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Integrated Management Systems – Are you reaping the benefits?

Streamlining your existing management systems into an integrated business management system will improve efficiency of audit activities and reduce duplication of effort.

Business Benefits of an Integrated Management System (IMS)

An efficient and effective management system is essential to ensure that the processes carried out by an organisation will assure achievement of its established objectives and deliver business success. This management system is the combination of policies, methods, resources and equipment needed to provide effective control of each process and although organisations often document and refer to these as separate ‘quality’, ‘environmental’ or ‘health & safety’ management systems, a multi-disciplined process approach provides far greater business benefits across the whole organisation.

"Separate management systems run the risk of being inefficient and include duplication of effort," observes Jeff Beer, BywaterExcel’s ISO 9001 and IMS Auditor tutor. "Organisations can benefit from a range of opportunities that a combined or integrated business management system, based upon the organisation's business processes, can bring," Jeff suggests. These benefits include:

  • A management system that reflects the business processes of the organisation rather than the requirements of individual management system standards
  • A single set of system documentation to provide a single point of reference, reducing duplication Information limited to that required to achieve business objectives
  • An ability to demonstrate compliance with multiple system standards with one defined management system
  • Reduced resources needed to develop and maintain the system
  • No duplication or conflicting system requirements
  • Reduced risk of confusion or lack of interest/use amongst staff

Such a multi-disciplined approach allows organisations to streamline their audit activities based on business priorities; make more efficient use of resources; improve communication and expand in-house knowledge; and optimise operational processes – all of which reduce costs and have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Synergies Between the 3 Key Standards: ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001

The requirements within the quality, environmental and occupational health and safety management system standards include many common elements that lend themselves to the development of one integrated business management system. These similarities include:

  • The principle of applying a systematic approach to management
  • The application of the plan, do, check, act approach to achieve continual improvement
  • The requirement to identify and demonstrate compliance with relevant legal requirements
  • The requirement to establish and communicate clear policies and measurable objectives to demonstrate management commitment and performance achievement
  • Common clause requirements such as responsibilities & authorities, personnel competency, effective communication, document control, control of issues (nonconformities), internal audit, corrective action, preventive action and management review

Some of these clause requirements will change as the standards are revised (ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 due in September 2015) to bring them in line with Annex SL. This new common structure on which all ISO standards will be based will greatly improve the ease with which these standards can be incorporated into an integrated system, particularly with the focus on risk-based thinking.

Challenges for Auditors of Integrated Management Systems

Each of these three key management system standards requires a programme of internal audits and these are traditionally conducted separately by quality, environmental or health & safety auditors. ISO 19011:2011 contains the principles for auditing, guidance for managing audit programmes and how to perform audits, and guidance on the competence and evaluation of auditors. This guidance is generic, not discipline specific, and so is equally relevant to audits of integrated business management systems.

Streamlining the planning and prioritisation of audits based on business objectives and risk will improve the efficiency of the overall audit programme. Auditors of integrated business management systems do face additional challenges however. These could include the need to have:

  • A broader understanding of business processes and risk-based thinking
  • A multi-discipline knowledge base, e.g. quality, environment, health and safety Increased risk awareness
  • Varied approaches to auditing
  • Increased awareness/understanding of relevant legislation
  • Additional time for audit preparation, performance and reporting

Avoiding the ‘3 most common mistakes’ when implementing or auditing an integrated management system

There are many traps, pitfalls and mistakes that can be made - and therefore need to be avoided! - when developing, implementing and auditing an integrated business management system.

A common mistake often made when developing an integrated business management system is by documenting the system in the structure of the individual clause requirements of each of the standards rather than the actual business processes of the organisation. Although there is a common clause numbering structure within the current versions of ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001, this is completely different to the clause numbering structure within ISO 9001. And with these standards being revised to the new common structure, existing clause based systems will soon become obsolete and require updating.

When implementing an integrated business management system, organisations can make the mistake of focusing on the documentation of the system, instead of involving the organisation’s personnel to ensure its relevance, application and understanding throughout the organisation. All too often documentation is excessive, too generic, ‘off-the-shelf’ and not applicable to the operations within the business.

A common mistake for auditing these integrated systems is that the audits become superficial and too generic and lose focus on the individual and key requirements for quality, the environment and occupational health & safety. Organisations need to ensure sufficient time is given for the performance of these audits and resist the temptation to cut audit time or resources too dramatically.

BywaterExcel offers a 2-day Integrated Management Systems (IMS) Auditor training course that develops delegates’ auditing skills to plan, prepare and manage an integrated management system audit based on the 3 key standards. In addition, our 1-day IMS Overview course explores common requirements of the management system standards and the benefits of an IMS. For further details of these training courses, please call our Training team on 0333 123 9001 or email us at training@bywaterexcel.co.uk.