by Mark Kaganov
While ISO 14001 Standard does not require a documented Environmental Manual, many companies choose to establish such a manual to document company's EMS similar to ISO 9001 QMS. Often companies implement a four-level documentation structure consisting of:
EMS Manual - level 1
Operating Procedures - level 2
Works Instructions - level 3
Records - level 4
While auditing EMS systems like the one above, I often asked clients about the position of their Environmental policy in this structure. If you start from an Environmental Manual, how would you know what standard this manual should cover? The Environmental policy defines it and therefore it may be included into the structure:
Policy - level 1
Manual - level 2
ISO 14001 Procedures - level 3
Instructions - level 4
Records - level 5
ISO 14001 - Naming your documents
Companies use various approaches to titling their Environmental Manuals, procedures, instructions, etc. For example, one of my customers titled their EMS documentation management procedure as "Documentation Management - Document Control Operating Procedure." This very descriptive title does define the document, but it does not appear to be efficient.
It is a very typical convention in the regulated industries to call the second-level documentation Standard Operating Procedures, known as SOPs. Unless one has a level called "Non-standard" Operating Procedures, I really do not see a practical or economical reason for long titles like those. As long as the short title conveys the idea and leads a user to the right place, let's use it. I will promote this optimization and reduction of waste approach throughout this publication. After all, we want to save environment!
Document No's for your 14001 Management System
In addition to tiles, document number formats very often can be optimized also. No standard requires assigning a document its number. This practice is an industry standard. Look at the example below:
A company had some 50 employees. They used two part number formats: one for procedures, another for drawings. Procedures used AA-nnn number format. Drawings were numbered as nnnnn-nnn. One of the drawings had a number 00027-003. Assemblers simplified the system and called it "Twenty seven."
One can certainly use these long-long numbers, but is it practical? So far I did not meet a single company that could justify such formats. When I audited this client, the organization had less than 350 documents. There were no indications that the company will significantly grow. Therefore, to use document number format allowing hundreds of thousands of numbers could hardly be justified. The most unreadable part numbers I had to deal with was at a mid size ISO 14001 organization with 13-digit alpha-numeric part number format! Try to write those in your audit report!
If you are developing or optimizing your ISO 14001 Environmental management system, consider a simple rule:"the shorter - the better". If you are constructing a hydro electric plant or building an aircraft carrier, you will need millions of parts. To number this kind of inventory, one will definitely need long numbers. If not, think optimization. Once I audited an ISO 14001 certified start-up that numbered their documents 105. 105, 106, etc. I think they deserve applauds!
So far we explored opportunities for improvements in the areas of EMS document titles and numbers. Yet, there is another issue with part numbers. Significant number of businesses relate a document number to a document type. For example, 45-nnn indicates a procedure, 56-nnn indicates a drawing, POP-nnn indicates a Production Operating Procedure, etc. My experience with a few businesses that used designation approaches showed that "no designation" systems are more practical. A few of the EMS systems that I have worked with that used designation have failed. Some time ago, one of my 14001 clients mentioned that they ran out of range in their document numbering format. The EMS initially permitted for identifying paint color through a two-digit extension within the part number. Soon the organization grew, the number of paint options increased beyond expectations and eventually the company needed more than 99 colors. This resulted in the document number format not being able to support the requirements.
To get around this issue, there is a simple solution - a "no designation" system. Document numbers in such systems are simply assigned unique numbers. Areas of use, materials, suppliers, and other attributes are not reflected in part numbers. Moving in this direction, you can simplify your system even more. I worked with a couple of businesses that did not use document No's at all. Those documentation system used just document names followed by their revision numbers, like Communication Procedure AA.
If you are improving your Environmental Impact Matrix and other documents, check out our ISO 14001 consulting services and documentation - our tested EMS Documentation sets will help you with your project. Quality Works assisted hundreds of businesses around the World in developing their ISO 14001 EMS.