International Organization for Standardization (ISO) publishes the world’s most well-known standards for different areas of business from quality to health and safety. The total amount of different standards is over twenty thousand, so you can say there really is a standard for everything!
Some of the most familiar ones (seen in many webpages!) are standards for quality management system (ISO 9001), environmental management (ISO 14001), and occupational health and safety (ISO 45001). These three standards form a solid base for efficient, green, and safe operations of any company. That is why also we at GISGRO decided to go for the certification process few years back and received all those three certificates at the same time in the spring 2018. In this article, we discuss why the standards play a central role in our organizational development.
Finding ways to do things better
The principle of continuous improvement in all ISO standards works well with our value of always finding ways to do things better. Even though the processes might already be in a good shape, the annual audit rounds usually point out something that can still be improved. It can be improving communication between teams or creating a new document to clarify our development process for example in orientation of new employees. Continuous improvement is also the idea behind our software development, where we strive for adding more easiness and efficiency to the daily work of surveyors and port personnel.
The quality management standard ISO 9001 requires a certain level of documentation, which often improves the common understanding of the processes. When you write something down or draw a flowchart of the process, it is easier to spot the weaknesses in the plan. Documented quality checks ensure the deviations are noticed, corrected, and learned from. After all, we are not mind-readers, so it is necessary to follow the progress to make sure we are on the same page, in our own team or with clients.
Thinking sustainability in everyday work
Software companies, such as GISGRO, typically don’t have similar environmental impacts as for example companies in the construction industry. We have our eco-friendly office with geothermal heating, and we recycle everything we can. We use cloud servers in order to use the computing power only as much as we need at the time and, therefore avoid unnecessary energy consumption. Most of the client meetings are held online without travelling (well, that’s not a surprise in these days…).
Even though our own environmental management system is quite simple, being familiar with ISO 14001 gives us the insight of environmental aspects also in a larger scale. Environmental standards are applied widely in the port industry and understanding the everyday work of our clients enables us to design better solutions for them. Environmental awareness is a competitive advantage but being green also brings economic benefits by saving resources and improving efficiency of operations, which often also means decreased emissions.
Safety from every angle
“Oops” is not an option when dealing with safety and wellbeing of our employees. The risk-based approach of the ISO 45001 standard works well with predicting possible safety risks and mitigating them as well as possible. Risks for both, physical and psychological wellbeing, are considered in all processes, whether it’s going through the safety protocols for a quay inspection or buying houseplants to the office.
Our long experience working with ports has planted a strong foundation of safe procedures in our work. Safety is one of the most important aspects in the maritime industry. Our aim is also to offer tools for better safety in GISGRO, considering aspects from predictive maintenance of the assets to prevent surprising breakdowns and notifying co-workers about hazardous areas due to construction, for example.
External audits for certificate renewal are rewarding in many ways
ISO certifications are valid for three years, during which the management systems, processes and documentation are annually audited by a licensed auditor. A more detailed auditing process is conducted in case the certificates are to be renewed. This year we renewed the certificates, so we had the more detailed external audit by Kiwa. Pia Asikainen, Organizational Development Specialist at GISGRO, is responsible for the management systems and process development according to the standards. Some might think that audits are like exams, but Pia actually enjoys the auditing days.
“External audits are a good way to recollect the past year and its successes and learnings. Sometimes it’s hard to embrace or even remember the achievements during hectic daily work but during the auditing, we often pause to evaluate our work from different angles. And, of course, receive valuable feedback from the auditor”, Pia describes.
The cooperation with the certification organization Kiwa has been smooth from the start. Hannu Helama, Lead Auditor at Kiwa and Business Development Consultant at Happy Note, has been working with us since the first audit.
“The main thing is to find out processes which support the company’s own business strategies and enhance the effectiveness of operations, not to create a new procedure just for the sake of it. Common sense works well in planning the management system. GISGRO is a good example how the management system evolves with the business development. They react to the changes in the business environment, and the changes are reflected also to the management system”, Hannu explains.
“Continuous development is kind of a state-of-mind in an innovative company like us, but the certificates also communicate our clients about how we work. ISO standards are well-known globally and they underline the emphasis we put on quality, environment and safety”, Pia continues.
The next step on the path of our continuous development is to apply for a new certificate, ISO 27001 for information security management. Information security has always been an integral part of our processes but having our security management system audited adds transparency and enables our clients to know exactly how we ensure the information security. The work is already in progress, so we’ll add yet another nice stamp on our website quite soon!
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