Issue 32 – October 2011
Standards New Zealand has recently been recertified as compliant to AS/NZS ISO 9001:2008 Quality management systems – Requirements, the global benchmark for quality management. We talked to Standards New Zealand staff and the Telarc assessor about how continuous improvement and risk management is embedded into how the organisation operates and creates value through standardisation.
'As the national Standards body it's important for us to 'walk the talk' and we first set up a quality management system (QMS) in 2001,' says Michelle Wessing, Standards New Zealand's General Manager Corporate Services. 'We're committed to operating efficiently and promoting opportunities for Standards development in a wide range of sectors. Our QMS ensures we use clear processes and a consistent approach to how we interact with our customers, committee members and their nominating organisations, and stakeholders.
'From day 1, we talk to new staff at their induction about quality principles, how we embrace continuous improvement and new ideas, and how the QMS requires ongoing commitment from management and staff.'
Telarc's assessor Richard Saul says 'Standards New Zealand is one of the better examples of effective application of AS/NZS ISO 9001 to their own business environment. The organisation has achieved a continued increase in surpluses and this is just one example of the link between effective use of their QMS and successful outcomes.'
The QMS processes guide the organisation and provide the framework that is used to deliver Standards solutions.
Standards development process – 'one of the best development processes in New Zealand'
Standards New Zealand maintains a robust, internationally recognised, and proven process for Standards development. Telarc observed the design and development of SNZ HB 4102:2011 Safety in the home and the use of Standard New Zealand's 'Development project tracking form'. Saul says, 'The development process has been in use for many years and operates effectively. It is arguably one of the best managed design and development processes that has been observed in New Zealand.'
Hagen Kerr, Standards New Zealand’s Manager Solutions, says, ‘Using a standardised process means our committee members, key clients, and stakeholders understand what’s expected of them at each stage of the development process. The process also helps staff to concentrate on the important issues – they can see what’s coming up and can use the processes as a guide.
‘We use the same standardised process and project folder structure for all projects, and our ‘Development project tracking form’ guides us through the process. The form can be customised for a specific item of work, and it includes prompts to check we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do, including steps for signoff. This allows our team to be able to pick up anyone else’s project, if needed, and trust that we can find all the right information in the right place. This also gives our stakeholders confidence that the service we provide is continuous.
'The QMS helps us to ensure that the processes we use to develop Standards solutions are rigorous, open, transparent, and fulfil our obligations under the Standards Act 1988. We regularly review the processes to ensure they are current, valid, and meaningful to our organisation.'
Meeting customer expectations – by providing a consistent level of quality products and services
The QMS is critical for Standards New Zealand to ensure it provides a consistent level of quality service and product fulfilment. 'For customers, the quality of our products is critical,' says Shona Weller, Standards New Zealand's General Manager Customer Sales and Services. 'Using a QMS means being prepared to continually look at what you are doing and how to do it in a more efficient and effective way. We review our processes formally and also encourage ideas for improvement at any time – it's entrenched in the way we work. Everybody shares an interest in this, and a responsibility. If we find a problem with a process we talk about it immediately, brainstorm what changes we can make, and then make the changes.
'It's important to keep in touch with what customers need and expect. If you're selling products and services, customers expect products to be fit for purpose, that they'll be value for money, of high quality, and they'll be received within the expected time frame, in pristine condition. AS/NZS ISO 9001 provides a tool and framework to help businesses of any size to achieve that.
'If you can establish your customers' most critical expectations of what you're selling, you can design your processes to ensure you always deliver on that. We have business processes to guide us in all areas of marketing, orders, fulfilment, delivery, invoicing, credits, and other transaction aspects. These processes help to remove the risk of misinterpretation over what a staff member is to do in a particular situation – they clearly outline what we have to do, the checking required, and also ensure our suppliers understand what they need to do.
Like many other organisations in New Zealand, Standards New Zealand outsources work to service providers. A print provider is responsible for printing, collating, packing, and despatching our hard copy products, and a courier company is responsible for delivering them. 'Our print provider also outsources components such as binders to other organisations so it's critical that everybody is clear about their responsibilities on these jobs,' says Weller. 'If you're too casual about requirements, customers are let down, costs go up, and service provider relationships become strained. Our customers expect quality products on time and if we get it wrong, we have to put it right.'
'Risk management is built in to our business processes. For example, we have processes for formal proofs, sign-offs, and samples, and we make it clear where the liability lies if product quality is substandard. We monitor printing and packaging quality and fulfilment issues using a consistent process of quality improvement. Our print provider has a double quality control check on all goods before they are despatched. It's this kind of attention to detail that ensures things go smoothly for us, our service providers, and our customers.'
Regular reviews – no surprises at annual audit
Standards New Zealand runs a quarterly internal audit programme to check that current processes are documented and followed by staff. The senior leadership team recaps monthly on improvements made and prepares documentation for the annual audit, to demonstrate compliance with the Standard. 'At annual audits there should be no surprises for the management team because of the work that everybody has done during the year,' says Wessing.