10.3 Continual Improvement [ISO 9001 Procedure]

ISO 9001 requires continual improvement of your products and/or services and the effectiveness of the QMS.

Continual improvement draws together various aspects of the Quality Management System:


What Drives Continual Improvement?

Continual improvement is driven by the objectives set by Top Management. As a minimum, quality objectives should address:

  1. The improvement of internal efficiency
  2. Individual customer requirements
  3. The level of performance that your market sector expects

There is no requirement that the organization should set objectives for improvement of all its processes at any one time. It would be unrealistic to expect an organization to make progress in all potential improvements simultaneously.

5 Ways ISO 9001 improves quality.

Each improvement will require the commitment of resources, which should be prioritized by Top Management, especially if investment is required.

measuring continual improvement

How To Identify Improvement Opportunities

Continual improvement is more of a philosophy than a process or system. It requires everyone as a participant to adopt, as part of their normal work, a mind-set of continuously looking for ways to improve processes and systems, i.e. to make them more efficient and effective.

Inputs for improvement opportunities are obtained from the following sources:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer complaints and feedback
  • Market research and analysis
  • Inputs from employees, suppliers and other interested parties
  • Internal and external audits of the quality system
  • Records of product or process non-conformances
  • Data from process and product characteristics and their trends

Opportunities for improvement may also be identified on a special project basis. The following are examples of such projects:

  • Non value-added use of floor space
  • Excessive inspection/testing
  • Excessive handling and storage
  • Excessive failures and costs to quality
  • Machine set-up changeover times

Which ISO 9001 Requirements Are Effected by Continual Improvement?

Should I Document our Continual Improvement Process?

It is not a mandatory requirement to document your continual improvement process. However, you should always look to adequately define and control any operational processes that stimulate the betterment of your quality management system.

ISO document

Continual Improvement Procedure

The purpose of the Control of Continual Improvement Procedure is to define your organization’s process for establishing a philosophy of continual improvement throughout our business, which is driven by goals documented in the corporate objectives and policies.

Opportunities for improvement are identified and translated into improvement projects.

What Should You Include In Your Continual Improvement Procedure?

  • Improvement Process
  • Identifying Opportunities for Improvement
  • Analyzing Current QMS Processes
  • Identifying Issues & Problems
  • Developing Solutions
  • Tracking Metrics
  • Evaluation, Prioritization and Implementation
  • Review

Roles & Responsibilities

Develop and implement a Control of Improvement Procedure that defines the roles and responsibilities for:

  • Sourcing improvement opportunities
  • Evaluating, prioritizing and implementing improvement opportunities
  • Reporting
  • Record keeping

Opportunities for improvement in operations and processes are identified by functional managers on a continual basis from daily feedback on operations and periodic management reviews.

Opportunities for improvement of products and services are identified mainly by the Sales & Marketing Manager and the Engineering Teams.

Measuring Continual Improvement Effectiveness

Once a solution has been developed, measures and metrics will identify what can be tracked and used to determine whether or not the solution is effective.

Information from these metrics can put in place the structure for continual improvement of the action/solution taken. After the implementation of the solution has begun, the metrics are monitored on a regular basis.

The metrics will reveal whether or not the objectives of the solutions are being met.

example continual improvement procedure

Example Continual Improvement Process

  1. Select an improvement opportunity
  2. Form a team
  3. Analyse the current situation
  4. Take improvement action
  5. Study the results
  6. Standardize ad monitor solution
  7. Review Improvement Strategy
  8. Plean for the future - embrace continuous improvement

Auditors will Look for Continual Improvement

External Certification Auditors will look for evidence that your organization is analyzing data from process monitoring, and is then taking the results forward for evaluating process efficiency and/or improving process output.

One point that should be specifically examined is the consistency of the way in which the improvement of any one process contributes to meeting the overall objectives, so as to ensure that this will not conflict with the achievement of other objectives.

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Updated: 26th February 2022
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Control of Improvement Procedure

The purpose of this procedure is to define your organization’s process for establishing a philosophy of continual improvement throughout our business, which is driven by goals documented in the corporate objectives and policies.

Opportunities for improvement are identified and translated into improvement projects.

Forms & Reports also included:

  • Improvement Process Activity Map
  • Improvement Activity Form
  • Process Effectiveness Assessment Form

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