n short, ISO 9001 is a voluntary Quality Management System standard that helps organizations ensure they are meeting customer requirements. Note that the key word in the title is “Management.” The intent of the 9001 standard is to implement systems that Management can use to better run the business. Many companies have portions of these best practices in place currently or they wouldn’t be able to stay in business. However, the standard offers a more structured approach for processes such as how customer requirements are reviewed and met; how products or services are actually produced and delivered; how employees are hired and considered to be competent; how documents are controlled to ensure they are current; how management itself periodically reviews the processes they have implemented; and how data is used in decision making. In fact, the 23 page standard provides guidance in all areas of the business. Its process approach to organizational improvement can be applied to any business – no matter the industry or size.
Apart from the obvious benefit of opening up market opportunities where ISO 9001 certification is a requirement, the biggest benefits stem from having a structure to improve your processes. Because the standard is really based on best practices for organizations, it provides management with the tools to objectively decide where things are working well, and where to best apply resources to make things run more smoothly. So – ideally, ISO 9000 helps your management team maximize the effectiveness of your business, thereby enhancing growth and reducing cost. From your customers’ perspective, it gives them confidence that you have an organization that can consistently meet their needs.
- Get more revenue and business from new customers;
- Improve company and product quality;
- Increase customer satisfaction with your products;
- Document, understand, and communicate your company processes;
- Develop a professional culture and better employee morale;
- Improve the consistency of your operations;
- Keep management and employees focused on quality;
- Improve efficiency, reduce waste and save money; and
- Achieve international quality recognition.
Absolutely. We’ve worked with companies of one or two people who decided to get certified. The processes that you’ll put in place would have the same intent as a much larger company; it’s just that the implementation will be simpler. We work with organizations to assist them in balancing the appropriate level of documentation with what’s necessary to meet requirements.
The ISO 9000 standards are general enough to apply to any industry. We have clients in industries ranging from manufacturing to government and defense contractors; from education to call center operations to software development and they can all apply the standard to their business model.
Many people are hesitant to begin the certification process, because they incorrectly believe that they will need mounds of paperwork to comply. In fact, the ISO standard only requires a quality manual and six written procedures: Control of Documents, Control of Records, Internal Auditing, Control of Nonconforming Product, Corrective Action, and Preventive Action. Beyond those requirements, it’s really up to you how much additional documentation you need to plan, operate and control your business effectively. Some companies find the need to add extra controls they didn’t have previously; some use the process to delete older documents that are redundant or not worthwhile to maintain.
As with anything worthwhile, there is some ongoing effort required to maintain ISO 9000 so that it returns real value to your organization. It is possible to implement ISO only to satisfy the auditors and to “check the certification box”. But, in many cases only an extra half-step of effort is required to make the certification really pay for itself with increased quality and efficiency. Certainly there are some resources needed to maintain the processes you implement. However, most companies feel this cost is offset by the business benefits realized in terms of more efficient processes.