This is something I come across sometimes when I audit smaller companies. For example, last week I visited a shipping consultancy that has about 8 people working for them. Here’s the workflow – a phone call from someone somewhere in the UK, Europe or the world from a ship’s captain. “I’ve just hit the side of a jetty with my 50,000 tonne tanker and I think it may be an insurance job”. The person in the consultancy logs the call and brief details in the book and gives the work a sequential reference number. This is unique and enables that number to be quoted on emails, invoices and any other document. The surveyor then gets out to wherever the problem is – Harwich, Immingham, Teeside, Copenhagen or wherever. That person then does an investigation and writes a report. He then liaises with the port authority, the ship owner, the insurance company and acts as a middle man to whom these parties use as a reference point. The company are agents of Lloyds, so work to high standards as they have done for the last 130 years.
By flow charting what they already do, the company can easily develop an effective management system. They don’t really need one, because their work involves using their own expertise and competence to sort out a problem (usually which involves ships, harbours, cargo mishaps or similar issues). Each problem is unique, so it is impossible to write a procedure for this. A simple process flow which describes the creation of a job number, a report, terms and conditions and the report is all that is required.
They decided to go for ISO 9001:2015 because there are new potential customers (wind farms, energy companies) and it makes sense for them to show their credentials when bidding for work, especially as they are not as well known to the energy generation companies as they are to existing shipping clients.
Some other bits of ISO 9001:2015 proved to be an eye opener. Context, interested parties, business risk all proved to lead the management review towards interesting new opportunities. Yes, they already knew about them, but the opportunity to discuss and record this proved quite useful, especially the discussions about business risk and exploring new markets. They intend to add health & safety and environment and create an integrated management system in the future.
Most companies could benefit from a management system, but only if the system is tailored to the exact needs of the business and adds value and helps the business mitigate risk and achieve it’s objectives. Many SME’s may not need a management system to simply operate, but having one helps to formalise their key activities and to formally meet, discuss and agree actions that could ultimately prove to be worth their weight in gold.
The expert auditor should help them achieve this.
John Marsden 29th March 2017