As geographic barriers between countries deteriorate with the continued evolution of the Internet, ISO 9000 may be one of the largest differentiators between you and your competitors. Already, ISO 9000 plays a key role in winning new customers, maintaining satisfied current customers, accessing foreign countries and dealing with the government.

What is ISO 9000, 9001, 9002, ISO 9000:2000?

ISO is the word that represents the International Organization for Standardization. It is not the acronym for the International Organization for Standardization as many people think. It is the worldwide federation of national standards bodies for approximately 130 countries.

The ISO 9000 standards are produced by an international consensus of countries with the aim of creating global standards of product and service quality. These sets of standards form a quality management system and are applicable to any organization regardless of product, service, organizational size, or whether it’s a public or private company.

ISO covers all technical fields and is not limited to any particular discipline. It does not, however, cover electrical or electronic engineering which are the responsibility of the IEC. The responsibility for information technology is performed by a joint ISO/IEC technical committee.

Your business can be certified against one of three quality systems: ISO 9001, ISO 9002 or ISO 9003.

  • ISO 9001 sets out the requirements for an organization whose business processes range all the way from design and development, to production, installation and servicing;
  • ISO 9002 is the appropriate standard for organizations that do not design and develop products, since it does not include the design control requirements of ISO 9001. Its requirements are identical aside from that distinction.
  • ISO 9003 is the appropriate standard for an organization whose business processes do not include design control, process control, purchasing or servicing. It focuses on inspection and testing to ensure that final products and services meet specified requirements.

It is your organization that chooses which of the three quality systems to be certified against (ISO 9001, ISO 9002 or ISO 9003) based on business processes. None is considered more important than another; it is important to identify the appropriate standard before pursuing certification.

The Benefits of ISO Certification

ISO 9000 provides a framework and systematic approach to managing business processes to produce a product/service that conforms to customer expectations. For customers, the certification of suppliers to ISO standards means that they can be assured that the development of their products and services are compliant to reference documents that are globally accepted. This, of course, means that customers and suppliers are able to compete in markets around the world.

The benefits of becoming certified are numerous; companies should ensure that they are pursuing certification for the right reasons:

  • To improve business processes and save money. Most companies implementing ISO 9000 certification report increases in business process efficiencies, reductions in waste, and improved product quality.
  • To qualify for new customers. Many corporations see ISO 9000 Certification as an essential requirement for conducting business with a new vendor.
  • To enter global markets. ISO 9000 standards are required in many countries.

How to Pursue ISO Certification

To become ISO certified, a business must develop a quality system that meets the requirements specified by one of the following three standards: ISO 9001, ISO 9002 or ISO 9003, depending on your business product or service. Once your quality system has been documented and implemented, you must invite an accredited external auditor to evaluate the effectiveness of your system. If the auditor determines that your quality system meets all of ISO’s requirements, they will certify your system. You can then announce to the world that the quality of your products/services is managed, controlled, and assured by a registered ISO 9000 quality system.

What is Required – A Snapshot

  • A standard language for documenting quality practices.
  • A system to track and manage evidence that these practices are instituted in your business.
  • An independent audit to assess and certify compliance.

Timeline and Cost Implications of Implementing ISO

It is obvious that there are many advantages to ISO certification. Certification should not be undertaken lightly, however, as it is extremely time consuming and costly. By rough estimate, it can take anywhere from six to 18 months to document your business operations, with another one to three months to verify against actual operations.

Fees for consultants to help guide your business through the process of documentation and certification are around the $10,000 to $20,000 magnitude. Make sure you hire the right consultant for the job. Don’t forget about the time spent by employees during documentation and away from production – these can add up also.

What’s the Future of ISO? ISO 9000:2000

The ISO 9000 family of quality management system standards, called ISO 9000:2000, is finally being updated. Why you ask? Well, it hasn’t been updated since initially issued, and the committee agreed that it needs to reflect a more modern understanding of quality. On September 14, 2000, the standards took one further step towards finalization.

These new standards are now being distributed to the institutes that make up ISO’s worldwide membership. It will be approved if at least 75 percent of the votes cast on November 14, 2000, are in favor. In this case, it will be published as the new International Standards in December 2000.

The three FDIS (Final Draft International Standards) which have just been published are the following:

  • ISO/FDIS 9000, Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary
  • ISO/FDIS 9001, Quality management systems – Requirements
  • ISO/FDIS 9004, Quality management systems – Guidelines for performance improvements
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