ISO certification (such as ISO-9000 and ISO-9001) is highly touted in the business media. Many governments have adopted some of the ISO standards, such as those regarding shipping. Many people may recognise ISO-9001 as a type of quality management, but in reality the ISO-9001 quality standard encompasses much more. ISO has certain requirements that must be met for an organisation to achieve certification. While these requirements are quite rigid, they do not specify how they are to be obtained. This feature allows for greater flexibility in quality process design, allowing a company to develop solutions that are tailored to its business.
ISO-9001, frequently misnumbered as ISO-90001, is a quality standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization. Also known also ISO-9001: 2008, its most recent version was released in November 2008. By looking at the quality process and product quality manifest in the hardware, software, processed materials and services of a company, ISO-9001 seeks to accurately define the complete processes inherent in each, from input to output to feedback.
The first ISO standard was released in 1987. ISO-9001 is the fourth incarnation of the ISO standard. This latest version was released with few revisions, but with the primary objective of clarifying its requirements and improving the consistency of the ISO standard with other quality management standards, both within its family of products and outside it. While many people, remembering only the surge of quality management initiatives spurred on in the mid-1980s, forget that quality has been always been an issue in business, the importance of it was clarified in the British government's slogan of 1966, "Quality is everyone's business." ISO standards are developed by committees of professionals from a variety of sectors, as well as representatives from government, consumer organisations and various non-profit, among others.
The primary objective of ISO-9001 is to act as a tool to improve the quality of products, services and operation while proving that quality is important to customers and employees. This may be done to meet certain quality demands by the customer or to maintain or achieve a competitive advantage. Some organisations may even have quality standards that must be met to continue operation.
ISO-9001 carries these objectives, but purposely does not define "how" those objectives are to be met. There are certain steps involved in adopting a quality management system, but the particulars are left open, allowing for greater flexibility and diversity.
Eight benefits were outlined in ISO-9001, each of which relate to core quality management objectives: 1.) Improved consistency 2.) Enhanced focus on the customer 3.) More focused leadership 4.) Employee involvement 5.) Systematic approach 6.) Continuous improvement 7.) Decisions based on facts 8.) Mutually beneficial supply chain relationships
However, there are many other benefits to be had from applying quality standards to operations, according to the British Accreditation Bureau: 1.) Improved internal working leading to less errors and rework 2.) Improved customer satisfaction and loyalty 3.) Improved morale and motivation 4.) Preferential insurance premiums 5.) Competitive advantage 6.) Increased profitability 7.) Enhanced status
Obtaining ISO certification
There are several requirements posed by the ISO-9001. While this is not an inclusive list, stated briefly they are: 1.) Develop a quality management system (QMS), meaning the establishment of objectives and the naming of those responsible for meeting those objectives. 2.) Document the QMS, including, but not limited to, documents reflecting the procedures and policies of the QMS, a manual for the QMS, control documents, and a system by which documents are maintained. 3.) Implement the QMS. 4.) Maintain the QMS by reviewing the system through monitoring and measuring feedback loops, observations, management reviews and other metrics. 5.) Improve the QMS.
ISO Is Voluntary
ISO certification is not mandatory. As noted by the ISO itself, "ISO is a nongovernmental organisation and it has no power to enforce the implementation of the standards it develops. A number of ISO standards---mainly those concerned with health, safety or the environment---have been adopted in some countries as part of their regulatory framework, or are referred to in legislation for which they serve as the technical basis. However, such adoptions are sovereign decisions by the regulatory authorities or governments of the countries concerned. ISO itself does not regulate or legislate."
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