Why the ISO 14001 revision?

The most widely used Environmental Management System (EMS) standard in the world is the ISO 14001:2004. Over a quarter-million businesses use it worldwide. It was first published in 1996 with a notable update in 2004.

A new and significant revision is underway. It’s expected to be released in summer of 2013 – first draft. Target for final publication is 2015.

Why businesses use ISO standards  A standard is technically a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. In other words, quality. A standard is a practical guide and an ideological benchmark against which to measure systems or products or both. Ideally, ISO standards help assure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. For business, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors, and increasing productivity. The ISO 14001 EMS standard specifies a process for the control and the continuous improvement of an organization’s environmental performance. The standard encourages a strategic approach to an organization’s environmental policy, plans and actions. A strategic approach is always a good idea.

Why the revision to ISO 14001?  The revision of the ISO standard for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) incorporates a change in document structure. That’s pretty much it. Specifically, there are changes in clause hierarchy, including the nesting area of many subclauses. The adjustments reflect a new universal structure — a standard if you will — recently approved for implementation across all next-generation ISO standards. Best way to approach this new ISO 14001 document is to absorb the new structure. Be mindful that any current processes or products that are ISO 14001:2004 compatible will remain acceptable under ISO 14001:2015. There is no need to rush out and start making changes. However, keep an eye on shuffled clauses in the documentation, as with the following:

Requirements for an EMS will be organized into Clauses 1 – 10:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms and definitions
  4. Context of organisation
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvement

From the intelligence we’ve gathered, there is nothing Quality Professionals need to do differently to remain in compliance with the standard revision. But it might be time to familiarize ourselves with the new structure, and if not today, then bookmark this page for reference later on.

The Leaning Tower of Six Sigma

Whatever happened to Six Sigma? It was so intently-discussed in years past — then faded from the conference table. Well, it’s back. From the Obama administration’s Oval Office to siloed enterprise facilities in rural areas of America, Six Sigma is a hot topic — again.

What is Lean Six Sigma? Lean emphasizes removing waste from organizations and processes while focusing on and delivering more value to customers. Six Sigma focuses on variation reduction in processes, products, and services. Lean Six Sigma is basically streamlined processes but faster, simpler. (And yes, there’s an app for that.)

Lean Six Sigma has been back in the spotlight recently as several U.S. presidential candidates have pledged to use the management tool, if elected. Also, the Obama administration is reportedly studying how Lean Six Sigma could help eliminate federal government waste.

Lean Six Sigma online survey  More than 2,500 quality improvement professionals participated in a recent survey around the subject of Lean Six Sigma. A group called ASQ conducted the survey, ASQ being a “leading global network of quality experts,” and in all fairness is a reputable organization. It was conducted using online technology, across disparate geographies.

Lean Six Sigma could help reduce the soaring national debt, decided the survey respondents, but it faces some key challenges in government implementations. The biggest obstacle, survey respondents said, is a U.S. federal government structure that can be a barrier to comprehensive evaluation and accountability.

In addition to noting challenges with the federal government’s structure, survey participants noted other obstacles to implementing Lean Six Sigma in government agencies:

  1.     An environment faced with conflicting strategies, goals, and priorities
  2.     Creating a sense of urgency to deploy a comprehensive improvement methodology across all government agencies
  3.     The personnel management model currently used by many government agencies
  4.     A lack of familiarity with Lean Six Sigma and how it can benefit the organization
  5.     Ongoing political partisanship

Lean Six Sigma in Action  “In business, some process improvements are obvious,” said Russell McCann, national speaker on Six Sigma and President and CEO of Actio. “For instance, if a scientist is creating a new product, and the product contains a chemical that is banned or is restricted in some countries, then it’s best to identify the issues at the request stage.  This averts a scenario where the enterprise spends millions of dollars developing an unusable product.

“While these sorts of process improvements can be done manually – with traditional paper-based systems – process efficiency and accuracy are compromised,” said McCann.  “Critical information is inevitably ‘siloed’ at individual locations rather than being shared across an enterprise; in some cases data is not even shared within a single facility.  This type of scenario presents an ideal environment for a Six Sigma program.

“A Six Sigma initiative that includes Six Sigma software such as Actio modules will reduce cost, improve control processes, and rationalize materials management,” McCann said.

Survey says…  Many participants in the ASQ survey said there are benefits to using Lean Six Sigma. More than 75% of participants surveyed said they have implemented Lean Six Sigma in their organizations and an impressive 79% said the tool is very effective in improving efficiency and productivity.

The respondents found that Lean Six Sigma has also been effective in the following areas:

  1. Raised levels of quality in their organization (74%)
  2. Reduced costs (73%)
  3. Helped individuals in their organization be competitive in the marketplace or to pursue the organization’s core mission (68%)
  4. Had a positive impact on employee safety (56%)
  5. Improved innovation (46%)

Kudos to ASQ for pulling this data together, certainly an interesting study.  ASQ is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with national service centers in China, India, and Mexico.  Learn more about ASQ’s survey, their members, mission, technologies and training at www.asq.org.