International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is an independent, non-governmental, global organisation that develops standards to ensure the quality, safety, and efficiency of products, services, and systems.
ISO certifications help businesses stand out. Each certification has separate standards and criteria and is classified numerically.
The construction and engineering industries have never been more saturated and competitive. Both require complex tendering and public reporting on legislative topics such as: modern slavery, environmental sustainability, local content and Indigenous participation.
Although winning projects is the immediate goal for businesses, the ability for companies to build strong and lasting relationships with its clients, to be able to time and time again deliver successful projects across a range of scenarios, will ultimately determine a business’s success. Holding an ISO certification in this industry is a way to stand out from the crowd when competing on project bids.
ISO 9001 - the world’s most popular management system standard – is all about quality management. This standard helps businesses and organisations become more efficient and operationally resilient, which ultimately improves customer satisfaction. The quality management system (QMS) standard was last updated in 2015, thus you will see its full name being ISO 9001:2015.
Being visible by your customers in construction and engineering as an ISO 9001 certified business is highly enticing and the certification brings with it a sense of knowledge, skill and trust.
Benefits of ISO 9001. Source: BSI
Each construction project comes with its own set of peculiarities, but quality needs to be consistent. Some attributes that greatly aid construction companies in getting certified are: demonstrating strong delivery methodology with sufficient quality control measures, assurance that hazards are identified, and risk is mitigated throughout the process of construction and engineering.
Let’s dive into the core components or requirements of ISO 9001 in more details.
Thoroughly align your business objectives and intent with the QMS. Given subcontractors in engineering and construction are heavily relied upon and carry significant risk when delivering projects, organisations need to ensure they are also informed and aligned on quality management.
Buy-in AND accountability from senior management within an organisation is integral to the adoption of ISO 9001 throughout the business. Leaders within an organisation need to set the standard by having an input on establishing the framework, allocating stakeholders to lead the process and providing feedback to operational staff.
Plan for how the organisation addresses risks and opportunities to ensure the QMS’s ongoing efficacy. Naturally, this is also where objective setting in relation to quality takes place.
Consider what resources (people, knowledge, infrastructure) are needed for the quality management system not only during the certification process, but taking the lead once certified to ensure the framework is adopted amongst stakeholders.
This is about the actual execution of the QMS. In the construction and engineering industry, that means a large proportion would be about ensuring the subcontractors are: firstly qualified to do the work; secondly monitored, measured and communicated to throughout the project.
As “what gets measured gets managed”, it’s important to establish the metrics and methods of monitoring, measurement and analysis. Not only that, performance evaluation should be done on a consistent basis and require collaboration amongst stakeholders, internal and external.
Once performance evaluation is complete and gaps have been identified, it is time to make improvements where necessary. Actively looking out for opportunities to improve processes or services is also key.
How the requirements of ISO fit into the Plan-Do-Check-Act model. Source: BSI
Modern day SaaS platforms are making the process of gaining an ISO 9001 certification more streamlined for businesses in construction and engineering, who heavily rely on third-party service providers.
Indeed, businesses need to have developed their organisation-wide strategy or framework around quality management first (the Planning component above). Then technology
should serve as an enabler.
Platforms such as Felix allow greater oversight for senior leadership to mitigate risk and
allocate resources, as well as encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing amongst staff and projects to drive quality and ultimately better project outcomes.
When looking to gain ISO 9001 certification, part of the formal process is demonstrating how a business can implement a QMS throughout its supply chain. Felix creates the foundation blocks for demonstrating this process by acting as the central point for all vendor data.
With a cloud-based platform, the infrastructure is available anytime anywhere to support the QMS rollout and operations. Especially with WFH being the new norm, technology has proven to be a powerful efficiency tool.
Felix provides a two-sided portal which creates efficiency and mitigates risk, as the onus is on the subcontractors to maintain their own information over the lifecycle of their relationship with the organisation. The platform is flexible and agile allowing organisations to establish business specific, risk-based workflows for vendors to prequalify and upload/manage their compliance documents.
To ensure process, frameworks and governance is adhered to, Felix has smart notifications built throughout the platform, ensuring that both vendors and organisational staff are aware of: upcoming compliance document expiry (licence, insurance etc), contractor performance evaluations, expiring contracts and more.
Various people who play a role in the QMS such as procurement, HSEQ, finance, contracts and senior executives can utilise the platform to collaborate, drive quality and maintain adherence to an established central framework.
After engaging with a vendor, performance evaluation data can feed back to the central vendor data hub, along with contract information. This ensures quality in operations by making the information about subcontractor performance accessible to relevant stakeholders, which allows for rectification/improvement.
Lastly, there are stringent ISO 9001 requirements around traceability and auditability. Hence, a software platform with an audit trail functionality can certainly aid in that regard.
Prequalification in the industry has typically been a long and arduous process for subcontractors to complete. A core component of a prequalification questionnaire in the construction industry is the ability for a vendor to demonstrate quality management in their supply chain.
If a vendor happens to be ISO 9001 certified, then simply submitting the certificate would demonstrate satisfactory compliance. However, this is often not the case, which means organisations need to go through a lengthier review process.
The process to configure a prequalification questionnaire set can be long and drawn out as it requires input from various stakeholders within an organisation.
Felix Vendor Optiqual® is a prequalification framework designed specifically for asset owners, builders and constructors to optimise their understanding, trust and visibility of their high-risk supply chains.
Prequalifying your supply chain through the Felix Vendor Optiqual® framework empowers organisations to be more productive and focus on value-accretive tasks, whilst ensuring supply chain risk is being managed effectively through a best-practice framework.
Enterprise risk management is inherently about preparing for and mitigating both known and unknown risks. COVID-19 used to be an unknown risk – or a black swan event. Now, it’s morphed into a semi-business-as-usual situation where some risks can actually be predicted, whilst some are still lurking quietly.
In this article, we want to look at the process of managing vendors from two angles. See if it screams “risky business” as you read.
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