ISO 9001 Documentation
Everything You Need To Know
About ISO 9001 Documentation
Let’s begin with
some definitions. A document is information that is written or
recorded on some medium such as paper or computer. A document may
specify requirements (e.g. a drawing or technical specification); provide direction (e.g. quality plan); or show
results or evidence of activities performed (e.g. records).
What is a
A procedure is a specific way to perform an activity or process (methods or practice used by an
organization) and it may or may not be
written. If it is written, it is called
a documented procedure. The same reasoning applies to work instructions (which are ways to perform
a discrete task) which may or not be documented.
What purpose do quality management system documentation
provide the following benefits and objectives:
1. Communication of
Information - needed by the organization to plan,
operate and control its processes. The type and extent of the documentation will depend on the criteria
listed above, as well as the degree of formality of communication systems and the level of communication
skills within the organization, and the organizational culture.
2. Evidence of
conformity - provides evidence that what was planned
and what has actually been done.
3. Knowledge reservoir and
sharing - to preserve and disseminate the
organization’s experiences; business and technical know-how. A typical example would be a technical
specification, which can be used as a base for design and development of a new
tool - to train personnel in performing their
5. Consistency of
performance - by having all personnel perform to the
same method, practice or procedure
6. Promote best
practice - document the best way of performing
activity using internal and external knowledge
What are the ISO 9001 requirements for quality management
specifies all the different types of documentation needed for your QMS. You must
have documented statements of your quality policy and
objectives. Specific requirements for these documents are stated
elsewhere in clause 5 of the standard.
You must have a documented Quality
Manual. There are many ways to document your Quality Manual; and this
would be determined by the size, structure and complexity of your organization. Clause 4.2.2 specifies more
requirements for the contents of the quality manual.
This standard is not heavy on documented (written) procedures as was the case with
previous standards. Clause 4.2.1d requires you to have documents needed to ensure the effective planning, operation
and control for QMS processes. The nature and extent of such documentation will vary from organization to
organization, based on factors listed below.
What criteria should an organization use to determine how much
quality management system documentation it should have?
The need to have
additional documentation beyond those specified in this standard may depend upon - customer, regulatory and your
own organizational requirements. Other factors to consider may include - complexity of products and processes;
effect on quality; risk of customer dissatisfaction; economic risk; effectiveness and efficiency; competence of
personnel; workforce stability and past quality problems and non-conformances.
For example, the more complex your products or processes are, the greater the risk of
problems occurring. The use of documentation and other controls serve to prevent or reduce these risks.
If you have a highly educated and stable workforce, then the amount of documentation
needed may be significantly less than an organization that has a high workforce turnover and lower educational
Regardless of how and to what extent you document your QMS, you must demonstrate the
effective implementation of your QMS in terms of conformity to ISO 9001, customer, regulatory and your own
In what medium should QMS
documents be communicated?
of media is acceptable
for documents and records provided they conform to requirements specified in clause 4.2.3 control of documents and
clause 4.2.4 control of records. These may include, but not limited to: paper, magnetic. electronic or optical
computer disc, photograph, audio-visual, etc.
What are the mandatory documented
procedures required by ISO 9001:2000?
Under ISO 9001,
you must have documented procedures for - clause 4.2.3 - Control of documents; clause 4.2.4 - Control of records;
clause 8.2.2 - Internal audit; clause 8.3 - control of nonconforming product; clause 8.5.2 - Corrective action and
clause 8.5.3 - Preventive action.
These documented procedures have to be controlled in accordance with the requirements
of clause 4.2.3
You may choose to include your procedures and lower level documentation in your
quality manual or organize them in some other fashion. The practicality of this would depend on the size of your
organization, complexity of products and processes; competency of personnel, media used for documentation (hard
copy versus computerized); ease of use and understanding by personnel; maintainability; etc.
Depending on these same criteria, you may decide to have additional procedures
(beyond the mandatory six) or carry over some or all the procedures you had under previous QMS systems.
Some of the mandatory procedures can be combined, e.g., correction and preventive
action may be combined as long as you address the specific requirements of each clause 8.5.2 and 8.5.3. You could
also have more than one procedure for any of the mandatory clauses listed above.
Note there are several ways to write procedures, other than the conventional
narrative form. In fact, narrative documentation has been found to be the least effective way to promote user
comprehension and ease of use. Procedures may be documented graphically (e.g. flowchart; video; series of pictures
or photographs, etc.).
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