Best Practices to Maintain ISO Certification for your Business

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Published on: June 12, 2024

Achieving ISO Certification is a significant milestone for any organisation. Navigating the complexities of ISO Management System Standards can be especially challenging, often requiring dedicated resources and expertise. Small and medium organisations can find themselves at a disadvantage compared to larger businesses, struggling to have the in-house expertise to manage the ongoing activities required once Certified to ISO Standards. 

While the initial euphoria of achieving Certification may tempt organisations to relax their efforts, it’s important to know the journey doesn’t end with Certification — it’s only the beginning of a continuous process of improvement and adherence to internationally recognised standards. Renewing and practices to maintain ISO Certification demands ongoing activities and adherence to best practices; after all, it represents your business’s commitment to continual improvement.

Without diligent management, the benefits of ISO Certification can quickly fade, leaving businesses exposed to non-conformances and other potential risks to their Certification. Thus, implementing best practices for maintaining ISO certification is not just essential but urgent to safeguard your business investment — both in terms of time and finances — and to maximise the value of certification over time.

The Best Practices To Maintain ISO Certification

In this article, we’ll be exploring the best practices to maintain ISO Certification for your business:

Risks of neglecting ongoing ISO Certification management activities

Upon achieving ISO Certification, there’s often a sense of relief and accomplishment, prompting many to take a well-deserved break. However, this can inadvertently lead to a lapse in attention towards the ongoing governance of your Management System.
Months may pass without updates, and before you know it, the first Surveillance Audit is here. This will add unnecessary stress for you and your team. Details may be missed or tasks may not be completed properly, and all of that could be enough to cause service and productivity issues, non-conformances and complaints, all while the documented information fails to keep up.

Overlooking required ongoing management activities may result in the following:

  • Failure to address issues and maintain compliance.
  • Operational inefficiencies and risks of mistakes, as processes become outdated and ineffective.
  • Wasted resources and missed opportunities for improvement.
  • Ultimately, loss of Certification, as neglecting ongoing management activities can lead to non-conformances raised in your annual Audits.
maintain iso certification

Such a scenario not only poses a significant challenge for the organisation but also results in additional expenses, both directly and indirectly, in rectifying the situation and getting back on track to maintain ISO certification. The financial implications of failing an Audit or losing your ISO Certification can be substantial, further underscoring the importance of ongoing management activities.

Expert Tip

Download our free Certification Management Calendar tool to learn more about regular ISO activities required for each day, week, month, and more.

The Certification Process: A recap

Before delving into the ongoing management activities, let’s briefly recap the Certification process for ISO Standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 45001, ISO 14001, and ISO 27001. Certification is typically granted for a period of three years, following the successful completion of initial certification audits conducted by an accredited Conformity Assessment Body (CAB), your Certifier.

Once Certification is achieved, the business will need to undergo yearly Surveillance Audits and a Re-certification Audit in the third year of Certification. This means that your Certifier will visit each year for new audits, ensuring your system is kept up-to-date and that all required ongoing activities are completed and documented.

Recap of ISO Certification Process

Best practices for ongoing ISO Certification management

Navigating the complexities of maintaining Certification to ISO Management System Standards demands a strategic approach. Here are some best requirements and practices to maintain ISO Certification:

1. Management Review & Business Planning Update

Regular management reviews are essential to assess the effectiveness of your Management System and update strategic plans accordingly. This includes revisiting the Organisation and Management System goals, reviewing frameworks and tools like SWOT and PESTLE analyses, as well as reviewing risk assessments and other key business planning documentation and results. Keeping these documents up-to-date ensures the Management System is meeting its objectives and should continue to do so.

2. Cultivate a Culture of Quality and Continual Improvement

Quality should be ingrained in the organisational culture, with every employee committed to upholding the ISO standard(s) best practices. Training programs, communication channels, and recognition initiatives can foster a culture where quality and continual improvement become a shared commitment. When the organisation embodies that mindset, it becomes easier to keep the Management System current and embedded within the organisation’s processes.

3. Establish Robust Documentation Processes

This is a fundamental requirement of the ISO Management System Standards. The business should implement robust processes for managing documentation control. This includes ensuring that documentation such as processes, procedures, templates, and so forth are named accordingly, and that version controls and access permissions are in place to maintain the integrity and accessibility of critical documentation.

4. Monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Monitoring KPIs allow businesses to track operational and financial performance, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions. Establishing relevant KPIs aligned with your objectives enables the organisation to measure progress towards the business goals.

5. Stay Abreast of Regulatory Changes

The regulatory landscape is constantly evolving, requiring businesses to stay informed about changes to ISO Standards, industry and regulations updates. Subscribing to industry newsletters, participating in professional forums, and engaging with regulatory bodies can provide valuable insights into upcoming changes.

6. Foster Supplier and Customer Relationships

ISO Certification extends beyond the organisation’s boundaries, encompassing suppliers and customers. Cultivating collaborative relationships with stakeholders ensures alignment with ISO principles throughout the supply chain, enhancing transparency and mitigating risks. Ensure relationships with suppliers are regularly assessed, and that customer satisfaction is measured, with feedback reviewed and addressed if needed.

7. Check Up on Open Issues

Issues that occur in the business need to be documented and addressed. Regularly reviewing and addressing open issues is critical to maintaining ISO certification. For example, failure to resolve non-conformances and improvement opportunities can escalate into a major non-conformance, therefore jeopardising your Certification.

8. Conduct Regular Internal Audits

Regular internal audits are essential for maintaining ISO Certification and ensuring the effectiveness of management systems. According to ISO Standards requirements, audits must be conducted by trained, competent, and independent individuals to ensure effectiveness and objectivity. These audits assess the relevance of processes and documentation, bridging the gap between theory and practice. 

A comprehensive internal audit schedule, covering system requirements against the relevant ISO standards, ensures focused evaluations. By identifying issues and driving business improvement, internal audits play a crucial role in enhancing organisational effectiveness and compliance, while maintaining Certification.

The Role of Management System Consultants

Partnering with professional ISO Management System Consultants like our team at ISO Certification Experts can provide valuable support in navigating the complexities of ISO conformance. We offer expertise in the interpretation, implementation, and optimisation of Management Systems to meet the relevant ISO Standards requirements, ensuring ongoing Certification success.

At ISO Certification Experts, we have diverse options and packages for certification ongoing support to suit your business needs. By engaging with our experienced professional consultants, you can:

  • Always be audit-ready, ensuring you’re prepared for the yearly audits conducted by your Certifier
  • Save time and resources by leveraging expert guidance and support
  • Benefit from unbiased perspectives and recommendations for continual improvement

The best practices to maintain ISO Certification require a proactive approach, ongoing commitment, and adherence to best practices. Leveraging the expertise of expert consultants can empower you to streamline the process and ensure long-term Certification success, in addition to enjoying all the ISO Management System and Certification benefits.

Call us now on 1300 614 007 or book your online FREE Strategy Session to find out more about our options and packages for certification ongoing support services for your business.

About the author

Managing Director at ISO Certification Experts

Erica is the Managing Director of ISO Certification Experts and ICExperts Academy. She has been helping businesses with their ISO Certification needs for over 20 years. Erica is also a Certified trainer, implementer and auditor for the ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001 and ISO 27001 standards. Erica primarily heads up the day-to-day operations of the businesses, and is also a current member of the Standards Australia Committees: QR-008 Quality Systems and ISO 9001 Quality Management Brand Integrity.

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