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  • Writer's pictureForsspac Team

Q&A discussing the ISO9001:2015 QMS system certification with Robert Thoburn, Chairman at Forsspac.

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Forsspac has recently re-certified for ISO9001:2015 quality management system certification.

We discuss what this means for Forsspac as a whole, the staff and clients as well as a little bit about the process of achieving ISO9001:2015.


Full discussion can be watched in this video, or see below for transcript.



Q1. How important is having a quality management system (QMS) certification to you?

QMS systems are very important to me and to the company, from a personal point of view they help me to understand what we need to do in the business, the new risk-based approach helps us to look at strategy within the business. Our clients also expect us to have some sort of QMS certification, particularly when dealing with larger clients like LendLease, Accionaand John Holland Group etc.


Q2. And, how different are the requirements to achieve the updated ISO9001:2015 certification compared to the previous?

The requirements of ISO9001:2015 have not changed, the two changed that are significant are the move to working from home, but also the introduction to a slightly more formalised risk management approach to business. Where the forms and expressions have evolved over time to be easier to manage and easier to create and derive strategy from. The covid event we suffered recently, caused the company to shift it’s operating systems significantly. We were a working from office company primarily, but we are now a working from home company. This has meant that our systems have had to be completely revised and go paperless. And this has been a real challenge for all staff because historically they have been used to working on paper-based systems particularly during external audits. But now it’s all based in SharePoint up in the cloud.

Q3. Following the move to working from home and changing operating systems to paperless, what was the key challenge when looking to attain ISO9001:2015 certification?

One of the most significant challenges that we faced, is the tendency for people to download a document once and hold what I call “a private stash”, which they tend to go back to time and time again. What they’re supposed to do is go to the SharePoint folder and download the form they want to use and then complete the form and pass it forwards. The key reason being in a software cloud-based format the forms may be updated, but there is not paper exchange to let people know that the form has been updated. So they must go back to the original source every time. That has been a key challenge.

Q3.1. Can you tell me a little but about how you overcame this challenge within Forsspac?

The way we’ve overcome this challenge by enlarge is to hold working group sessions at the executive/VP level, to make sure the manages understand the importance of this aspect of the revised systems. When they fully understand and have taken it on board it’s easier for them to work with their staff to ensure the download process works smoothly and the forms do conform to requirement. It’s on ongoing process and we run an internal audit program, we do one department audit a month to back check the rules we applied are being put into effect.

4. Could you tell me what the assessment process consisted of while trying to attain the ISO9001 certification?

In October 2022, we decided that we would re-certify the business to ISO9001:2015. We decided to go on a process and a journey of updating the procedures and forms to match what was happening within the business. We then set up a process of two internal audits to check that we are complying with the procedures and form we have put in place, and only when we had achieved a second pass on the internal audit did we approach an external body. In this case Tuv Nord to do the external assessment which is in two stages. Stage one was to do with the documentary system to make sure the QMS was in place. And the second stage was then to audit the system in effect, by meeting members of staff and asking them questions on how they’ve applied the processes and procedures and seeking documentary evidence. In this case because it was primarily a video conferencing exercise, the documents were provided in the digital format, not hard copy format as would have been the case 2 or 3 years ago.

5. Within your ISO9001 report, it outlines you received 0 nonconformities. Could you clarify what this actually means?

So when you have an external audit which goes to stage two, they assess the company by a given set of criteria which is how well you have complied with the process, procedures and forms that you’ve issued, and they have the opportunity to comment on best practices that you’ve adopted. Comments and opportunities for improvements which are items where they believe you’ve done the right thing, but maybe the system could be tweaked or improved slightly. And then you get into minor nonconformities, where for example, sign off documents haven’t been completed or a process step hasn’t been followed correctly. So that wouldn’t stop you from getting a certificate, but it would checked at the next audit to make sure you have complied. A major nonconformity is where maybe a whole process has been missed out. So, during the stage 2 external audit that we had with Tuv Nord, we were in a good position in that they found no nonconformities, either major or minor. So we’re very pleased with the outcome and it’s a tribute to our staff who have listened, learned and applied the procedures, forms and process as we’d all agreed they should be done. So overall, a fantastic outcome.

6. At the end of the assessment, you received 8 areas for improvement. Could you tell me if you think it is a fair assessment? And if so, how do you intend to approach making these improvements?

What’s interesting about the Tuv Nord stage two audit, is they have found what I call little bits of smoke floating around and it’s turned into 8 opportunities for improvement. Some of the little bit of smoke there was no fire at the bottom of it, but other ones we did find some situations that needed to be corrected, so by going more deeply we have found some improvements that we can make to the systems to make them more robust and easier to use. So overall the 8 opportunities have resulted in some significant action within the business to update and improve. During the review process we also found 2 other items where we could improve, which we added to the list ourselves. So overall, very pleased with outcome and very pleased with the opportunities to improve that were flagged by Tuv Nord.

7. Now you have received the ISO9001 certification, can you see the benefits within Forsspac as a company?

Yes, every week we meet with our managers to review progress on a number of business areas. Two of the ones that have jumped out so far are OTPKPI, where we’re moving to a more metric based approach to assessment, rather than written statement. And the training needs analysis, we’re now looking at Thinkerbell, our training platform and trying to create more harmony between the training needs of our staff, delivery, and feedback. So there is definitely an ongoing process of improvement coming out of the accreditation.


8. And finally, have your clients seen any benefits from Forsspac achieving the ISO9001 certification?

Our clients won’t have seen any direct impact on the delivery quality of our services because throughout the period pre-covid we’ve maintained the ISO9001:2015 system, and we’ve not deviated from it. What we’re now able to do is when clients ask us to bid for a contract, we can now enclose our certificate which gives them extra confidence that we are compliant. So that is the key benefit that we will establish with our clients.



We hope you found this insightful and interesting. If you'd like to know more about Forsspac or enquire about our services please get in touch.


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