Sara Duff: ISO Management Systems Expert

A Q & A with our New Mentor Sara Duff

We are excited to introduce a new quality mentor on support.jomo247.com, Sara Duff.

Sara is the Sales and Marketing Director of Smart Quality, which works with businesses to build bespoke, compliant ISO management systems. Read on to find out more about Sara and her work in quality management systems or visit her profile and contact her here.

How did you get involved in ISO management systems?

I had a background interest in quality from working in the corporate market for many years, and from seeing the benefits derived from putting effective procedures and processes into practice.

Later in my career I worked with oil and gas companies where quality management and health and safety particularly were of the utmost importance.

The push behind starting our own business came from us recognising that there was a gap in the SME market where there was need for a more hands-on consultancy approach for delivering a simpler and more cost-effective service for helping businesses attain and maintain ISO certification.

There are 2 areas to our business – Smart Quality and Smart Manufacture.

With Smart Quality, we work with SME’s to help them understand where ISO standards can improve their business. It’s important that our clients firstly know it is not about buying a badge for their wall, but about driving continuous improvement and seeing value in this improvement journey.

Smart Manufacture works specifically within the SME manufacturing sector, typically with  companies with between 5 and 100 employees. The majority of these businesses are still working with very traditional, manual processes that have been passed down through family generations. We help these manufacturers streamline and automate their processes from manul systems and disparate spreadsheets or legacy software  to cloud-based software to provide them with improved visibility of their end to end manufacturing operations and to drive improve efficiency and collaboration across their business.

What are your specialisms?

We work across all industry sectors, with a particular focus on Construction and Manufacturing. We are located close to the Hinkley C nuclear development in Bridgwater so we get a lot of business from suppliers who are looking to work with EDF directly or with their 180+ Tier and Tier 2 providers where typically ISO 9001 is a supply chain requirement. Our focus on Manufacturing comes from our engagement through the Smart Manufacture side of our business.

What is your favourite thing about ISO management systems?

The most satisfying thing about my job is helping a business move forward and getting them started on their journey towards driving continuous improvement. We want to be able to make a difference to any business with whom we engage, whether that’s through enabling them to work with bigger companies, to respond to more tenders, to differentiate themselves from their competition or to help them to introduce best practice to drive internal efficiencies.

Any consultant can go in and spend a few months putting an ISO compliant management system in place but it’s key that they get the commitment from the leadership of the business to invest their time in working alongside. We therefore put a specific focus around the educational piece ensuring that our clients understand what a management system is all about and how it needs to be developed and maintained to ensure that it aligns with business strategy and enables them to drive growth, improve efficiency and for certification in place, but if all that work is being done then it shouldn’t be a waste of time. We focus on educating our clients about what a management system is about and how it will help them become more efficient and reach their own goals.

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

As we have 2 businesses, most days of work are split between working across both  companies – Smart Quality and Smart Manufacture.

I spend a lot of my day talking to companies about the value that ISO standards can bring to their business, as well as project managing our customer implementation engagements.  

What interests you about becoming a mentor?

I have always enjoyed being able to share my own experiences and lessons learnt, particularly from my corporate background with SMEs.

I am also very interested in hearing about other peoples’ businesses and their plans for growth and to bring a constructive and objective viewpoint on how any challenges/blockers can be overcome. I also appreciate learning from other businesses which will be enabled through the mentor platform.

What do you think the next big thing will be in quality?

Quality Management will, without doubt, be increasingly impacted by technology.  It will need to adapt to support the drive from businesses to embrace digital transformation to leverage the availability of big data to help them prevent failure and solve more complex problems. Machine Learning, for example, will be incorporated into QMS systems to help determine root causes of issues as well as to propose appropriate preventative actions.   

Technology will also enable more efficient management of ISO systems. Cloud-based management platforms are replacing paper-based systems saving companies significant time and money in manging their compliance activity.   

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