Safari reaches new heights with ISO 9001

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Would you have associated zoos with ISO 9001? If not, think again. In 2004 Africam Safari was the first ever animal park to gain certification to ISO 9001 for the quality of its guided tours, and now boasts a happy staff, happy clients… and happy animals! We asked Bibian Pinto, Head of the Quality Department of Africam Safari, about their quality system. Here she tells us how the animal paradise manages to keep quality up, and complaints down.

Bibian Pinto: Why did Africam Safari decide to use ISO 9001?

Our decision to implement ISO 9001 was motivated by the need to formalize our activities, methods and responsibilities and, more generally, the work of each member of the “tribe”. We knew that, if we didn’t go down this road, we risked growing in a chaotic fashion and losing control, which would compromise our efficiency and could mean losing our existing and future clients.

What sort of advice would you give to others who want to implement the standard?

First, they need to be clear about why they want to implement the standard. Although there is no doubt that ISO brings a competitive advantage to most organizations, this should be seen as a positive side-effect. A management system is designed to establish order, control and efficient planning processes, and to help make decisions based on data analysis. Certification should only be used later as proof that the organization is running efficiently.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge?

The hardest thing was convincing the people involved that the system is working for them, and not the other way around. Once you have overcome this hurdle, you will secure people’s “buy-in” and everything else will follow on naturally.

How many staff worked on the project?

We had a group of six people to implement the standard, but now have only two full-time staff for quality management, and an additional four (that’s six people altogether) to maintain the system (training, monitoring, technical assistance, auditing, support, surveys, etc.).

What were the main results and impacts?

We had a raft of positive results:
  • Optimal use of resources (time, money, supplies)
  • Improved performance (clients, suppliers and a more contented staff that is happy to have achieved the expected results in the allotted time frame)
  • Compiling a company history (we documented the knowledge and experience gained and were able to apply what we had learned to optimize the way the park was run)
  • Generating data and making informed decisions based on their analysis
  • Establishing greater equity and fairness, and more transparency throughout

The hardest thing was convincing the people involved that the system is working for them, and not the other way around.

Do you have any tips or advice for ISO 9001 users?

Implementing ISO 9001 means streamlining the system continuously so that it becomes more flexible and practical, and generally easier to implement. The real challenge is making ISO 9001’s most basic principles part of the staff’s daily working life. This also ensures audits are carried out in a timely fashion. Anyone assessing the system should be able to understand immediately how things work.

You can read the full content of this interview in the May/June issue of ISOfocus.

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Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis

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