Should I use a Quality Manual template?

A balanced overview of the potential pros and cons of using a templated management system, rather than hiring an expert ISO consultant to create a bespoke system.

Quality Manual and management system templates are widely available for any and every business that may want a helping hand in getting their system up and running. But before you splash out on a template, are you sure it'll be the right move for your business, long term? SQMC are long-established purveyors of bespoke, consultant-led management systems and we champion this approach, first and foremost. However, it behooves us to consider the supposed theory and reality of a templated approach, and this article is designed solely to help you make an informed decision.


It defines the project's scope

In theory: Establishing the documentation expectations for both top management and the QHSE Manager and staff. Top management will be expected to provide the resources needed to cover any processes in their company, as well as plan and assign tasks for ISO certification.

In reality: The However, does one size fit all, or are you left trying to make what you do fit into someone else’s idea of what it should look like and what process it should follow?

Get moving quicker

In theory: A management system takes a lot of time and attention to learn at first. The majority of the time, it takes more than one person to find out what your business needs and how to start it. Using a template is a great way to get started. You don't have to think about how to do it, and you can start right away.

In reality: However, if you learn from a professional what the proper way of going about it is, you will not miss any steps or stages or risks or opportunities, and have a skill you can use anywhere and for all time; including all through the application of P-D-C-A and continuous improvement.


In theory: It's important to know which parts of ISO apply to your business and which parts don't. Having a template that already tells you what you need to do will make it even easier to cut out the things that don't apply to you.

In reality: Well, that's the theory, anyway. But will a documented template really make you knowledgeable enough about what you require, the level you require it at, and how you require it?

More efficient use of time

In theory: Ensuring your management system is sufficiently documented can be a long process that takes a lot of time from any business. Smaller businesses don't always have a lot of extra time because they don't have as many people to work on the implementation process alone. People who use templates can help speed up the process and cut down on time spent putting everything together on their own.

In reality: There is a presumption that jump-starting is best. Often a slow build, guided by a knowledgeable person is the best investment in the long run. Without a full understanding of ISO, it’s difficult to understand how you have incurred nonconformities or to know how best to fix them. Your knowledge should grow with the management system, but it needs to be built on a firm foundation.

Save money

In theory: If you use templates to set up a management system, then you'll use less time at the start of the project, in turn saving your business money.

In reality: This is true. But using a knowledgeable person who can guide you through where and when and how you can get benefit from templates is very useful. Templates on their own really are quite hard work. Figuring out your QMS in-house is a cheaper option, but not a more reliable or necessarily a particularly beneficial one.

Fewer demands on staff

In theory: Depending on the size of your business, you may not have the same resources and staff as some larger companies do. People who work at a company are very important to its success, and they each have their own part of the business to work on. Using a template means some of the work that your employees might have to do is taken off of them. With a set of rules already set in place, everyone has less work to do.

In reality: This is an argument often presented and is contradicted by the ISO requirements itself, in that the activities and processes undertaken by the organisation should be aligned with its business processes, not add-ons, or activities manifested in templates that are extra to what you do.

Easing your way into it

In theory: Implementing a formal management system can appear to be an overwhelming undertaking at first. This is a major source of anxiety for firms that don't want to upset the apple cart too much and risk it capitulating.

In reality: Which in itself is an argument for having professional guidance to explain what is required, why it is required, what you already do that meets the requirement, and what is missing. A professional will work with you to identify the risk of you not having what is missing and how it can be put in place in the most cost and time-effective way, and in a way that works for you.

Solid platform

In theory: Consistency is essential in any commercial venture. By providing a foundation for everything within your system, a template can assist you to avoid things from getting out of hand and out of control.

In reality: It’s not the documentation that creates the consistency, it is the activities and good knowledge and understanding of how and why they are carried out. This also allows document users to see ways of making improvements which is the heart of management systems.


In conclusion...

Templates make good servants but lousy masters. If you decide against a template approach, consider assigning an SQMC expert to join your team and guide you to success? We have a proven track record not only in taking organisations to certification for ISO 9001 first time of auditing, but also ensuring that clients can operate the system themselves and derive countless benefits and improvements for themselves and their customers. Contact us today to get the ball rolling.

Photography: Razieh Bakhtoma