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Slide 77 of 262


7.2 Customer-related Processes
7.2.1 Determination of Requirements Related to the Product

Also see: 5.2

This is a reduction in scope for this requirement from the second committee draft. Now implied is that specifications and quality characteristics are in a separate area of the standard and this part fills in the gaps in knowledge of all customer requirements.

The review of product requirements comes after all the steps you have taken to collect information on what the customer wants. Now it is time to combine internal requirements with regulations and create a written confirmation of the customer’s order.

For a manufacturing company this would be the tender, contract, or order. For service companies this would be the quote for services or the creation of the standard fees list. Any difference between what the customer ordered and what you are offering has to be resolved and recorded. You must be sure you can complete the order.

The biggest change from the 1994 contract review requirements is the commitment to written contracts with most customers. No more sketching on napkins. Real written contracts have to be drawn up and confirmed.

A word about contracts. Contracts are what happen after you have reached an agreement with your customer. In other words, once you have fixed the requirements for the product or service to be delivered, then you use a contract to set the limits on that agreement. It can be as simple as the terms on an order form, or as complex as a multi-page contract.

Contract review should be relatively straightforward for all three tiers of orders. Simply identify the (minimum) information that your company needs to have to be able to complete the order. Contract review then consists of making sure the customer has provided you with that essential information. A checklist often works for simpler orders, but you probably should have different people and processes for each tier. For example, catalog orders might be handled by people who simply take orders and enter them. This may be entry on a form, into a database or other software. More complex orders probably need people who are more highly skilled, perhaps to the level of an engineer or project manager. Define the skill set required for your products and then staff to that level. A general rule is that custom orders require much more "face time" & hand-holding with the customer (because you need to get a lot of information from them), so you want people who are good at doing that. Most companies use an "account manager" or equivalent. Companies that sell very expensive products use teams of two for custom orders: an account manager who handles the people skills, and a technical guru who overcomes the technical hurdles. The greater the cost of errors, the greater the effort you should to make to avoid them.

For example, I compare simple catalog orders to taking my car for an oil change at one of those drive-through oil change businesses. They perform a limited range of well-defined services, so they take orders with a simple checklist. By contrast, I compare custom orders to taking my car to my mechanic for major work. Every order he takes is unique, so he takes orders with a blank form and writes in, in longhand, exactly what is to be done. Well, most modern garages do this on computer now. This may be a sign I’m getting old – thinking paper…

If you really want to be cutting edge, it might be worth your while to investigate a variety of businesses in your area, and benchmark the ones that have good processes for standard, configured and custom orders. For example, for standard orders, you might benchmark a popular fast food restaurant; for configured orders, you might benchmark a regular restaurant; and for custom orders, you might benchmark a catering business. With a little imagination, you can probably find businesses near you that have solutions for each of the three tiers in your order process.

Potential Audit Questions:

1. Is every customer order documented, reviewed, and the results of that review documented?
2. Do you have a contractual agreement in writing that you have the customer sign? (If not, why not?)


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