The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an independent, non-governmental organization made up of members from the national standards bodies of over 160 countries that set international standards related to products and services. ISO 9000 is a series of ISO standards related to quality management. The object of these standards is to provide organizations with the guidance and tools needed to ensure that their products and services meet external requirements and drive consistent quality improvement.
If you are researching ISO 9000, you are likely interested in ISO 9001. First issued in 1987 and last updated in 2015, ISO 9001 is the standard that sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is also the only standard within ISO 9000 that an organization can certify to. While an ISO 9001 certification is not regulatory requirement, ISO reports that “over one million companies and organizations in over 170 countries have certified to ISO 9001.”
ISO 9001 is based on seven quality management principles, as described by the ISO in the following:
- Customer focus – The primary focus of quality management is to meet customer requirements and to strive to exceed customer expectations.
- Leadership – Leaders at all levels establish unity of purpose and direction and create conditions in which people are engaged in achieving the organization’s quality objectives.
- Engagement of people – Competent, empowered and engaged people at all levels throughout the organization are essential to enhance its capability to create and deliver value.
- Process approach – Consistent and predictable results are achieved more effectively and efficiently when activities are understood and managed as interrelated processes that function as a coherent system.
- Improvement – Successful organizations have an ongoing focus on improvement.
- Evidence-based decision making – Decisions based on the analysis and evaluation of data and information are more likely to produce desired results.
- Relationship management – For sustained success, an organization manages its relationships with interested parties, such as suppliers.
One misconception is that ISO 9001 is only for manufactures or large organizations. As a principles-based standard, ISO 9001 can be applied to any organization regardless of what type or size it may be. The standard defines the requirements, but it does not dictate the method of application. The latest version of the standard has been specifically designed to be more accessible to organizations outside the manufacturing sector.
Whether or not your organization chooses to certify, the application of ISO 9001 when implementing a quality management system can provide the following benefits:
- Clear understanding of your objectives and new business opportunities.
- Identifying and addressing the risks associated with your organization.
- Renewed emphasis on putting your customers first.
- Meeting the necessary statutory and regulatory requirements.
- Organizational and process alignment to increase productivity and efficiency.
So what is ISO 9000? In short, it is a principles based, international standard for quality management that organizations can use to be more efficient and improve customer satisfaction.