ISO 9001:2015 Clause 4.4 Quality management system and its processes

ISO 9001:2015 Requirements

4.4.1 The organization shall establish, implement, maintain and continually improve a quality management system, including the processes needed and their interactions, in accordance with the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 Standard.
The organization shall determine the processes needed for the quality management system and their application throughout the organization, and shall:

  1. determine the inputs required and the outputs expected from these processes;
  2. determine the sequence and interaction of these processes;
  3. determine and apply the criteria and methods (including monitoring, measurements and related performance indicators) needed to ensure the effective operation and control of these processes;
  4. determine the resources needed for these processes and ensure their availability;
  5. assign the responsibilities and authorities for these processes;
  6. address the risks and opportunities as determined in accordance with the requirements of 6.1;
  7. evaluate these processes and implement any changes needed to ensure that these processes achieve their intended results;
  8. improve the processes and the quality management system

4.4.2 To the extent necessary, the organization shall:

  1. maintain documented information to support the operation of its processes;
  2. retain documented information to have confidence that the processes are being carried out as planned.

1) The organization shall establish, implement, maintain and continually improve a quality management system, including the processes needed and their interactions, in accordance with the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 Standard.

This requirement emphasizes the establishment, implementation, maintenance, and continuous improvement of a Quality Management System (QMS) that complies with the ISO 9001:2015 standard. Let’s break down the key components of this requirement:

  1. Establishing a QMS: The organization must create a structured and documented Quality Management System that outlines the processes, procedures, and controls for managing quality.
  2. Implementing the QMS: The QMS should be put into practice across the organization, involving all relevant personnel in following the established processes and procedures.
  3. Maintaining the QMS: Regularly review and update the QMS to ensure its accuracy, relevance, and effectiveness. This includes adapting to changes within the organization and external factors.
  4. Continuous Improvement: Strive for ongoing improvement in the QMS and its associated processes. This involves identifying areas for enhancement and implementing corrective and preventive actions.
  5. Processes and Their Interactions: The QMS should include all necessary processes for effectively managing quality, from product design and development to customer feedback and support. These processes must be interconnected and well-coordinated to ensure seamless quality management.
  6. ISO 9001:2015 Requirements: The organization must align its QMS with the requirements specified in the ISO 9001:2015 standard. This involves understanding and implementing the standard’s principles, clauses, and guidance.
  7. Compliance and Conformance: The QMS should help the organization comply with ISO 9001:2015 requirements and demonstrate conformance through audits and assessments.
  8. Monitoring and Measurement: Regularly monitor and measure the performance of the QMS processes to ensure they are achieving their intended results and meeting quality objectives.
  9. Documented Information: The QMS processes and their interactions, along with quality policies, procedures, and records, should be documented to provide clear guidance and evidence of compliance.
  10. Leadership Involvement: – Organizational leadership plays a vital role in promoting and supporting the establishment, implementation, maintenance, and improvement of the QMS.
  11. Employee Involvement: – All employees should be engaged in following the QMS processes and contributing to its continuous improvement.
  12. Customer Focus: – The QMS should be designed to enhance customer satisfaction by consistently delivering products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations

.By adhering to this requirement, organizations ensure that they have a robust framework in place for managing quality effectively, meeting customer needs, and driving continuous improvement. The QMS serves as the foundation for a culture of quality within the organization and contributes to its long-term success. The processes needed for a Quality Management System (QMS) can vary depending on the organization’s industry, size, and specific operations. However, the ISO 9001:2015 standard provides a framework for identifying and defining these processes. The standard does not prescribe specific processes but outlines requirements for establishing, implementing, and maintaining a QMS. Below are some key processes commonly found in a QMS, along with their application throughout the organization:

1. Risk-Based Thinking and Context Analysis:

  • Identify and analyze internal and external factors that could affect the QMS.
  • Determine risks and opportunities to ensure proactive management.

2. Leadership and Management Responsibility:

  • Define quality policy and objectives.
  • Allocate resources, assign responsibilities, and demonstrate commitment to quality.

3. Customer Requirements Management:

  • Understand and document customer needs and expectations.
  • Translate these into product or service requirements.

4. Design and Development (if applicable):

  • Create a systematic approach to designing and developing products or services.
  • Ensure designs meet customer requirements and regulatory standards.

5. Supplier and External Provider Management:

  • Select and monitor suppliers based on their ability to meet quality requirements.
  • Maintain effective communication with external partners.

6. Document and Record Control:

  • Establish procedures for creating, updating, and managing documents and records.
  • Ensure access to accurate and up-to-date information.

7. Process Control and Monitoring:

  • Establish control measures for each critical process.
  • Monitor process performance, identify deviations, and take corrective actions.

8. Nonconformity and Corrective Action:

  • Establish a procedure to identify, assess, and address nonconformities.
  • Implement corrective actions to prevent recurrence.

9. Internal Auditing:

  • Conduct systematic audits of processes and the QMS to ensure compliance.
  • Identify areas for improvement and follow up on corrective actions.

10. Management Review:

  • Regularly assess the performance of the QMS and its alignment with organizational goals.
  • Use the results to drive improvements and make informed decisions.

11. Measurement and Analysis:

  • Establish methods for collecting and analyzing data related to product quality and process performance.
  • Use data to track trends, set targets, and drive improvement efforts.

12. Continuous Improvement:

  • Encourage a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Use data-driven insights to identify opportunities for enhancing processes and products.

13. Customer Feedback and Satisfaction:

  • Collect customer feedback and assess satisfaction levels.
  • Use feedback to make necessary improvements and address customer concerns.

14. Training and Competence Development:

  • Identify training needs for employees.
  • Provide necessary training to ensure competence in performing tasks.

15. Communication and Internal Reporting:

  • Establish effective communication channels to share quality-related information.
  • Encourage transparency and prompt reporting of quality-related issues.

These processes should be tailored to the organization’s specific context, objectives, and industry requirements. They work together to create a structured and systematic approach to quality management that permeates all levels and functions within the organization.

2) The organization shall determine the processes needed for the quality management system and their application throughout the organization

Determining the processes needed for the Quality Management System (QMS) and their application throughout the organization involves a systematic approach that aligns with the organization’s goals, products, services, and context. The ISO 9001:2015 standard emphasizes a process-based approach to quality management. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how the organization can determine the processes needed for the QMS and apply them throughout the organization:

  • Understand Organizational Context: Begin by understanding the organization’s internal and external context, including its size, industry, products, services, and stakeholders.
  • Identify Interested Parties and Requirements: Identify relevant interested parties, such as customers, suppliers, employees, and regulators. Determine their requirements and expectations related to products, services, and quality.
  • Define QMS Objectives: Establish quality objectives aligned with the organization’s strategic goals and customer needs.
  • Map Out Core Processes: Identify the key processes involved in delivering products and services. Map out the sequence of activities for each process.
  • Determine Process Interactions: Understand how processes interact with each other. Identify inputs, outputs, and dependencies between processes.
  • Assess Risks and Opportunities: Evaluate the risks and opportunities associated with each process. Consider potential impacts on product quality, customer satisfaction, and organizational goals.
  • Consider Compliance Requirements: Identify legal, regulatory, and industry-specific requirements that impact processes. Ensure processes adhere to these requirements.
  • Define Process Objectives and Measures: Define specific objectives for each process that align with QMS objectives. Develop measurable performance indicators for monitoring process effectiveness.
  • Allocate Responsibilities: Assign roles and responsibilities for managing and executing each process. Ensure clear ownership and accountability.
  • Develop Process Documentation: Create documented procedures, work instructions, and process flowcharts for each process. Ensure these documents are clear, accessible, and regularly updated.
  • Establish Performance Measurement: Set up mechanisms to collect and analyze data related to process performance. Monitor process metrics and identify trends.
  • Implement Continuous Improvement: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement within the organization. Regularly review process performance data and identify areas for enhancement.
  • Training and Competence Development: Ensure employees are trained and competent in executing their assigned processes. Provide necessary training and development opportunities.
  • Communication and Awareness: Communicate process objectives, expectations, and changes to relevant personnel. Foster awareness of the importance of each process in achieving overall quality goals.
  • Review and Validation: Periodically review and validate the effectiveness of each process. Use results to identify improvement opportunities.

By following these steps, the organization can systematically identify, define, implement, and continually improve the processes needed for its QMS. This approach ensures that quality management is integrated throughout the organization and aligned with its strategic objectives and customer expectations.

3) Determine the inputs required and the outputs expected from these processes;

The organization should determine the inputs and outputs for processes within the quality management system by first understanding the process requirements, identifying stakeholders, and defining clear process objectives. Through process mapping, the organization can then identify necessary inputs, including materials, data, resources, and specifications, while also defining desired outputs such as products, reports, documentation, and improvements. Regulatory compliance, risk assessment, and continuous improvement considerations should guide this determination. Effective communication, training, monitoring, and alignment with organizational goals are essential for ensuring consistent application of these inputs and outputs across the organization, fostering quality, efficiency, and stakeholder satisfaction.

4) Determine the sequence and interaction of these processes

Determining the sequence and interaction of processes within a quality management system (QMS) is essential to ensure a smooth and efficient flow of activities. The organization should determine the sequence and interaction of processes within the QMS by considering the logical order of activities, dependencies, and relationships. Begin by mapping out the flow of activities for each process, identifying where inputs from one process are required as inputs for another. Pay attention to process dependencies and potential bottlenecks. Ensure that outputs from one process align with the inputs of subsequent processes, maintaining a coherent and value-adding chain of activities. Regular cross-functional collaboration and feedback loops can help refine and optimize the process sequence over time. Additionally, utilize process flowcharts or diagrams to visualize and communicate the interconnections effectively, fostering a shared understanding across the organization and promoting seamless collaboration.

5) Determine and apply the criteria and methods (including monitoring, measurements and related performance indicators) needed to ensure the effective operation and control of these processes;

To determine and apply the criteria and methods for ensuring effective operation and control of processes within a quality management system (QMS), the organization should identify the critical criteria and methods that are essential for measuring and controlling the effectiveness of each process. This includes defining specific quality standards, requirements, specifications, and guidelines that need to be met. Define relevant performance indicators that allow you to quantitatively or qualitatively measure the success and efficiency of each process. These indicators should align with the process objectives and organizational goals. Implement a system for monitoring and measuring the process performance indicators. This involves collecting data and information related to the process activities, outputs, and outcomes. Use a combination of qualitative and quantitative data to gain a comprehensive view. Establish acceptable limits and tolerances for each performance indicator. This helps you determine whether the process is operating within acceptable parameters and producing the desired outcomes. Periodically review and analyze the collected data to assess process performance. Compare the actual results against the established criteria and limits. This analysis can uncover trends, anomalies, and opportunities for improvement. If discrepancies or deviations are identified during the review, implement appropriate corrective actions. These actions could involve adjusting processes, reallocating resources, or refining methodologies to bring the process back into compliance and alignment with the desired outcomes. Utilize the data and insights gathered from the monitoring and measurement activities to drive continuous improvement. Identify areas where processes can be optimized, streamlined, or enhanced to achieve better results. Document the criteria, methods, indicators, monitoring activities, and measurement results as part of your QMS documentation. This information provides a historical record and supports transparency and accountability. Ensure that employees involved in executing and controlling processes are adequately trained and competent in using the chosen methods and tools for measurement and monitoring. Foster collaboration between different departments and teams to ensure that the criteria and methods applied align with the organization’s overall goals and objectives. This can lead to a more comprehensive and holistic approach. Leverage appropriate technology, such as software systems and automation tools, to facilitate efficient monitoring, data collection, analysis, and reporting. Establish feedback loops where process owners, stakeholders, and relevant parties can provide insights and suggestions for improving the criteria, methods, and performance indicators over time.

6) Determine the resources needed for these processes and ensure their availability

The organization should determine the resources needed for its processes within the quality management system by conducting a comprehensive assessment of the requirements specific to each process, including personnel, equipment, facilities, materials, and technology. This assessment should consider factors such as process complexity, volume, and criticality. Once identified, the organization should establish resource allocation plans that outline the necessary resources and ensure their availability through effective resource management practices, such as workforce planning, procurement strategies, maintenance schedules, and technology investments. Regular monitoring, performance evaluations, and alignment with organizational goals are essential to maintaining the availability of resources required for smooth and efficient process operations within the QMS.

7) Assign the responsibilities and authorities for these processes

The organization assigns responsibilities and authorities for processes within the quality management system by first designating process owners who oversee the entire process. Clear roles and responsibilities are defined for individuals involved, considering their expertise and position within the organizational structure. These roles are documented in the quality management system documentation to ensure clarity and communication. Training and competence requirements are established to ensure individuals can perform their tasks effectively. Cross-functional collaboration ensures seamless process interactions, while performance evaluations and regular reviews maintain accountability and support adaptation to changing organizational needs.

8) Address the risks and opportunities

To address the risks and opportunities associated with processes within the quality management system, the organization should undertake a systematic risk assessment and opportunity identification process. This involves evaluating potential risks that could impact process performance, product/service quality, and customer satisfaction, as well as recognizing opportunities for process improvement and innovation. Utilizing tools such as risk matrices, SWOT analyses, and scenario planning, the organization can prioritize and develop mitigation strategies for identified risks, while also capitalizing on opportunities to enhance efficiency and achieve better outcomes. Regular reviews, adjustments to risk mitigation plans, and a proactive approach to seizing opportunities contribute to a resilient and adaptable quality management system that aligns with organizational objectives.

9) Evaluate these processes and implement any changes needed to ensure that these processes achieve their intended results

The organization should evaluate these processes within the quality management system by measuring key performance indicators, comparing results against predefined criteria and objectives, and analyzing trends and deviations. Regular reviews, audits, and assessments allow for identifying areas of improvement or non-conformities. When changes are needed, a systematic approach is taken: the organization reviews root causes, develops corrective or preventive actions, and implements changes through documented procedures. The effectiveness of these changes is monitored, and adjustments are made as necessary. This cycle of evaluation, change implementation, and monitoring is repeated to ensure that processes consistently achieve their intended results, align with quality standards, and contribute to continuous improvement.

10) Improve the processes and the quality management system

The organization can continuously improve processes and the quality management system by fostering a culture of innovation and learning. This involves regularly analyzing process performance data, customer feedback, and market trends to identify areas for enhancement. Encouraging employee engagement and involvement in suggesting improvements, and utilizing methodologies like Lean, Six Sigma, or Total Quality Management can streamline processes and eliminate waste. Periodic management reviews assess the effectiveness of the quality management system, leading to strategic adjustments. Embracing emerging technologies, benchmarking against industry best practices, and seeking certifications like ISO standards can further drive system-wide improvements, ensuring that the organization remains adaptable, customer-focused, and competitive.

11) Maintain documented information to support the operation of its processes

The organization should maintain documented information to support the operation of its processes through a structured and systematic approach. This involves:

  1. Identify Information Needs: Determine what types of information are required to support each process within the quality management system. This could include procedures, work instructions, specifications, guidelines, forms, templates, and records.
  2. Document Creation: Develop clear and concise documented information for each process. Ensure that it accurately reflects the steps, requirements, and expectations for executing the process effectively.
  3. Version Control: Establish version control mechanisms to track changes to documented information over time. This prevents confusion and ensures that employees are using the most up-to-date and accurate information.
  4. Centralized Repository: Create a centralized repository or document management system where all relevant documented information is stored. This makes it easily accessible to authorized personnel and reduces the risk of using outdated documents.
  5. Access and Distribution: Control access to the documented information based on roles and responsibilities. Ensure that employees who need the information can access it, while maintaining security and confidentiality.
  6. Training and Awareness: Provide training to employees on how to use and interpret the documented information. Ensure that employees are aware of where to find the information they need to perform their tasks.
  7. Regular Review: Establish a schedule for reviewing and updating documented information. This ensures that the information remains accurate and relevant as processes evolve.
  8. Change Management: Implement a formal change management process for making updates to documented information. Changes should be reviewed, approved, and communicated effectively to relevant stakeholders.
  9. Retention and Disposal: Define retention periods for different types of documented information based on regulatory requirements and organizational needs. Dispose of outdated or unnecessary documents in a secure and compliant manner.
  10. Searchability and Usability: Ensure that documented information is organized in a way that makes it easy to search and retrieve. Use consistent naming conventions, categorization, and indexing.
  11. Linkages: Establish linkages between different documents, processes, and relevant information. This helps users navigate through interconnected information effectively.
  12. Audit and Compliance: Maintain documented information in a manner that supports internal and external audits. Ensure that the documented information provides a clear audit trail of process execution and compliance.

By following these steps, the organization can establish a well-organized, accessible, and up-to-date repository of documented information that supports the operation of its processes within the quality management system.

12) Retain documented information to have confidence that the processes are being carried out as planned.

The organization can retain documented information to have confidence that processes are being carried out as planned by adhering to a systematic approach. This involves securely storing records, procedures, and other relevant documents in a centralized repository with clear version control and access restrictions. Regularly reviewing and updating documented information ensures its accuracy and relevance. Implementing audit trails and maintaining historical records of process execution, outcomes, and changes fosters transparency and accountability. By aligning documented information with the organization’s quality management system, adhering to retention policies, and utilizing technology for efficient information management, the organization can confidently verify that processes are being executed in accordance with established plans and procedures.

Document Information Required

There is no mandatory requirement for any document Information but it does emphasize the need for documented information to effectively operate and control processes. Here’s a general overview of the documents and records that are typically associated with this clause:

  1. Quality Manual (Optional): While ISO 9001:2015 no longer requires a formal quality manual, some organizations still choose to have one. A quality manual provides an overview of the organization’s QMS, including its processes and how they interact.
  2. Scope of the QMS: Document that defines the boundaries and application of the QMS, specifying what processes are included and excluded.
  3. Process Documentation: Documents that outline the processes within the QMS, including their objectives, scope, inputs, outputs, sequence, and interactions. This could include process maps, flowcharts, and written procedures.
  4. Work Instructions: Detailed instructions for executing specific tasks within processes, providing step-by-step guidance to ensure consistency and quality.
  5. Process Performance Criteria and Indicators: Documents that establish the criteria for measuring the performance of processes, including key performance indicators (KPIs) used to monitor their effectiveness.
  6. Risk and Opportunity Assessments: Documentation related to risk and opportunity assessments for each process, including identification, analysis, and mitigation strategies.
  7. Training Records: Documentation of employee training, competencies, and qualifications relevant to carrying out specific processes effectively.
  8. Documented Information Control: Procedures for controlling the creation, revision, approval, distribution, and archiving of documented information within the QMS.
  9. Monitoring and Measurement Records: Records of monitoring and measurement activities conducted to assess process performance, including data collected and analysis results.
  10. Corrective and Preventive Action Records: Records of actions taken to address non-conformities, deviations, and opportunities for improvement identified during process execution.
  11. Management Review Records: Records of management review meetings that assess the overall performance of the QMS and its processes, including decisions and actions taken.
  12. Internal Audit Records: Records of internal audits conducted to verify compliance with processes and identify areas for improvement.
  13. Supplier and Contractor Documentation: Documentation related to the evaluation, selection, monitoring, and performance of suppliers and contractors involved in processes.

Remember, the specific documents and records required can vary based on the organization’s size, complexity, industry, and the nature of its processes. It’s important to tailor the documentation to meet your organization’s needs and to ensure compliance with ISO 9001:2015 requirements.

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