There is growing acceptance that the organisational benefits of formal asset management and quality management systems are real and significant, but there are also many concerns about the very real and significant cost associated with establishing and maintaining such systems. This is particularly true where the demanding requirements of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) are being followed, such as ISO 9001 for Quality Management Systems and ISO 55001 for Asset Management Systems. Fortunately, ISO is aware of this and is actively working to reduce the compliance burden associated with its management system standards. With the recent release of ISO 9001:2015, we undertook a review to understand the synergies that exist between this and ISO 55001:2014 and how they might be exploited to reduce costs and increase benefits associated with compliant systems.

The opportunity

Many asset-owning organisations are required by their regulators or simple good practice to maintain both an asset management system and a quality management system. For these organisations, the release of ISO 9001:2015 offers a significant opportunity, particularly for those that are already largely compliant with the requirements of ISO 55001:2014. This is due to the fact that the new quality management system standard follows the requirements of Annex SL of ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1 Consolidated ISO Supplement – Procedures specific to ISO 5th Edition, 2014. While this document won’t be winning any awards for a catchy title, it is the same set of requirements used to write ISO 55001:2014. That means the two standards have the same basic structure and even a significant portion (about 80%) of text in common. This commonality creates potential synergies that can be exploited to reduce the costs and increase the benefits of compliance. We explore these under the following headings:

  • Strategic planning activities
  • Detailed planning
  • Risk management processes
  • Support systems & processes
  • Auditing activities

Strategic planning activities

The first synergistic opportunity is, we believe, likely to drive improved organisational outcomes rather than reduce the costs of compliance. It arises from the substantially identical requirements in both standards for clarity regarding organisational context and purpose and the organisation’s current objectives. We come across many organisations where this clarity is lacking and where the organisation is consequently struggling to choose between competing opportunities, such as an operational profile that is more productive against one that is more cost efficient. We recently encountered this situation at a power generation utility, which had invested in significant capacity improvements in a market with declining demand. While this may yet prove beneficial in the long term, it is likely that a more structured approach to the organisational context and objectives would have seen this significant investment deferred.

With two independent organisational departments both pressing for a clear strategic vision of the organisation’s objectives, it will be significantly more difficult for executives to ignore the requirement. Once this is done, it will lead to more effective and aligned organisational decisions at all levels.

Detailed planning

The previous section ensures that a sound foundation for planning is laid by establishing the organisational context and objectives, while this section looks at the detailed quality and asset management planning. With the clear focus in both standards on establishing objectives and then planning to deliver them, it appears likely that there will be considerable cross-over between asset management and quality management in the planning area. Once an organisation has established its asset management system, the quality management system should drive compliance with the internal processes. Further, it should drive implementation of the actions identified in the plan. Similarly, the asset management system should identify the quality management system as an organisational enabler important to achievement of the asset management objectives. Consequently, it should drive an organisational focus on the maintenance of an effective quality management system. This feedback loop should lead to improved outcomes and effectiveness from both systems.

In practical terms, it seems likely that at least the higher levels of organisational planning would be combined and both asset management objectives and quality objectives would therefore be considered within the same planning framework. As both standards shy away from mandating specific document structures, the Strategic Asset Management Plan and equivalent Quality Management Plan may well end up being the same document, particularly in smaller organisations. This should both reduce the cost of developing and maintaining the plans and improve the integration between the various elements, again leading to both cost efficiencies and improved organisational benefits.

Risk management processes

We have previously witnessed many organisations where risk is not managed holistically. There are effectively independent risk management systems that identify and manage quality risks, asset risks, human resource risks and so on. Unfortunately, even where these independent systems are used properly (and in many cases they are not), there is significant potential for risks to be duplicated or to missed due to overlaps or gaps in the coverage. This can lead to consequences from minor inefficiencies to significant hidden risks being carried. For example, we worked with an organisation that was not releasing equipment from operations to have the statutory maintenance conducted, but management was unaware of the significant (personal) liability they were carrying as a result.

The common approach to risk from both ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 55001:2014 offers both cost efficiencies and improvements in risk coverage. Both talk extensively about the need for a risk-based approach to planning and decision making and both standards now point towards ISO 31000 as the standard for appropriate risk management approaches. The common language will reinforce the need to maintain an integrated, corporate risk management process that is both more efficient and more effective than developing separate processes for quality risks, asset risks and so on.

Support systems & processes

The Support clause is probably the clause that differs most in wording between ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 55001:2014, however they still share the same five common core elements:

  • Resources
  • Competency
  • Awareness
  • Communication
  • Documented information

Reading deeper, while the wording differs, the intent is wholly shared between the two standards. There is a clear focus on identifying the level of support required, developing an appropriate plan for delivering it and, finally, ensuring that the activities undertaken have achieved the required outcome. It is clear that appropriate tools for doing this – for example, a competency matrix to track learning and development needs and compliance – can be directly shared between the two management systems. This will reduce the cost of compliance and also provide a simpler system that it is easier (and therefore more likely) for people to comply with.

Auditing activities

We have saved the most obvious synergy for last. A major driver for Annex SL was the desire to combine management system audits, so it is unsurprising that there is an opportunity for efficiency in the audit area. The similarities in the tone, approach and artefacts required by the standards lends credence to the potential for combined audits, resulting in less frequent workplace disruptions. This will, however, depend on the ability of auditing firms to develop and supply suitably qualified audit teams and there may be pressure for auditors to act beyond their areas of competency. This is particularly the case for asset management, since the standard is still in the process of implementation and many national bodies have not yet fully defined the requirements for auditor or audit agency competence. We would encourage people to be cautious in their selection of audit agencies and look for auditors that have clear credentials from reputable peak bodies in the asset management space. A good example is the World Partners in Asset Management (WPiAM) Certified Asset Management Assessor (CAMA) qualification, recognised by (amongst others) the Asset Management Council of Australia , the Institute of Asset Management in the United Kingdom and the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals in the United States.


A comparison of the content of ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 55001:2014 suggests potential for reduced compliance costs through:

  • Combining and simplifying documentation and processes
  • Reducing training requirements
  • Combining audit activities

In addition, the combined application of the standards has potential to improve outcomes through:

  • Increased understand of (and subsequent compliance with) the simplified documentation and processes
  • Positive feedback between good practice in asset management and good practice in quality management

We are looking forward to working with organisations that have fully embraced both standards and providing consulting assistance to build and implement processes that are both effective and efficient in delivering high quality asset management and quality outcomes. If you are seeking such assistance, we invite you to contact us.

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