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How ISO:9001 2015 Revision impacts Construction

Big News!

The new revision of the ISO 9001:2015 Standard is out in all of its glory and it’s bringing quite a lot of changes for organizations and quality professionals.

As per IRCA’s and ISO’s statistics, in 2013 there were 1.6 million certificates issued globally and a good percentage of these certificates have to do with organizations and companies directly or indirectly involved in construction industry.

So, what are the biggest changes in the new ISO 9001:2015 and what do these mean in construction ?

Here is an analysis of every change and what it actually means in construction industry:

  1. The Annex SL

The change: This is one of the things that mainly matter for the people who are very much into standards and their format but it does affect its users. The new ISO 9001:2015 standard adopts the format and terminology of Annex SL which is simply guidelines that were developed in order to ensure that all future ISO management system standards would share a common format, irrespective of the discipline to which they relate. Basically, even if there are no changes in some areas of the ISO 9001 (between the 2008 and the 2008 revision) then the same requirements might be placed under a new clause or sub-clause because of the restructuring of the format.

What does it mean in construction: nothing really apart from the fact that we all have to familiarise ourselves with the new structure. A bit more reading then .

Our opinion: I haven’t personally heard of Annex SL before…but that’s probably just me (or not!). It seems like a good thing though because the new template may help companies on adapting different ISO standards with similar format. Definitely a good thing then!

  1. Leadership

The change: Clause 5 was previously “Management Responsibility”. It now becomes “Leadership” and that is a big change. From now on, the top management will be required to demonstrate that they engage in key quality management system activities and not just ensuring that these activities happen. There is no need for a “management representative” anymore (all relative references have been removed!) and the reason behind that, is that organizations must now make sure that quality management systems are an integral part of their business operations and not just something they have to do independently of their other functions and processes.

What does it mean in construction: that is going to be a major change as literally there is no (strict) requirement for a dedicated Quality Manager anymore. Project Managers and Directors must find other ways to make sure that they are involved in the quality management system and that they haven’t delegated everything to the quality professionals.

Our opinion: This is going to be very interesting. I am really curious to see how they industry will translate this new change. The typical approach that everything that has to do with “quality” must be delegated to the “Quality Manager” or the “Quality Engineer” won’t be that easy anymore. The project management must prove that they are actively involved in the implementation of the quality management system. Are we going to witness for the first time a Project Manager/Director raising NCRs? Let’s see how that goes…

  1. Context of the organization

The change: There are now 2 new clauses (4.1 and 4.2) realting to the context of the organization. Basically, the organization now needs to identify anything that may affect their quality management system’s ability to deliver its purposes and intended results. Any internal or external issues that may affect the quality management system, the needs and expexxtations of any interested parties must be identified and monitored.

What does it mean in construction: This is something that is already happening in construction industry because of the nature of the industry with its different trades, subcontractors, Clients, third parties, authorities etc. This is not really changing anything in construction industry but it does force companies towards better subcontractors and stakeholders management.

Our opinion: This is also a very good change. From now on, there must be evidence that there is proper planning, proper subcontractors’ and suppliers management and proper stakeholders interaction and coordination. These are things that already happen but they now become part of the quality management system and it is now a clear requirement that can be audited.

  1. Scope of the Quality Management System

The change: ISO 9001:2015 focuses more on the scope of the Quality Management System than what ISO 9001:2008 did. The new clause 4.3 requires from the organization to document the scope of the QMS considering all external and internal issues, relevant third parties and stakeholders and also the specific products or services of the organization.

What does it mean in construction: Maybe a more detailed scope in the Quality Plan or Manual of the project (see below). That seems like a minor change.

My opinion: This change would probably have more impact on suppliers. In reality not many things are going to change. I would expect a bit more specific quality policies, procedures and manuals (see below).

Process Approach

The change: ISO 9001:2015 is now even more detailed on the establishment of processes for the implementation and monitoring of an effective quality management system. The new clause 4.4 now describes in more detail what are the requirements for processes. SO, things like the interaction of the processes, responsibilities, risks, planning, inputs and outputs are now specified as requirements.

What does it mean in construction: We probably expect to see more detailed procedures and processes flowcharts with clear responsibilities, inputs and outcomes. This was not a requirement previously.

Our opinion: Definitely a very much needed and more detailed approach than what we had before in the 2008 version. Now we have clear requirements of what is needed with these processes and the companies/projects should better start producing clear processes flowcharts and diagrams.

Risk management and approach

The change: This one is a massive change! The word “risk” now appears 46 times in the new ISO 9001:2015 standard and that fact by its own, emphasizes how important the risk-based thinking has now become for quality management. The new standard focuses a lot on the risk-based thinking which was quite implicit in the previous revision. Risks must now be identified during the planning and the organizations can now choose what information is documented based on a risk analysis that they shall carry out. ISO 9001:2015 now talks in terms of risks and opportunities and any references to “Preventive Actions” have now disappeared.

What does it mean in construction: This is a huge change. In reality this change gives a lot of freedom to the organizations to prove that they have considered all necessary risks for their project/services during the planning stage. Construction industry suffers a lot from poor planning and this is now forcing the companies to find ways of making sure that they have captured all the risks and that they will make everything possible to eliminate or reduce them.

My opinion: I am really interested to see how this would affect the industry. Worst case scenario: the Quality Manager would have to produce a new register/spreadsheet identifying all the risks of a project trying to get feedback from planners, designers, construction managers and project managers. Best case scenario: there would be a real integration of risk-based thinking during the tendering process and then during the construction of a project. Let’s be honest with ourselves: nobody was really issuing any preventive measures in construction industry and there is rarely any serious thinking on “what could go wrong” in our project. When things go wrong though (and they always do more or less), everybody is trying to firefight running like a headless chicken. Definitely a very good change!

Products and Services

The change: The term “product” has now become “products and services”.

What does it mean in construction: nothing really. It does make clear though that the standard is applicable to all kinds of organizations.

My opinion: A change that should have been introduced much earlier but it’s welcomed anyways.


The change: The term “continual improvement” has now become just… “improvement”. Improvement now can arise as a result of periodic breakthroughs, reactive changes or even as a result of reorganization.

What does it mean in construction: improvement now can be demonstrated through many different approaches and it is a much wider term. Improving is not only raising NCRS and corrective actions but it can also be a reshuffling of the org. chart which in reality is a good thing.

My opinion: Slight change that could have many interpretations. It’s more of an addition rather than a change. It just broadens the term “improvement” in reality.

External Provision

The change: The phrase “externally provided processes, products and services” replaced the words “Purchasing” and “Outsourcing”. Clause 8.4now addresses all forms of external provision by any means. The organization should take a risk-based approach to determine the type and extent of the controls to each provider.

What does it mean in construction: more details on how the subcontractors and suppliers are managed and monitored.

My opinion: a more detailed approach and something that would now require a risk-based approach on the suppliers and subcontractors management for any project.


The change: Massive change! There is no requirement for documented procedures, quality manual and quality records. However, there are specific references to “documented information” which is information that the organization is required to control, maintain and retain. There are no specific requirements for the format and storage methods of this information.

What does it mean in construction: it is now even easier to maintain the quality management system in digital format. All the processes, manuals and documents can now be digital.

My opinion: a more detailed approach and something that would now require a risk-based approach on the suppliers and subcontractors management

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Pavlos Inglesis
I am a Chartered Civil Engineer (CEng-MICE) and a Chartered Quality Professional (MCQI CQP) working in the construction industry for about 20 years. My specialty is Quality Control and Quality Assurance Management in Construction Projects. I have worked on projects in the Middle East, and Greece and am now based in the UK.

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