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 August 1997 Article

Managing Information
for ISO 9000 and ISO 14000

    It's important for the company to know which

    constituent parts of the standard require

    development of documentation at the start.

    by Annette Dennis McCully

When Part 4 of this series appeared in May, we stated that a later article would focus on management of information and data for ISO 9000 and ISO 14000, which is key to being able to measure the effectiveness of the system. To fulfill this promise of information management logic, Quality Digest spoke with Keith Seibert, quality systems coordinator, and Peter Baron, methods and procedures supervisor, of Rockwell Automation in Twinsberg, Ohio, and Mayfield Heights, Ohio, respectively, about their worldwide intranet information management system. We also spoke with John Wolfe, vice president of ICF Kaiser Consulting Group, and Alan Knight, vice president of ICF Kaiser Canada in Toronto, about the concept and structure of documentation management through software, online systems, wide area networks, and intranet and Internet systems.

Rockwell Automation, one of four divisions of Rockwell (formerly Rockwell International), has 25,000 employees at 71 plants and is active in 74 countries. The company, which develops industrial automation related to airborne, factory floor and communications electronics, had 1996 annual sales of $3.6 billion. A leader in ISO 14001 certification, Rockwell Automation has six sites certified to the standard. ICF Kaiser International, which had 1996 sales of $1.3 billion, has 7,500 employees at 70 sites worldwide and provides consulting services for environmental and engineering issues.

Beginning the information management process

John Wolfe explains that many companies find they have a struggle between immediate issues management, which is compliance-oriented, vs. the more holistic environmental management system framework. "ISO 14001 asks you to take a step back to look at activities, products and services; aspects and impacts; and to manage more from that perspective," he says. "If a company decides to address issues management first, it should keep total information management needs in view and develop systems that interlink. However, there are some significant savings possible through looking at common business     processes, particularly in procedure development, document control, records management and data entry for quality, environment, and health and safety."

Alan Knight concurs about the many areas of documentation. "It's important for the company to know which constituent parts of the standard require development of documentation and control or storage of information at the start," he notes. "We find that many of the large companies in Canada tend to have good electronic systems and information technology at the work instruction level where the work is coming in and being assigned, but at other levels, it is not as complete. Even if an online system exists, much of the compliance information is still on paper."

Why put the EMS online?

Peter Baron explains that Rockwell Automation put documentation online about three-and-a-half years ago. "We're on our second online system," he says. "The driver for going online was ISO clause 4.5 on documentation control. Because we have a distribution database for each manual that ranges from 30 to 500 people, depending on hard-copy updates is a difficult task, in addition to being time-consuming and costly. Revision control is also an issue because people receive hard-copy updates but don't file them in a timely manner. Now we can say to our auditors that the conversion and revisions are on everyone's desk."

In terms of how the documentation is structured throughout the company, Baron explains that ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 are integrated, with global corporate policy that applies to all Rockwell Automation sites worldwide. Every business unit within the company can access the intranet. The first documents to be developed were quality policies, notes Baron; the integrated quality and environmental policies are much newer.

"The information is available on Netscape, with the company's home page announcing how to download the Adobe Acrobat reader free and the intranet addresses for the manuals," says Baron. "Locating a specific manual usually takes about five seconds. The table of contents for each manual lists the chapters that appear on the screen following selection. All of our documentation is on one server, and everything can be printed out in color, if that particular setup has a color printer. Most, however, are printed in black-and-white."

Software applications

In managing this information, Wolfe suggests using a software system, one of which is an ICF Kaiser product. Other brands on the market include Quality Systems International, Intelex, GreenWare Environmental Systems, Caribou and Environmental Software Associates. He adds that these all do a reasonably good job of holistically managing an ISO 14000-compatible system, pointing out that as far as he knows, there are no integrated software packages for ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 on the market. However, a number of systems are compatible and can be integrated.

ICF Kaiser is currently in the process of developing an integrated software system. None of the packages Wolfe named assume that an ISO 9000 system is already in place, although he points out that it is easier to institute an ISO 14001 system if a quality system has been implemented. "Employees are more accustomed to systems thinking, and the organization can more readily adapt and integrate document control and records management, as well as the ways in which noncompliances are addressed and the discipline applied to corrective actions," offers Wolfe.

Knight says that among their clients, the ratio of those seeking ISO 14001 concepts that are certified to ISO 9000 compared with those not certified to ISO 9000 is about 60:40. "They usually have a quality system of some kind in place, but if they have ISO 9000 certification, ISO 14001 processes are much easier," he observes.

The ICF Kaiser software, ISO 14000 Workstation, is Lotus Notes-based and can be loaded onto a laptop or installed into a server for use online at all facilities. The package includes the entire text of ISO 14001 and 14004, as well as a self-assessment analysis tool for performing gap analysis of the current system against the standard's requirements. It also contains the questions an ISO 14001 auditor would ask, says Wolfe. Where each gap occurs, the program prompts input of a project management plan and helps track progress in terms of who is responsible, what the time frame is and how the gap will be closed.

Intranet systems

Many kinds of responsibilities accompany the intranet, or companywide network systems, comments Wolfe. "The server administrator must see that the structure of the information and the use of the technology has integrity so guidelines for data entry are met," he explains. "The responsibility for content usually goes to employees with functional responsibility as information gatherers and writers." There is a growing trend for major corporations to have management systems that are international, with information distributed globally to all sites, he adds.

Keith Seibert explains that Rockwell Automation uses a fully integrated, worldwide information management system for ISO 9000 and ISO 14001. They work with environmental coordinators at each site to determine what needs to go online.

"All of our electronic documentation is viewable from the Rockwell Automation Control and Information group Web page," says Seibert. "It is an intranet -- not an internet -- and is behind our firewall so only people within the Rockwell Automation family can view or print documentation." Although the content is created in a variety of programs, whole manual pages are easily read on-screen through the use of Adobe Acrobat, which allows all of the programs to mesh.

Baron points out that an online system of information management is efficient because of the ease of updating material. His department has procedures analysts who work with various departments to develop procedures and policies, or work through reviews and updates with the departments that need to use the finished product. When individuals want to provide input, they print out the appropriate text, mark it up by hand and return it to Baron's department. All changes must be approved by the manual owner, Roger Hartel, vice president of quality, environment and safety for Rockwell Automation, who is responsible for seeing that the systems in the upper-level policy manual are in place in the facilities.

The pages are read-only and look like the hard-copy manual page, says Seibert. Employees can print out needed pages, but they usually just read the text on-screen. He points out that because employees rarely print text, the amount of paper saved alone constitutes a significant environmental impact.

"Each site also has individuals who are responsible for instituting these policies into the site-specific procedures," adds Seibert. "When groups want changes made, this can be done in a matter of hours. In fact, if there is any doubt as to the update, the electronic copy is considered to be the correct policy. Smart terminals -- PCs that are hooked up to the network -- are located throughout the administrative, supervisory and manufacturing facilities. When significant changes occur, e-mail messages are sent out to employees throughout the company via these terminals, in addition to notification of the specific change through company news bulletins, posters, Web pages and training classes to alert them to the change."

Link existing systems to the EMS

"As you look at business processes and try to link in issue management for air emissions, water effluent, hazardous chemicals, waste management, land contamination, fleet management or underground storage tanks, it is important to have a migration path for those programs to the ISO 14001 framework," explains Wolfe.

These issues and their accompanying programs become aspects with significant impacts that will need targets and objectives set for effective monitoring and measuring. "There is no need to recreate data or duplicate systems, so it is best to develop a migration path that allows the use of the existing systems within the ISO 14001 EMS framework," adds Wolfe. "In this way, a company can build on what it already has with minimal disruption and additional training."

To allow integration, Wolfe suggests seeking information technology solutions that don't require a great deal of customization and represent a business advantage. In some cases, reengineering may be a business advantage, and the institution of ISO 14001 may be a good opportunity to make this change, he adds. But if a good system is already in place, all that may be needed is the migration path to link the good existing system to the environmental management system framework.

In either case, Wolfe states, it should result in improved environmental compliance to contain and reduce environmental, health and safety costs; to manage risks and liabilities; to provide corporate support for environmental, safety and health issues at a plant level; and to integrate environment as a core part of conducting business. He recommends selecting metrics for reporting that look at environmental performance and contribution to the bottom line, so that a business case can be made in a strategic way.

Nuts and bolts of information technology

Most of the larger companies are moving away from hard copy to intranet and internet systems for management system documentation, comments Wolfe. "We see corporate templates that contain the must-have elements, along with some guidance from corporate," he notes. "In most of these, the individual business units are free to put in their own information management systems specific to that facility, and may or may not be networked back to corporate. The more advanced companies have intranets that are linked, some at the management level, and some with links all the way down to the shop floor."

Because some issues are individual to the sites and some are common, many of the companies set up multifunctional teams to agree upon corporate template and common standards, corporate performance targets and facility-level performance targets. This approach allows aggregate reporting for, say, waste minimization targets, which can be collected from all the sites and allows a creditable claim to the marketplace, adds Wolfe.

Auditing the system

Goals and objectives documented in Rockwell Automation's information management systems undergo internal audit twice a year, indicates Seibert. "We ask systems-related questions, such as 'What goals and objectives have you selected, and how are these tagged back to the aspects and impacts? Is everything on schedule? Did you do a review, and with whom?' " he says. "We're looking at the system, not the specifics. We leave the technology portion to the employees who have these functional responsibilities. This is probably the most unique thing we have done. Many companies treat the environmental program as a separate entity. Rockwell Automation has recognized that it is not a separate entity but is just another module to connect into the quality system."

Many points are the same, whether they are assessing a quality system or an environmental system, says Seibert. He suggests that as long as experts are present to confirm information about the system, the internal auditors need not be technical experts.

Advantages of information management

Company information drawn from reporting can be displayed on public Web sites, which has proved to be more effective than hard copy for external communications, explains Wolfe. "In addition, the benefits can be quite substantial once the system is up and running," he points out. "The system creates an institutional memory and a process that can constantly be improved upon, serving as a key platform for continuous improvement. It is important to build environmental accounting or activity-based accounting systems around the information management system for ISO 14001 so the business case can be tracked to prove that this is good business. Otherwise, costs are simply being tracked, implying that paying for environmental issues is just the cost of doing business. With an effective ISO 14001 environmental management system and information management, a company can significantly improve its bottom line."

For additional information, see "Integration and Legal Impacts of EMS Documentation" in the May 1997 Quality Digest and "Rockwell Leverages ISO 14000 and ISO 9000 Management Systems" in the April 1997 Quality Digest.

About the author

Annette Dennis McCully, owner of McCully Technical Services in Kirkland, Washington, is a technical writer and science journalist. Contact her at (206) 488-3480, fax (206) 485-9232 or e-mail amccully@qualitydigest.com.


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