Quality Control – Common ISO 9001 Manuals for large corporations.

Small and medium size businesses with a single location that utilize ISO 9001 quality management system have developed solid models for the top level documentation. At the same time, information on quality manuals for multi-facility companies was not addressed in professional publications. This publication proposes a model of a quality manual for establishing the top-level documentation structure that allows a business with more than one site to use common ISO 9001 quality management system manual.

Through my work as a Lead Auditor with major registrars, I observed dozens of large multi-location companies struggling with connecting their corporate ISO 9001 quality manuals with the supporting, location-specific, documents. To develop a quality manual for a company with numerous facilities, organizations take two routes. Some organizations create site-specific quality manuals as copies of the corporate manual; others create site-specific ISO 9001 quality manuals that are entirely different from the corporate manual.

In reality, these solutions do not provide for a consistent representation of the organization’s position on quality. The first approach, when a copy of the home office quality manual is used, techniques for controlling local quality manuals are usually not determined. Differences in the corporate manual and the site’s quality manual are because the corporate office manuals are managed by the home office, while site’s manuals are controlled by individual sites.

In the case of the second approach, when organizations allow their satellite locations to have their own quality manuals independent from the corporate manual, differences in quality manuals may create major disconnect of the corporate and local ISO 9001 quality manuals.

Those companies that adhere to the policy of maintaining a consistent corporate message regarding their position on quality will definitely experience a gap if they use methods that we discussed above.

As an example, we can examine one of our international clients with facilities in the United States, Mexico and Europe. This organization established pretty complete quality manual for their corporate office in the US. When we visited their plant in Mexico, we found that their quality manual did not include reference to Canadian regulations; the facility in Italy did not address the design process, etc.

As one can see, both approaches above to development of site quality manuals as copies of the corporate manuals or independent quality manuals do not appear to be practical or economical.

If a business wishes to establish a quality manual that will serve all its facilities, we need to consider a different route. Let’s start from an example of a clause 5.4.1, Planning, Quality objectives. This clause may state: ABC Corporation’s Management Team ensures that quality objectives, including those needed to meet requirements for product, are established for relevant functions and levels within the organization per the Management Review Procedure and the Quality Objectives Matrix.

This method of referencing supporting procedures is very common for quality manuals for companies with single location. Interestingly, it also works for a multi-site business for those documents that are common for all sites. For instance, Audit Procedure, CAPA Procedure, and others may be the common for your all sites and be referenced in your quality manual as demonstrated in previous paragraph.

However, what if our locations need to use different organizational charts, product realization procedures, and other site-specific quality management system documents? If we use the model above and want to keep a common ISO 9001 quality manual, we have to reference in the manual corresponding documents for all locations which may not be practical. Below we will explore how a corporate quality manual can practically reference location-specific documents to support commitments of the company’s common ISO 9001 quality manual.

A method identical to a single-site organization can be used when the number of facilities is relatively small, let’s say 2 – 3. For example, clause 5.2, Customer focus, of our ISO 9001 quality manual may state: Your Company, Inc’s Management Team ensures that customer requirements are determined and met with the objective of enhancing customer satisfaction per the Design Management Procedure, Contract Review Procedure HO and the Contract Review Procedure SP. This example references to the common Design Management Procedure and facility-specific Contract Review Procedure HO (Home Office) and Contract Review Procedures SP (St. Petersburg). This approach works well for a company with limited number of locations, but it becomes unworkable when the number of facilities grows.

When an enterprise has significant number of facilities and needs to reference in its manual numerous procedures including those controlled by its sites, we have another choice. We can develop a matrix to connect our quality manual elements with the location-specific supporting documents. We will title this document a Manual Reference Matrix and establish the following documentation reference structure.

Corporate ISO 9001 Quality Manual clause

Manual Reference Matrix Table of Contents (ToC)

Location Manual Reference Matrix

Facility-specific document

We will structure our Manual Reference Matrix as a list of all facilities and their corresponding Manual Reference Matrixes, as shown below:

Manual Reference Matrix Table of Contents

Home Office (Denver, Colorado, USA)

Toronto (Canada)

Cleveland, OH (USA)

Buenos Aires, (Argentina)

Portland OR USA


Let’s see how this model works. We will document element 8.4, Analysis of data: Sunrise, LLP has established and maintains documented Management Review Procedure and site-specific data analysis procedures per the Manual Reference Matrix ToC to determine, collect and analyze appropriate data to determine the suitability and effectiveness of the Quality Management System to evaluate areas where continual improvements of the effectiveness of the ISO 9001 QMS can be made This element states that the company uses common Management Review Procedure and site-specific data analysis procedures. To locate a site-specific data analysis procedure, we simply need to consult the Manual Reference Matrix ToC.

Clicking the hyperlink Ontario (Canada), for example, we will find a site-specific Manual Reference Matrix. Locating a specific element in the location’s Manual Reference Matrix, we will find a particular, location-specific document that corresponds with this clause of out ISO 9001 quality manual.

A Manual Reference Matrix may be formatted as a three-column form. The first two columns are titled Corporate Manual Section No. and Corporate References; the third column is called Location references. For the element 5.5.1, for example, the Matrix indicates that our manual references Organizational Chart HO for the corporate office and the Organizational Chart Ontario for the Ontario facility.

For more details on this topic and examples of the Manual Reference Matrix for ISO 9001 quality management system manual, follow the links below:

If you are tuning up your ISO 9001 Quality Manual for a large corporation and do not want to reinvent the wheel, check our Quality Assurance Manual Reference Matrix. If you need help with implementation of your Corporate Manual, check our Quality Management ISO 9001 consulting services and documentation sets.

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