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Miriam Boudreaux

Quality Insider

Two QMS Questions Answered

How to handle numbering schemes and ‘grapevine’ processes

Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 16:58

I frequently get asked questions from clients and readers about how to handle the everyday maintenance of a useful and compliant ISO 9001 quality management system (QMS). I thought I’d address a couple of those questions that I feel many people can relate to.

Numbering schemes: would a document register help?

A reader recently asked me, “When generating a new form, procedure, or document, how do I know which number to use? How do I know which numbers are available? Let’s say I create a receiving form. Can I reuse a number for this?"

Here are a couple of methods to choose from.

Option 1: For those using a web-based QMS or similar document control system.

Your list of documents in document-control software such as a web-based QMS could be used like a register. All your current procedures, forms, and documents are listed there. Anything not listed there is basically nonexistent.

Here, you would not need to create a document register. If you want to know what is available for quality, for example, just sort the list by document number. If the last number listed is, say, 1013, the next available number is 1014.

We always steer clear of creating a register and assigning numbers because it is just one more thing to keep up with, and one more thing that can create issues.

We also steer clear of assigning numbers ahead of time. For example, if you were to give someone a number for a proposed form, but the person doesn’t approve the form for six months, and somebody else comes asking for a new form number, you must give them the next available number and so on. As you can see, this creates gaps in the numbering scheme.

Reusing numbers is another tricky issue. In the reader’s case of the receiving form, if a form and all its references have been removed, it is possible to reuse a number, but it is not our preference because the possibility of issues appearing later is great. Yes, you may see a gap in the numbers, but so be it. That is our philosophy.

Option 2: Creating a document register

If you decide to create a document register, be sure to keep the points we have made above in mind, such as updating the register at all times and writing useful comments when assigning numbers. Creating a register may seem like an easy fix, but it is, in fact, one of the leading document control issues we see.

Procedure vs. work practice

Another reader recently asked, “What is the difference between a procedure and a work practice? For example, when a job is completed, it is sent to invoicing. If there are any issues, it is kicked back to order processing, fixed, and retired to accounting for processing. Do I need a procedure or a work practice for this?”

Through the grapevine

First, let us make some distinctions. A work practice is simply a “practice,” an “activity,” or a “process” (i.e., a series of activities). A procedure, on the other hand, is usually a written document that depicts the necessary steps of a practice, an activity, or a process. A work practice, an activity, or a process may or may not have a written, documented procedure.

Now, back to the reader’s question. When trying to decide whether you need a procedure for a practice, keep these three questions in mind:
• Have you had issues with people deviating from the work practice in the past?
• Do you want people to do things in a specific way?
• Do you want to hold people accountable?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need a procedure. Ask yourself, “Would I rather have a new employee learn something through the grapevine or through a written, documented procedure?”

I hope these two real-world problems are helpful to you. If you have other questions, feel free to contact me at info@mireauxms.com.


About The Author

Miriam Boudreaux’s picture

Miriam Boudreaux

Miriam Boudreaux is the CEO and founder of Mireaux Management Solutions, a technology and consulting firm headquartered in Houston, Texas. Mireaux’s products and services encompass international standards ISO and API consulting, training, auditing, document control and implementation of Web QMS software platform. Mireaux’s 6,500 square foot headquarters, located in the northwest area of Houston, houses their main offices as well as their state-of-the art training center. Mireaux itself is certified to ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 27001:2013. To get in touch with Miriam Boudreaux, please contact her at info@mireauxms.com.


Document naming scheme...

This is a subject that I have thought about for a long time and have a couple of suggestions you might want to consider passing on.

I consider myself very analytical and many times just anal... and maybe somewhat simple minded in the sence that if I don't understand something or see the logic in something it frustrates me.

My first thought about document naming is, "what is the goal or objective in having a document name or number" and here are the questions that come to mind when I look at a document that I am not familar with.

1. Who is the document owner?

2. What type of document is it?

3. What is it linked to if anything?

So, the first part of my naming convention would be to identify the owner which in the cases I have seen would be by identifying the function of departmental owner. Here are a couple of samples.

(1) Document Owners by Function or logical catagory:


QA = Quality Assurance

PD = Production

PC = Production Control

MC = Material Control

SLS = Sales

PURC = Purchasing

MGT = Management

CAL = Calibration

(2) Type of document (by type or catagory)


QS = Quality Systems

PR = Procedure

WI = Work Instruction

FM = Form

CP = Control Plan

II = Inspection Instruction

SW = Standard Work

FMEA = FMEA (failure modes and effects analysis)

VA = Visual Aid

QA = Quality alert

(3) Link (what is this document linked to if applicable such as machine, production line, plant, customer, tool number etc)


M01 = machine #1

CA = Carrier (a customer)

WH = Whirlpool (a customer)

WH500 = tool number 500 that is owned by Whirlpool

PT3 = Plant #3

With this information you an build the document naming convention that is customized to your needs. In my example, the document name building syntax would look like this [owner].[type].[link].[doc number].[description or name]


Now, when I see a document I can tell several things. Especially if I wanted to go to the document originator or owner or check a part file, then I can understand the link via the document number/name.

Here are a few examples:

QS.PR.ISO9001.DC001.Document Control = this shows that it is a Quality Systems Procedure, procedure 1 on the subject of document control.

QA.CP.WH595.CP001.Control Plan = this document is owned and controlled by Quality Assurance department. It is a control plan for Whirlpool tool number 595.

PURC.WI.WH.01.Cartons = this is a purchasing department owned work instruction related to

QA.FM.WH595.CP001_FM.Data Collection Form = this document is owned by QA, and is a blank form for Whirlpool tool #595 and by the name you can tell that it is also linked directly to this control plan shown above (QA.CP.WH595.C001.Control Plan)

This would have to be customized for each specific organization and would have to be taylored to the questions you want to be able to answer when you look at a document number. 

Just thought this might be helpful to some people?


Terry A. Henson