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    How Product Requirements work in ISO 9001

    Product Requirements are important to a company, as this is how you ensure that your product or service meets the needs of your customers. By doing this well, you can have great customer satisfaction. But, by doing it poorly you can cause customer disappointment, and eventually, customers will find another place to procure the product or service you are trying to sell. Once a customer is lost it is very hard to get them to return, and this is why the ISO 9001 standard has dedicated two sections of requirements for the Quality Management System to include processes that ensure the company understands what is needed for the product or service. These sections deal with determining the requirements and then reviewing those requirements (basically, the key processes of the marketing and sales areas), finding out what is needed and making sure it can be done.

    Determination of Requirements Related to the Product

    The ISO 9001 standard tries to highlight to the reader that determining requirements can sometimes be more difficult than it first sounds. First, customer requirements come in many different forms and can include requirements about delivery of product, and even what is needed after delivery happens, such as servicing or recycling of the product. Some requirements are not stated by the customer, but can be determined when the intended use of the product is taken into account.

    Further, some industries have legal requirements that they need to meet, and many companies know of additional requirements that must be met for the product or service to work, even if such requirements are not defined anywhere else.  This is often the case with many service companies where the company itself defines what they are offering to clients, even if the clients have not specified themselves what they need. By making sure you have identified all the requirements that need to be met for your product or service, you will limit the chances of something critical being missed that would lead to customer dissatisfaction.

    An example of this might be a life preserver; the customer requirements might tell you what size the life preserver needs to be, and knowing the intended use is to keep a person afloat after falling in the water will mean it needs to be able to float itself and keep a person floating with it. Life preservers additionally have legal requirements that dictate color of the material, and the company may have identified a preferred fabric to use that does not tear easily. All of these requirements form the four different areas that would need to be included in the product design.

    Review of Requirements Related to the Product

    Before a company agrees to supply a product or service, it is crucial that the requirements are not only identified, but also reviewed by the company. In cases where there are no requirements documented from the customer, the company must ensure that the requirements are confirmed before the organization accepts the agreement. The agreement to sell a product or service to a customer can take many forms, such as submission of tenders or accepting contracts or orders. When considering the review of requirements it is equally important to include the acceptance of any changes to the original tender, contract or order.

    The review needs to start by making sure that all requirements are defined, no matter where they have come from, as stated in the section on determining the requirements. The next step is in making sure that any differences in requirements are resolved. Some examples of this are when two types of requirements are different, such as a customer requirement not aligning with a requirement that the company knows needs to be in place for the product to work (e.g., a customer wants a lightweight plastic part, but the company knows that a metal part is required due to excess wear). Another example would be during a change to the order where a new requirement has not been taken into account previously (e.g., the quantity ordered has increased from 10 to 100, but the time to deliver has not increased).

    The last part of the review in ISO 9001, although a company may require additional reviews to be done, is to ensure that the company is able to meet the defined requirements. In the case above, where the order quantity changed from 10 to 100 with the same delivery time, the company may determine that this is not possible due to the time needed to create the product or service.

    In all cases it is important to keep good records of the review and acceptance of any orders and to ensure that any changes are communicated to all employees who need to implement the changes. It is also noted that in some cases a formal review of each order may be impractical (such as internet sales), but a review of relevant product information (such as catalogues or advertising materials) can be adequate, as these will be what is used to place the order.

    Using Product Requirements to improve Customer Satisfaction

    By applying adequate resources to the determination and review of product and service requirements, you can reduce the errors that occur when there is confusion about what the requirements are and how the company will meet them. In many cases, customer satisfaction is not lost when an organization states that they are not able to meet all the requirements for a product or service; the dissatisfaction happens when a requirement is expected to be met, but is not. Ensuring that the requirements are understood and agreed at the beginning, and can be met by the organization, will improve the satisfaction of customers and keep them coming back.

    Click here to see a free sample of  Product Specification.

    Advisera Mark Hammar
    Author
    Mark Hammar
    Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality, and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.