• Edward Spiller

Can You Lean into ISO 9001?


Firstly, what is Lean Management? It’s a way to running a business which abides by the idea of continuous improvement. Just like clause 10 of ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System, Lean Management directs businesses to identify and implement incremental changes in processes to continually improve efficiency and quality.


So, straight away we can see a synergy with ISO 9001, continuous improvement. For a business that already has ISO 9001 embedded what are the benefits of introducing Lean Management? Actually, there are several long- and short-term benefits, but first let’s look at the different approaches to continuous improvement that both systems employ.


In ISO 9001, the procedures are based upon the processes and, sub-processes within them. That is for a determined input, if the process is followed correctly, an expected output will be delivered. This controls the quality of the output, whether a product or a service.

In Lean Management, procedures and the processes within them are looked at to see if they add value to the overall output, and therefore to the satisfaction of the receiving customer, whether that be another process, customer or consumer.


In Lean Management, the customers perspective is paramount! All processes are assessed as to the customers value perspective. Therefore, within Lean Management, hunting out those sub-processes that do not add to the value of the output are scrutinised and where possible changed or eliminated to increase the overall value of the process.


This is similar, in a way, to the annual Management Review within ISO 9001, however the difference is that it is done individually, rather than review all the procedures/processes in one sitting. However, the outcome is again very similar, an improved procedure or process that improves quality and more importantly, Customer Satisfaction!


Lean principles can be employed within a business that has ISO 9001 with little change to the running of the system. But what benefits implementing Lean Principles into the business bring?

As I said at the start of this article, there are several, so in a nutshell here they are:



Improved Quality – At the core of Lean Management is the improvement of value to the customer which drives improvement to quality.

Improved Visual Management – It helps you develop Visual Management within your business. If implemented fully, it will allow you to review an entire section/department and, any outstanding issues can be quickly identified as a problem and then rectified.

Increased Efficiency – Ergonomics play a part in Lean Management, reducing time between sub-processes, looking at bottlenecks and the overall flow will identify problems that can be acted upon.

Manpower Reductions – This doesn’t mean sacking half your workforce! It means that you have a more efficient workforce, those freed up can be utilised to increase efficiency in other areas, identify and develop further improvements.

Easier to Manage – Standardising procedures and work instructions will allow employees to know what they have to carry out and when. It makes managing processes a lot easier and, when problems arise, they are quickly identified and acted upon.

Total Company Involvement – As with ISO 9001, Lean Management is a way of business life and involves everyone in the business, from top to bottom. It promotes a business wide team spirit.

Problem Elimination – Lean Management drives you to investigate all issues and continue to develop solutions for or, eliminate the issue. Like the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle within ISO 9001 it forces you to find the root cause of the issue, action plan it, try it and then, if it works implement it across the process(es) involved.

Reduced Space – Removal of waste, excess stock or raw inventory will save space both horizontally in the business and vertically in your racking systems.

Safer Work Environment – Visual Management will help to identify potential unsafe practices or areas of concern where things are not working. When these are addressed the work space becomes safer and more organised.


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