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ISO 9001 Certification
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ISO 9001 Certification Overview

ISO 9001, or to give it its full title ISO 9001:2000 is an international standard for requirements for management systems implemented by any organisation, in any sector of activity. They apply to the processes that an organisation employs to realise its products or services – in other words, the way it accomplishes its work and meets the customers’ requirements

The key phrase in the ISO 9001 standard is "management systems". ISO 9001 does not deal with product or service quality issues. ISO 9001 is all about management of processes and procedures. Even the ISO website emphases this fact when it says

Therefore, ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004 certifications must not be presented in any way that may be interpreted as their being product certifications or product guarantees. For example, customers and consumers must not be misled into believing that ISO 9001:2008 is a product quality guarantee, or that ISO 14001:2004 guarantees a "green" or environmentally friendly product.

In fact, ISO stress this point even further as

Therefore, ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004 certification marks of conformity should not appear on products, product labels or product packaging, or in any way that might be interpreted as denoting product conformity.

So, what does ISO 9001 mean to a business or its customers? From the customers point of view, ISO 9001 certification means that a business has looked at the way it does thinks and has a set of procedures. This may initially be seem as a good point. At least the business is reviewing its procedures. As ISO 9001 certification needs to be audited regularly, a customer should be reassured that the business has the time and money to deal with the auditor. The auditor should make checks that staff are following the ISO 9001 procedures.

The Wrong Screwdriver

Where ISO 9001 certification can mislead a customer that the business is doing the right things can be illustrated by the following example.

Consider a business, with ISO 9001 certification, that repairs washing machines. As they have ISO 9001 certification, they have procedures for dealing with washing machines that arrive in their workshop. Let is assume that the procedures say that all washing machines entering the workshop should have their outer cover removed using the screwdriver listed in the procedures. Providing the staff use the screwdriver listed in the procedures, they are doing the right thing and will probably get a good report from the ISO 9001 certification auditor as they are following the procedures. What the auditor is not expected to check is whether or not the screwdriver is the correct tool for the job! So, in theory, you can get a worse job done by a business with ISO 9001 certification than a business that is not certified.

ISO goes Non Technical

Since 1947 the International Organazation for Standardization (ISO) been developing voluntary technical standards for most sectors of business, industry and technology. Even today the overwhelming majority of ISO standards are highly specific and technical in nature. These technical standards ensure that products are fit for their purpose.

In 1987 ISO 9000 came about. This is a generic (applies to any organisation of any size) management system. To many this is the first point of confusion. With over half a century of technical standards under its belt, ISO is often perceived as setting technical standards. Therefore, many will assume that ISO 9001 is a technical standards that will guarantee the technical quality of a product. This could not be further from the truth. The ISO 9000 series of standards, of which ISO 9001 is part, concern the management of systems.

ISO 9001 deals with the way businesses organise themselves and not what they do. Provided businesses has systems in place and document them, they should be well on the way to gaining ISO 9001 certification

Who Benefits from ISO 9001

  • Auditors - a nice little earner going to a businesses with ISO 9001 certification to verify that they are following procedures
  • Certification Companies - a nice little earner awarding businesses ISO 9001 certification

Customers may benefit from businesses with ISO 9001 certification At least businesses with ISO 9001 certification will have documented a complaints procedure.

Never forget the ISO 9001 certification can mean the wrong screwdriver being used!.

HCI Data Ltd is a member of the Federation of Small Businesses
Last Updated: Tuesday, 16-Jul-2019
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