Resources, capability, awareness, communication and documented information

The organisation is supposed to define what resources are necessary for the operation to run in such a way that requirements are fulfilled, but also to maintain the QMS. The organisation should also define and maintain the required knowledge for the operation of its processes and to ensure that requirements are fulfilled. Resources can be people, infrastructure and raw materials, for example. The management of resources deals with the provision of resources, management of human resources (Figure 4.3) and the infrastructure in the work environment that is required for the operation to run in accordance with the requirements. There is a great emphasis on the employees being competent, they need to have the right education, training, qualifications and experience. There is also focus on everyone being aware of the quality policy, the quality objectives, the purpose of creating and operating a QMS and how the contribution of each and every employee is relevant. This relates to the entire staff, not only those who are directly working on production. The standard requires the organisation to decide on and create the framework for a necessary communication within the organisation and with entities outside it.

All employees of the organisation are in one way or another influencing the product or service, and in a small organisation all employees can directly impact how it meets its requirements. As an example, we can take a small

Figure 4.3

Human resources.

earthwork contractor in a rural area that works for the institutions of the state and the municipality, hut also works for private enterprises. This company has a small management team: the financial manager, who takes care of bookkeeping, invoicing and payments; an engineer, who is responsible for planning and coordination of the QMS; and the managing director, who is responsible for human resource management and all daily management and project coordination. The total pool of employees includes craftspeople and labourers, perhaps with no formal education. This is a construction company but, because of the nature of the operation, the organisation is highly visible at project sites and the projects have a great impact on the environment. All employees have either direct or indirect influence on the company’s ability to meet the outlined requirements—through their work, their conduct and their communication with clients and local residents, to give a few examples.

Human resources—the skills, training and awareness of the employees— are very much at the forefront of the standard. The organisation is expected to define the necessary skills of the employees to ensure compliance with requirements and must provide training, or any other necessary action, to build the necessary competence if needed. The employees should also be informed about their contribution and how important this contribution is in ensuring customer satisfaction. Records are to be kept regarding education, training, knowledge and experience of the employees.

As an example, we can take a service company in tourism, offering specialised excursions and education about the local nature, vegetation, animals and geology. This company needs to define strict requirements regarding the professional background of the people they hire, but also their ability to disseminate this knowledge in different languages. The company must also provide the necessary training to build and maintain essential knowledge among its employees.

The standard contains instructions regarding the infrastructure and work environment of the organisation that is needed to ensure that the customer gets what he or she is entitled to. Infrastructure can be buildings, civil structures, facilities, equipment, software and different systems or services that support direct production, such as transport and dissemination of information. Work environment refers to the conditions that must be maintained in the operation. Examples could be light, acoustics, temperature, humidity and other environmental factors. Requirements regarding infrastructure and work environment refer to the nature of the operation. For instance, the necessary infrastructure and work environment for the earthworks contractor could be powerful transport vehicles, mobile facilities for the workforce with a good canteen and sanitary facilities, good communication equipment to exchange information and instructions, even where there is no access to a mobile network, and powerful floodlights to light up the work area. In a small architecture firm, for example, the necessary infrastructure and work environment are a good office space with good acoustics, good lighting, powerful computers and up-to-date software.

The concept of documented information is used for the information that must be controlled and maintained by the organisation. Requirements regarding documented information are put forward at different points in the standard, but an organisation is supposed to meet this requirement in the appropriate way, in accordance with their needs and the nature of their operation. Documented information can he different kinds of documents. Documents that contain instructions about what to do and how to do it are referred to as quality documents in this book and some examples include policy documents, procedure documents and work instructions (Figure 4.4).

Another type of documented information is documents that are created as a consequence of applying the QMS and we call these quality records. Some examples of quality records are minutes of meetings, reports, contracts, communication and completed checklists. Here we use the concept of the quality manual as the synonym for a documented QMS.

The standard demands that the creation and updating of documented information is done in an organised manner, but also that documented information is controlled. Documented information can be stored in different kinds of media, it can be digital, written, photographs, tapes or posters, to give a few examples. There is a strong emphasis on the documented information

Figure 4.4

Quality documents; e.g., policy documents, procedures and work instructions.

being correct. It is important that changes are managed, the most recent version is always in use and the information is accessible and readable for the employees who are supposed to use it. When the documented information is out of date, it must be labelled clearly to make sure that it is not accidentally used—although it will possibly need to be stored for traceability.

A quality manual contains a general description of the organisation’s QMS. As a minimum, the quality manual should include the quality policy of the organisation, its organisational chart and division of roles, the main procedures and instructions regarding the operation and a statement regarding how the QMS is maintained, reviewed, updated and controlled. The quality manual is therefore an important control instrument. It can be used to present the policy, procedures and requirements issued by the organisation to its suppliers and employees. It has a key role in coordinating and standardising the operation and preserving the knowledge and skills within the organisation. The quality manual can therefore reduce risk; for instance, when an important employee leaves the organisation or is not able to work. In such cases, another employee can step in and do the job, based on the documented procedures in the quality manual.

A quality manual makes it possible to review the operation of the organisation through audits and it can be presented to the customers to show how the organisation is managed, thereby assuring them that they will get the product or service they are expecting (Figure 4-5). The quality manual is therefore a vital part of the quality assurance and quality audits open up the possibility for even further quality assurance. A key factor here is that an audit should always be done by a third party—organisations cannot audit themselves. A quality manual makes it possible to review the practices based on experience and improve them—to make them more effective, reduce waste and limit the number of mistakes. If this is done in a proper way, it can lead to a stronger competitive position. The quality manual is important in keeping an overview of changes and improvements. It is therefore a key element in continuous improvement, which is one of the foundations of quality management. The quality manual is a control instrument—based on the

Figure 4.5

A quality manual makes it possible to review the operation through audits.

quality manual, employees can take more responsibility for their own work and this can lower the cost of administration, make it easier to trace reasons for nonconformities and mistakes in the operation and thus improve the end product or service.

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