In January 2018 Pluscrates Wembley became ISO 9001 accredited. After months of hard work, research, meetings, and paper-work, the auditor had checked everything, and we had passed!
There was a massive sigh of relief from myself, and the rest of the management team. A huge weight had been lifted, and I felt great about our successful accreditations – that also meant I would have to roll out ISO:9001 to the rest of our UK depots over the coming months. Which meant a lot more; travel, hard work, meetings, and paperwork on my horizon.
We started with our London Head-office for many reasons, head-office is the most crucial depot to have the ISO accreditation, but it also meant that we would be getting the biggest challenge out of the way first, so the other depots should prove slightly easier. Slightly.
Being based in the London, Wembley office, also made it easier to devote the time needed to the implementation and It gave me the practice required to roll it out to the other depots in a more efficient manner.
We are in our 10th year, with our 10th anniversary approaching fast, we thought that finally achieving ISO:9001 status would be a nice milestone to coincide with it.
The truth is, the ISO:9001 accreditation has been on our radar since we started in 2008, but sometimes life, and business have other ideas.
Our initial business plan mapped out an ISO accreditation plan which started with the London depot and then over the next few years, gradually open new locations across the UK, while gaining ISO for those also.
But our business took off even quicker than predicted, with our first mantra ringing true for many more commercial removals companies than we had anticipated. We wanted to return “quality crate hire to the UK market,” and the UK market wanted quality crate hire too.
With the quick expansion of the business, and our full UK coverage happening much quicker than we had planned (all of our five existing depots were opened within 18 months of Head Office), we had to put a few of our plans on the back-burner. We were just too busy keeping our new customers happy.
Fast forward ten years, and we have a renewed desire to get ISO:9001 for our anniversary. We have a good team across all our UK depots, and things are running smoothly. I am given the go-ahead to take some time off from my day-to-day duties to pursue this project.
Where do I start?
Firstly, I Google ISO accreditation and look into the how and how much of it all. There are plenty of businesses out there that can help you for a price, but as is often the case, there is just so much choice, it becomes hard to know where to start.
I decided to try a different approach and began looking at our customers, and some non-customers that proudly display their ISO:9001 accreditation. I did what many people do in this situation, and asked for recommendations.
I was given a recommendation, about an ISO consultant that was very helpful. The recommendation came with a glowing review, and that was a great place to start.
Reaching out to my new contact was a little scary, but I was immediately put at ease when she replied and after a brief discussion, I was convinced that she was the consultant for us. The ball was rolling.
What Does ISO Stand For?
ISO stands for ‘International Organization for Standardization’, and was created as a way to standardise the requirements of a business so that if you operate a business, and you want to use another business, you know that they adhere to a certain level of quality and best practice. Or as the ISO website states:
“The ISO 9001 family addresses various aspects of quality management and contains some of ISO’s best-known standards. The standards provide guidance and tools for companies and organizations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements and that quality is consistently improved.”
ISO 9001 deals with the fundamentals of quality management systems, including the seven quality management principles upon which the family of standards is based. ISO 9001 deals with the requirements that organizations, wishing to meet the standard, must fulfil.
What is ISO:9001?
ISO 9001 is the most recognised quality management standard in the world! It is currently used in over one million organisations globally.
It provides a management framework to improve business practices and helps you to provide services and products that meet your customers’ expectations.
Some of the principals you may already do on a day to day basis, but ISO:9001 certified means other businesses that may want to work with you instantly know that you adhere to that level of quality.
What are the benefits of ISO 9001 accreditation?
The process of gaining ISO:9001 is not complicated, and once I started working on it, it became apparent that most of the aspects were already being carried out and taken care of.
ISO:9001 gives a company the ability to bring all services, service centres, depots, staff teams, as well as all suppliers in line with your standards. This ensures good quality of customer service irrespective of which depot and which member of staff you are dealing with.
It can also highlight areas of business which you may have overlooked in the past or which need a little work to bring them inline. Gaining accreditation is a great way to ‘get your house in order’, have a clear out of any obsolete processes, procedures and paperwork and to implement new, more efficient and robust processes and procedures. And to ensure that all staff across all depots are informed and up to date.
Once I had my first meeting with the ISO consultant, my initial feelings were confirmed, our consultant was not happy to merely do the work for us, her job was to work with us to ensure that the standards, policies and procedures were tailored to our business and not merely replicated from previous companies. We discussed how to roll ISO out company-wide, and how she could help. Either taking on full responsibility to get us up to certification or if we would manage it ourselves, with a helping hand and directions from the consultant.
Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to take in the project myself.
The first step was getting our London head office up to specification, as that is where I am based. Though there is a lot of work involved in the process, the day to day wouldn’t change much, as we adhered and exceeded most of the requirements, we just needed evidence and a better file structure to show evidence.
The majority of work goes through the head office too, so once this was complete, I would be able to send a workbook to the other depots to start the work, and plan visits to make sure the work was understood and to help with any issues in rolling it out.
A few months, expensive train tickets, and coffees later, the work was complete. My internal audits were finished, and it was over to the real auditors for the final approval.
I was tense waiting for each verdict, but I am happy to report that we now have all depots ISO 9001 certified.
If you have any questions about ISO certification, or if you want a tip on a great consultant, then feel free to get in touch.
Time for a holiday.