Integrated Systems

This article on integrated management systems was written by Rich Barish.

Globalization, advancement of technologies, and heightened concerns for controlling environmental risks have motivated many organizations to implement quality, environmental, and occupational health and safety management systems. A significant number of U.S. industries are driving these implementation efforts along the supply chains, prompting customers to require management system certifications of their suppliers.

Integrating quality, environmental, and occupational health and safety management systems increases an organization’s ability to strategically manage its mission, vision, and objectives through policy development, system design and implementation, adherence to protocol, increased control of risks, and improvement of processes.

Quality, environmental, and health and safety management systems are based on a number of similar, if not identical, requirements such as policy, roles and responsibilities, objectives, processes, procedures, operational control, monitoring and checking, audits and reviews, improvement, competence and training, and statutory and regulatory requirements. Organizations have found that integrating these systems together makes fundamentally good business sense.

The organizations which stand to gain the most benefits from system integration are those that have more than one management system standard and wish to achieve maximum value from the combined systems. Other organizations which would benefit from system integration include those that wish to have one holistic system to manage their organization, those that wish to introduce several management systems at the same time, and those that have one management systems standard already and wish to introduce another one.

Many organizations choose to implement one management system standard at a time, building off of the structure of the previous system implementation and lessons learned. This approach is sound, but the key to the success is to implement the management systems standard with the most rigorous and extensive requirements first. If this is done, all additional management systems can utilize the pre-existing systems in place, e.g., document control, record control, management review, corrective/preventive action, and internal audits, then add only the specific requirements of that management system, e.g., aspects, impacts, and external communication. This technique reduces redundancy and inefficiency, saving time and resources, which usually equates to saving money.

For those organizations with existing, separate management systems, the Process Approach is key to the success of system integration. A process is any set of interrelated or interacting activities that uses resources to transform inputs into outputs. The process approach systematically identifies and manages the linkage, combination, and interaction of a system of processes within an organization. These processes could be operational, service-related, or production-related, but they also support processes like training, maintenance, engineering, purchasing, and internal audits. Organizations that have been successful integrating their current management systems have benefited from understanding their management system process flows, both operational and support, then integrating the common processes together.

Flow charting can be quite advantageous for those organizations wishing to integrate their systems. However, for those organizations who just do not know where to start integrating, corrective action, preventive action, and internal audits are always good starting points.

ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001 are based on a process approach to management. The process approach emphasizes the importance of understanding and meeting requirements and objectives, obtaining results of process performance and effectiveness, and continual improvement. The understanding of process flow and sequencing is vital to the success of system integration. Many organizations have stumbled upon non-value added processes when implementing systems together and were able to reduce costs by eliminating these unnecessary activities.

The integration of management systems provides benefits at all levels. Top management will realize strategic benefits since all systems will be seen as part of an overall business management system, contributing to the continual improvement of the results of the organization. Integration also increases an organization’s ability to strategically manage its mission, vision, and objectives through policy development, system design and implementation, adherence to protocol, increased control of risks, and improvement of processes.

Integrated management systems are especially important for organizations where a design change may introduce downstream environmental or safety and health risks. Personnel in operations and support can benefit from a streamlined, consistent approach to doing business and an improvement in communications between processes. The overall organization will realize financial benefits achieved through the reduction of resources and the avoidance of duplication in systems. With all things considered, integrating management systems simply makes good business sense.

Rich Barish has integrated multiple management systems and can help you achieve the same benefits. Call me if you are interested in integrating your management systems and improving your business results. You should also be able to reduce the time spent on internal and external audits by reducing the audit overlap.