Procedure equals a process?


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OK EC friends, I'm back.
If you've seen some of my earlier posts you may remember , but here's a bit of history.
In July 2019 I came to a small company that had their first AS9100 certification audit in Jan 2019 (After four months of preparation and with the aid of an SME / consultant that based the QMS on a generic "canned" AS9100 package.). When I came aboard the individual assigned the Quality rep responsibilities had spent much, much more time in the field performing his "old" job (Field Tech) than actually supporting the QMS. Consequently we were < 6 months from our first surveillance audit and had very little to support compliance to the AS requirements. Management mandated that the current rep would no longer be involved in the off-site activities that had kept him from focusing on the QMS, and of course, they hired me to help. I was fortunate to have had 20+ years in a Quality Assurance post with one company, a good part of that time we were AS certified (first a little bit of B, then to C) , but I had been performing in a different role the last few years (since 2015). The QMS that I had managed was developed over years (and I had the advantage of working with the same consultant during the entire time) so a lot of what I learned and facilitated was specific to that company / industry. I really didn't know how much I didn't know until I began this post. We recently completed the surveillance audit and did pretty good.

At any rate when this company submitted the stage 1 information prior to certification, they identified five "Processes" - Management & Support Processes, Customer Management, Design Management, Purchasing / Supplier Management, and Production Management.

However another part of the submission package, titled "Process Identification" came with the following instructions:

" This chart identifies what AS9100/AS9120 requirements are addressed in which processes and helps to assure that all AS9100/AS9120 requirements are addressed in your system. Please ensure that all clauses have been covered and identified to the relevant processes. The processes identified on this table should agree with the processes identified on your process map or in your manual. INSTRUCTIONS: Fill in the table below with the processes identified by your organization in the left hand column and the Process Owner and the procedure/work instruction/flowchart that describes the process and the metric/measure used to determine effectiveness of the process. Then in the right-hand columns place an “x” to indicate the AS9100/AS9120 clauses which are addressed by that process. "

And a table with the following fields 1) Process 2) Process Owner 3) Procedure / flowchart 4) Process Effectiveness Metric, as well as columns for each AS clause, 4.1, 4.2, etc. . The following is an example of how this form was filled-out : First entry - The Quality rep filled in field 1 with "Process : P-400 Organizational Context (Our documented procedure) and nothing in the "Procedure / flowchart" or "Process Effectiveness Metric" fields, then checked the columns for 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4 - (these are the AS clauses that this procedure addresses). The same pattern was followed for every one of our procedures ("Process : P-500 Leadership" with 5.1, 5.2, & 5.3 columns "checked') and so on for 29 documented procedures. I'm not sure that this is the intended use for this "form", but I suspect it was not - maybe I'm wrong?

So, to the point of my entry today (Sorry it took so long but I felt like it was important to provide some background.) After I came aboard, one of the things that needed addressed was Internal Audits. I put together a tailored generic "checklist" and conducted and recorded an internal audit pretty much based on departmental responsibilities / clauses (I know...), and it was enough to allow the auditor not to write a finding, although he did note an opportunity for improvement. Now I'd like to schedule process based audits, using the processes noted in paragraph 1, above, but I'm having a hard time communicating this to the Q rep as he is certain that a procedure equals a process. I feel that multiple procedures may support a process, for example our Management and Support Processes process may be supported by our procedure P-400 Organizational Context, and by our procedure P-930 Management Review (just to name a couple) and I plan to use standard AND procedure interview questions.

I may be way off base and I'd sure like to hear what folks in the EC community have to say.

John Broomfield

Super Moderator
Process means work while a procedure (documented or not) is the specified way of carrying out the work.

Many of us though do not clearly differentiate between process and procedure, hence the confusion.

Kirby is right in saying that a procedure may describe or specify more than one process.

For example, how many processes are covered by the procedure for managing continual improvement?

For an answer please see Interesting Discussion - What should be changed in the next Edition of ISO 9001? ISO 9001:2023

John Predmore

Trusted Information Resource
If a procedure is not a process, what is a procedure

In our system, a process is shown as a system diagram ("turtle"), with inputs, outputs, resources and roles/responsibilities. While there are inputs and outputs, the process is understood to be in continuous operation. In contrast, a procedure is shown as a flowchart with a beginning point and one or more ending points. For example, the process of Control over External Providers has no beginning or end, but the purchasing procedure shows a sequence beginning with a recognized need to buy something and ends with a Purchase Order document.


Trusted Information Resource
Get rid of the semantics. It only confuses things. Like your company, we identified 5 or 6 "major" processes. Things like Purchasing, Manufacturing, Management Review/Analysis and the like. Those overarching processes have procedures that make them up. So for example, Purchasing -- big process. But several things go into it such as supplier review, supplier performance monitoring, purchasing, receiving, etc. Like John, we use a turtle diagram for audits which will list the applicable procedures, records, and such to be audited during the process audit of purchasing.

John Broomfield

Super Moderator
So a process is always a procedure no matter the extent to which is documented?

I think not.

I'm still convinced that process is the work (usually by humans and machines) and procedure is the specified way of doing the work (and, of course, a procedure may not be documented).


Fully vaccinated are you?
To me it is semantics. To me a procedure is a way of doing something. Doing something is "work". At best the difference is that a procedure describes how certain specific "work" is done (a process). So, let's just say that you win. A "process" is a "thing" which can be described by a procedure/work instruction/flow chart.

The same nuanced scenario can come into play with the term work instructions. I have been in a lot of companies which did not use the term procedure. Their position was they had "work instructions", not "procedures".

A process is nothing more than A > B > C > D > Etc.

Please help me understand what a process is

I also went through this type of semantics issue way back in 1994 when a registrar auditor argued that the company that I was helping could not use flow charts instead of "standard" text procedures. The auditor lost that 'battle'. A flow chart, properly done, can be a procedure.
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