On the fence about whether to start the ISO 9000/SN 9001 certification process? ASCA's Kevin Gilbride says companies who have engaged the process do so believing they have between 20-30 percent of what is required for completion, but soon learn that figure is closer to 70 percent. The main thing is to not over complicate the process.

May 19, 2014

I first want to congratulate the team at BSR Services in St. Louis on becoming the second professional snow and ice management company to earn its ISO9001/SN9001 certification.

I’ve attended a number of industry seminars and conferences of late. Some I am an attendee, and other times am there as a speaker. As any industry embarks down a new road there are always a number of questions, concerns, and – to be frank -- confusion.

Last week, I attended Snowfighters Institute and spoke to the group of snow and ice professionals about ISO9001/SN9001 certification. In fact, I’ve attended at least two other seminars in recent months on this topic, and I’ve engaged in countless conversations on certification.

As a disclaimer, the ASCA is not an accredited certification body (ISO auditing company). So this is my experience listening to dozens of folks who have begun the process of becoming ISO 9001 and SN 9001 certified. Here is my advice: DO NOT OVERCOMPLICATE THIS!

Let’s step back for a moment. An “accredited certification body” is a company that provides ISO audits. Why don’t they just say that? Because, ISO 9001 was developed in general terms to meet needs of many industries. ISO 9001 is very, very good. However, because of this, we had to develop SN 9001 to meet the specific needs of the professional snow and ice management industry.

So I am going to simplify some things for you. In your business you have processes and procedures to ensure you meet service quality. Start at the beginning with the sales process. How does yours work? What has to happen to generate a meeting?  What happens in the proposal process? What happens when you make a sale? When you make a sale, where does that order go? It probably goes into a computer system of some sort. Then it comes out as an order and probably goes to operations to fulfill the order. A part of it may go to an administrator of some sort to fulfill billing requirements. Write it all down.

Once it becomes an order you probably execute something to initiate your preseason site inspection. That is a process. Write down. The preseason site inspection then comes back into the office and it goes somewhere. Write that down.  Then you may have some training with your crews on how you are going to service the property. That is part of the process and should be written down.

Then you have a process for dispatching, for in-event operations, and post-event operations. Write those down. Then you have some documentation that comes back into the office and it goes somewhere. Write that process down, too. Once the documentation is processed, a bill is generated. That is a process, so write it down.

Then you have a process to make sure you get paid. Yes, you guessed it…write it down. Once you get paid, the entire process is over.

We have very quickly gone from initiating a sale to providing service to getting paid. That is what ISO9001/SN9001 are generally about. If you are doing these things write them down.

Other things are required for certification, as well. For example, you’ll need to appoint a management representative, someone who will be in charge of the ISO9001 and SN9001 processes. You also need to designate a time for an internal audit, meaning you’ll need someone to check on your management representative.

You need to have a process to “control your documents.” Write it down. (“We save all of our documentation on the server. We delete all files after three years.”) There I did that for you.

Companies that have begun the process tell me when they started they believed they had 20-30 percent of what they needed to become certified. Further in that figure jumps to around 70 percent.

Here’s how you get started:

  1. Get a copy of ISO 9001. You can purchase it through ANAB at
  2. Get a copy of SN 9001. ASCA members have this.
  3. Take on-line education through the ASCA learning Center on ISO certification.
  4. Attend a training seminar on ISO and SN certification. There are many types of classes put on by ANAB and Certification bodies. Snowfighters Institute is doing some specific training for the snow industry.
  5. Call a certification body for a proposal. Currently Smithers Quality Assessments is accredited to perform ISO and SN 9001 Audits, but others are getting into the game.

Have I over simplified this? Yes, but not as much as you think. Don’t become overwhelmed by the prospect of certification without first examining your processes.