What is an Integrated Management System?

An Integrated Management System (IMS) is a complete framework that combines all aspects of an organisation’s systems, processes, and any standards that the business follows such as ISO 9001 or ISO 14001. This combined system allows a business to meet all of its obligations, addressing all elements of the management system as a whole rather than looking at the individual standards and their requirements separately.

A successful IMS will reduce the duplication of effort often encountered when running multiple management systems. For example, if a business is running ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 this may result in the duplication of the processes needed for performing internal audits or recording non-conformities as all three standards require businesses to put measures in place for these actions. An IMS allows these processes to be combined so that they simultaneously cover all standard-specific requirements.

Integration has become easier in recent years, as ISO Standards move towards using the Annex SL high-level structure. Annex SL-based standards share a similar structure, making it much more straightforward to see where the similarities and shared processes within each standard lie.

What are the benefits of implementing an IMS?

An IMS also has the potential to reduce the time taken to perform external audits. With potentially fewer documents to review and the processes covering multiple standards, an auditor can be more efficient with their time. A shorter audit duration could reduce the cost of the visit itself and in turn mean that any staff involved with an audit can return to their usual activities more quickly. Because of these time savings, costs are also reduced.

In addition to the time saved by auditors and staff, the senior management team will notice they can also make more effective use of their time. Management Review meetings for an IMS will cover all standards leading to fewer, more productive meetings.

Where can I get help implementing an IMS?

The ISO sell a guide to help businesses integrate the requirements of multiple Standards into one management system. The guide was updated in late 2018 to consider the changes to ISO standards since its first publication in 2008, such as the introduction of the Annex SL high-level structure.