Many companies considering the benefits of ISO standardisation for quality management are still confused about what these standards mean, and what ISO itself refers to within continuous improvement policies. The name ISO is derived from the Greek word ‘isos’, which means equal. As these standards were developed as a way for companies all over the world to standardise their procedures for global improvement of quality management systems, this name is used in all languages. ISO is often confused with the International Organization for Standardization. This organisation governs and determines the various standards however, and its abbreviation is IOS rather than ISO.
ISO Standards for Quality Management
The standards that apply to quality management belong to the ISO 9000 set of standards. These include the ISO 9000, ISO 9001 and ISO 9004, with each comprising of the primary ISO 9000 standard. This standard is essential for any organisation that needs to adhere to a great level of continuous improvement, and relate to procedures, protocols, guidelines and certification. The ISO 9000 standards can be broken down into the following components:
- ISO 9000 – this standard comprises the various definitions and terminology that is used by the ISO 9001 standard, acting as a reference point when implementing ISO standards within an organisation.
- ISO 9001 – this standard comprises the actual requirements for certification or registration audits. Organisations will use these requirements to implement various changes that will ensure that standardisation is achieved successfully.
- ISO 9004 – this standard comprises a set of guidelines that can be used to develop and implement quality management systems within the workplace. Using these guidelines along with the requirements of this standard is the best way for organisations to gain ISO certification.
How is ISO Certification Achieved?
The International Organization of Standardization does not certify companies itself. Instead, companies need to apply through accreditation bodies. In order to be certified, these accreditation and audit bodies will assess companies based on an extensive sample of its sites, functions, products, services, and processes. A list of non-compliances and action requests are presented to the audit body, and the company is required to either resolve these potential issues or an improvement plan is granted. Once the company is shown to have responded sufficiently, they will be granted ISO certification. ISO certification is a company’s seal of compliance, and as such, the benefits range from better customer perception and service, improved systems and an overall improvement in quality management across the company.