“Management systems create competitive advantages through certified excellence”
The new Certification Body Management Systems at the Hohenstein Institute certifies commercial laundries and textile rental companies in accordance with the international standards ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
BÖNNIGHEIM (IS) Only those who act with the future in mind, develop their potential in a targeted way and identify risks in good time can overcome the fierce competition and meet the multifaceted requirements of the globalised market over the long term. This principle is especially applicable to companies in textile services, where sustainable resource efficiency is one of many requirements. As well as ensuring customer satisfaction, management systems can help commercial laundries or textile rental companies to introduce and effectively develop energy-saving processes and environmentally friendly procedures.
But what does the introduction and certification of a management system mean for this specific sector? What challenges does the company face in the certification process and what are the ultimate benefits to it?
We discussed these issues with Markus Beeh from the new Certification Body Management Systems at the Hohenstein Institute.
Mr Beeh, we get the impression that management systems are very much in fashion right now. Are they a short-lived phenomenon that will soon be put to the side or do they have a future?
Nowadays, a company’s productivity alone is no longer enough to guarantee its economic survival. In that regard, any measures that create additional competencies such as capacities for innovation and learning and that make an organization unique in the long term have a future. An ability to adapt to rapidly changing markets and constantly high quality requirements for products also puts high demands on facilities and staff. The introduction of a management system provides companies with a structural basis from which they can create sustainable success, giving them competitive advantages through certified competence. One of the stand-out features of management systems is the fact that the expectations and requirements of all of the stakeholders in the company, including customers, staff, owners and suppliers, are fulfilled to a high degree.
How would you define the benefit of management systems in accordance with ISO 9001 and 14001 for facilities in textile services in particular?
With a quality management system in accordance with ISO 9001, the primary aim is to optimize processes and procedures in the facilities with the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction and therefore customer retention. In commercial laundries and textile rental companies, ISO 9001 can be used to both increase efficiency and reduce costs and above all to achieve a reproducible quality of product or service. That is proven to strengthen a company's ability to retain customers and its competitiveness.
The fundamental benefit of an environmental management system in accordance with ISO 14001 is the ability to identify and avoid environmental risks, therefore encouraging the efficient handling of resources, which ultimately also pays off for the company from an economic perspective. Furthermore, society is becoming increasingly vehement in insisting that each individual company fulfils its responsibility to protect the environment for the coming generations. An environmental management system offers companies the ideal starting position in relation to invitations to tender and sustainability certifications especially.
That sounds good, but doesn’t a company have some work to do to be successfully awarded with certification?
Absolutely, but certification in accordance with ISO 9001, for instance, is not rocket science. In most cases, there is already a distinct awareness of quality within the company, otherwise the business would not have lasted for long. Ultimately, this awareness just has to be geared towards meeting the requirements of the standard. In doing so, all of the specifications and your compliance with them have to be documented. This structuring and the accompanying analysis of all of the processes involved in the company’s everyday work highlight what is working well already, where there is potential for improvement, what changes have to be made and in which areas difficulties arise particularly often. It clarifies where processes have to be restructured, for instance. Ideally, existing processes that have proven themselves can be constructively combined with the new processes required for the certification. That means a really beneficial value is provided even while preparing for certification. After the adjustments have been made, the actual audit and subsequent certification can take place.
How can it be that ISO 9001 is applied to both major industrial facilities and small enterprises?
The aims of the quality management system in accordance with ISO 9001 are the same in every company: structured processes, an effective management system for all procedures and continuous improvement. Its benefit is also always geared towards sustainable customer satisfaction. That is why ISO 9001 is purposely designed to be flexible and can be seamlessly adjusted to every company – and even every company size.
Why is the certification body not allowed to act in an advisory role beforehand? Something like consulting and certification from one source – that would surely be much quicker and more effective!
That would appear to be so at first glance, but let’s be honest, there would be no way to ensure the objectivity or neutrality of the auditor or certification body under such circumstances – you would effectively be evaluating your own work. With that in mind, both the market indirectly and the standard specifications for certification bodies explicitly and justifiably demand consulting and certification to be performed by different institutions.
What is the procedure after the certification has been awarded successfully? It doesn’t have unlimited validity, does it?
The quality management system is then verified in surveillance audits performed on an annual basis to ensure that the requirements are still fulfilled. In addition, every three years, re-certification audits are performed to check issues such as whether the effectiveness of the quality management system is still ensured in the face of internal or external changes.
What do companies have to take into consideration before seeking certification in accordance with ISO 14001 environmental management systems?
The principal process is the same as the process for ISO 9001. The only difference is that the environment and not quality is the focus of the assessment for ISO 14001. The initial certification audit takes place in two stages: In the certification audit stage 1, the documents in the company are checked to determine its general readiness for audit stage 2; if there are any deviations, the required corrections have to be made. In the subsequent certification audit stage 2, the auditor checks the effectiveness of the management system in place and assesses its conformity with the standard requirements. A granted certificate is also valid for three years; a monitoring audit is performed annually. Once the re-certification audit has been passed successfully, the certification can then be extended by another three years.
What do commercial laundries and textile rental companies specifically have to gain from certification in accordance with ISO 14001?
Sustainable economic activity is increasingly becoming the roadmap for the future for the market and for society. For that reason, the environmental aspects of ISO 14001 have to be integrated into company decisions in a systematic and foresighted way. That improves the image of textile service facilities from the customer’s perspective, fosters staff's sense of identification as part of the company and therefore also increases employee motivation. You also have to bear in mind that a functioning environmental management system provides a significant level of legal certainty due to the continuous scrutiny of environmental impacts. The risk of environmental liability is reduced as a result. In addition, the operating costs for commercial laundries are significantly reduced by sustainably saving resources such as energy, detergent, water, and so on.
Why did the Hohenstein Institute choose accreditation as a Certification Body Management Systems?
For decades, the Hohenstein Institute has stood for textile competence, independence and neutrality. In this respect, developing the Certification Body Management Systems as an extension to our portfolio was a logical step for us. The scope of accreditation extends throughout all of the facilities along the textile chain across the world – we perform certifications within our core competences. In this way, textile companies can be sure that the requirement for process orientation in their facilities is evaluated reliably and with the highest level of expertise. In turn, they can show their customers independent proof of competence with documented verification.
Mr Beeh, thanks very much for talking to us!