Q: My small company is forcing me in the direction of using flowcharts to specify ISO standards. With their many branch statements, they are convoluted and confusing. I prefer plain, simple English. But my question is: is it ok to use flowcharts to specify ISO 9001 standards?
A: Actually, as long as you do not intend to become registered (also called certified), you can – and probably should – implement the ISO 9001:2008 Quality management systems–Requirements standard any way you want! I happen to like flowcharts, as long as they are limited to one page and fewer than a dozen boxes.
But if you intend to become registered, the registrar you choose will always require you to explain how you are implementing the concepts contained in ISO 9001. Most firms choose to call this explanation document a quality manual. You do not repeat the words in the ISO 9001, rather you say how you intend to implement the concepts locally. A manual should be site-specific and about 50-60 pages. Some have written them in 20 pages.
Once you have the framework (manual) in place for the system, then you need to write procedures for the processes. Remember, procedures are job performance aids for an already-trained and qualified person. They should be about five to six pages, since the individual already knows how to perform the tasks.
The powers that be in your company want these procedures to be in the form of flowcharts. That’s OK, as long as you have explained this in your manual. The registration company accepts your manual before they ever send an auditor to your site. If they have accepted your description of flowcharts instead of procedures, then the auditor must accept that approach.
The whole point is to provide information to the person doing the job in a way that is useful. Written standard operating procedures (SOPs), or flowcharts, or pictures. It is the implementation that matters.
The Audit Guy
Columbia Audit Resources
For more on this topic, please visit ASQ’s website.