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ISO 9001 Quality Management – Corporate Manual

ISO 9001 Quality Management – Corporate Manual

Current practices create inconsistencies

Through my work as a Lead Auditor with major registrars, I observed dozens of large multi-location companies struggling with connecting their corporate policies and manuals with the supporting, location-specific documents. To develop a manual for a company with numerous facilities, organizations take two routes. Some companies create site-specific manuals either as copies of the corporate manual or site-specific manuals that are different from the corporate manual.

In the first case when a site-specific manual is a copy of the corporate manual with modifications specific to a given site, mechanisms to keep these documents coordinated are rarely defined and followed. Difficulties of keeping these documents in sync are due to the fact that corporate manuals are controlled by the home office, while local manuals are responsibility of site’s documentation control departments.

Another approach organizations take is to allow their satellite locations having their own quality, environmental or other policies and manuals independent from the corporate policy and manual. This technique very often leads to major disconnect of the corporate and local policies and manuals. From the corporate identity and simply business consistency points of view, an organization should not find itself in a position of having different or conflicting commitments of its facilities to quality, environmental issues, customer satisfaction, safety hazards and other requirements of applicable standards. One of our large customers demonstrated this point well. The corporate quality policy and manual addressed majority of the requirements of applicable standards and referenced appropriate regulations. At the same time, one location did not reference required ISO 13485 standard, another missed a commitment to compliance with regulatory requirements, yet another one failed to document their quality policy all together!

As we can see, both approaches to creation of location’s manuals as copies of the corporate manuals or independent manuals do not appear to be practical. Besides, if a company has already spent time on developing a manual, why should another employee in the same organization spent more time to create a similar or duplicate document?

Corporate manuals can be used by all locations

To address this issue, let’s review, as an example, ISO 9001 quality manual model, specifically supporting document reference structure and the application clause. As a common practice, a manual references supporting documents within the text of the manual. For example, clause 5.5.1 of the manual, Responsibility and authority, may read:

QW Enterprises, LLP’s Management Team ensures that the responsibilities and authorities are defined and communicated within the organization per the Resource Management Procedure and the Organizational Chart.

The same model will also work for a multi-site organization for those documents that are used at all locations. For example, such processes as Management Review, NC-CAPA Procedure, Documentation Management Procedure, Audit Procedure, and others may be the same for all locations and therefore be referenced in the quality manual as shown above. However, what if our locations have different exclusions, use their own organizational charts, product realization procedures, and other site-specific documents? If we use the model above and want to keep a common manual, we have to reference in the manual corresponding documents for all locations which may not be practical.

Below we will explore how a corporate manual can practically reference location-specific documents to support commitments of the company’s common manual. Let’s start from referencing documents. The same reference structure as for a single-location company can be used if the number of locations is small, let’s say two or three. In this case, clause 5.5.1 of our corporate manual may state:

QW Enterprises, LLP’s Management Team ensures that the responsibilities and authorities are defined and communicated within the organization per the Resource Management Procedure, Organizational Chart HO and Organizational Chart Ontario.

This example shows references to the common Resource Management Procedure and site-specific organizational charts for the Home Office (HO) and the Ontario locations. While this model works well for a limited number of facilities, it becomes impractical when the number of locations is significant.

Manual Reference Matrix

For companies with a large number of locations, where we need to reference numerous documents including those controlled by satellite locations, we have another option. We can establish a document to connect corporate manual commitments with the site-specific supporting documents. Let’s name this document a Manual Reference Matrix and consider the following document reference structure: Corporate Manual element > Manual Reference Matrix Table of Contents (ToC) > Site-specific Manual Reference Matrix > Corresponding site-specific document. To illustrate this model, let’s document the same element 5.5.1 of our corporate manual with references to site-specific organizational charts:

QW Enterprises, LLP’s Management Team ensures that the responsibilities and authorities are defined and communicated within the organization per the Resource Management Procedure and site-specific organizational charts per the Manual Reference Matrix ToC.

This statement tells us that the company uses common Resources Management Procedure and site-specific organizational charts. To locate a site-specific organizational chart, we need to refer to the Manual Reference Matrix Table of Contents (ToC). This table of contents is simply a list of all locations’ Manual Reference Matrixes, as shown in the illustration below:

Manual Reference Matrix Table of Contents Home Office (Denver, Colorado, USA) Ontario (Canada) St. Petersburg (Russia) Guanajuato (Mexico) Port Williams (Chile)… etc,

Following the hyperlink “Ontario (Canada)” we will find a site-specific Manual Reference Matrix. Locating element 5.5.1 in the Ontario Manual Reference Matrix, we will find that Ontario location uses for this clause of the manual a document called Organizational Chart Ontario. A Manual Reference Matrix may be formatted as a three-column form. The first two columns are titled “Corporate Manual section No.” and “Corporate References”; the third column is called “Location references”. For the element 5.5.1, the Matrix indicates that manual references Organizational Chart HO for the corporate office and the Organizational Chart Ontario for the Ontario facility.

Now, when we successfully resolved the issue with referencing site-specific documents, let’s see how we can address different scopes, exclusions and other similar elements. Let’s say that our corporate office maintains an integrated management system compliant with ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004 standards. The corporate office management system satisfies all requirements of ISO 9001 standard and therefore does not declare any exclusions.

At the same time, our Ontario facility is certified to ISO 9001:2008 only and does not perform design function, therefore excluding design from its scope of certification. These differences can be documented within the same Manual Reference Matrix. Section 1.1, Purpose and scope of the matrix references ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004 standards for the corporate office, while Ontario facility references only ISO 9001:2008. Similarly, element 1.2 of the matrix, Application, states for the corporate office: “Application, QW Enterprises LLP’s Management System satisfies the full range of requirements of ISO 9001:2008 Standard.”, while for the Ontario facility this element reads: “QW Enterprises LLP’s Ontario facility does not perform design function, therefore, design is excluded from the scope for this facility.” For a sample of a Manual Reference Matrix check the link below.

Controlling Manual Reference Matrix

It is a good idea to make your Manual Reference Matrix ToC a part of your Corporate Manual. It is also beneficial to control your Manual Reference Matrix Template through the corporate documentation management system to ensure consistency of the matrix format used by different locations. Each of your facilities will use this template matrix to document their site-specific references addressing requirements of the corporate manual.

After completion of the Manual Reference Matrix by a given location, this document, as any other, will be given a document title and be released through the local documentation change process. Any changes to the corporate manual should trigger review and, if necessary, changes to the Manual Reference Matrix Template and Manual Reference Matrices of all locations.

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