or any other changes
Look at external and internal factors as these may well be influencing the non-conformance but will also influence the next step: resolution.
Deciding the best course of action for resolving an issue means having a clear picture of what needs to happen, where and when. In other words, you need an action plan of what will change but, just as important, who is responsible for making and overseeing these changes.
You should also build in review mechanisms too to check that the identified changes have been made the non-conformance issue resolved.
Remaining compliant is important for so many reasons but understanding why they happen and the changes that need to be actioned are just as important.