Quality is a very important requirement for any product because it is one of the biggest factors determining how successful it will be in achieving customer satisfaction. Quality is often described as the extent to which a product or service meets the existing standards or requirements. Quality has become the catchword across industries and professions and quality management systems are being developed by the day to ensure better business processes. One such quality management system is provided by the International Organization for Standardization which is abbreviated as ISO.
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History of ISO
Every country has its own standards for every industry. But in an increasingly globalized business scenario, a need was felt for a common set of standards to make it easier for businesses to sell their products anywhere in the world. Against this background, about 65 delegates from 25 countries met in London in 1946 at the Institute of Civil Engineers. The agenda was to facilitate the unification of industrial standards at an international level. The following year, in February 1947, the non-governmental organization called International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was born, and 67 technical committees were set up.
Overview of ISO
From the 25 members who met to initiate this process, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has grown to a huge network of more than 160 member countries who represent their nation’s standards organizations. The ISO headquarters is located in Geneva, Switzerland. The ISO is considered the world’s largest organization involved with developing voluntary international standards. In this role, the ISO helps to facilitate global trade by creating common standards across countries. Over the years since it began functioning, ISO has set more than 20,000 standards in different areas right from manufacturing and agriculture to food safety and healthcare.
Aim of ISO International standards
The purpose of the International Standards developed by ISO is to ensure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. For businesses, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors and increasing productivity. They help companies to access new markets, level the playing field for developing countries, and facilitate free and fair global trade.
Organizations often wish to certify their quality systems but the ISO does not issue any such certificates. However, there are registered institutions and accreditation bodies who are qualified to perform the certification on behalf of ISO. An organization that meets the requirements of certification is issued an ISO certificate for the standards to which it conforms, and the certificate is valid for 3 years.
Principles on which ISO standards are based
- Engagement of people
- Process approach
- Continual improvement
- Evidence-based decision making
- Relationship management
ISO 9000 Family
The ISO 9000 family is probably the best known of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards. It is the set of International Standards that lays down the framework for a quality management system. The purpose of these is to guide organizations with the tools required to make sure that their services or products meet quality requirements and drive the process of continuous quality improvement. These standards are universal and may be applied to organizations in any industry and of any size.
ISO 9000 standards were published first in 1987. Major revisions were made in 2000 and later in 2008. The most recent versions are the ones published in 2015.
Some of the important standards in this family include :
- ISO 9000:2015 – basic concepts and vocabulary (definitions)
- ISO 9001: 2015 – requirements of a quality management system
- ISO 9004: 2018 – continuous improvement of quality management systems
- ISO 19011: 2011 – guidelines for internal and external audits of quality management systems.
While ISO 9000 is the standard that describes the quality management system, it is ISO 9001 standard that describes what requirements must be met to achieve that system in the organization. Thus, certification is given under ISO 9001 and not ISO 9000.
Criteria to get ISO 9001 Certification
- The organization must follow the guidelines laid down in the ISO 9001 standard.
- It must meet its own requirements.
- It must meet regulatory and statutory requirements.
- It must meet customer requirements.
- It must document its performance.
Benefits of ISO 9001 Certification
There are several advantages of ISO 9000 certification and these impact all aspects of an organization. The most important ones include:
- Increased credibility from the ISO certification which increases the organization’s marketability.
- The rigorous certification process exposes deficiencies in the organization and when these are addressed, it leads to significant cost savings in terms of time and money.
- The certification helps to improve the quality of products and processes resulting in better/higher customer satisfaction.
- Management control improves because of all the documentation and self-assessment involved in the registration process.
- Communication and interactions between the different departments in the organization improve creating better team spirit.
- As organizations move to improve their quality, the risk of product liability begins to reduce.
Important elements of ISO 9000
- Management responsibility
- Quality system
- Contract review
- Design control
- Document and data control
- Control of customer-supplied product
- Product identification and traceability
- Process control
- Inspection and testing
- Control of inspection, measuring, and test equipment
- Inspection and test status
- Control of non-conforming material
- Corrective and preventive action
- Handling, storage, packaging, preservation, and delivery
- Control of quality records
- Internal quality audits
- Statistical techniques
ISO 14000 family comprises the international standards, technical reports, and guides for environmental management by organizations. They specify the requirements necessary to set up an environmental management policy, plan and implement environmental objectives, determine the impact of products or services on the environment, and conduct corrective actions and management reviews. By working towards ISO 14000 certification, organizations can reduce the negative impact of their processes on the environment (air, land, or water).
Some of the important standards in this family include:
- ISO 14004: 2016 – Environmental management systems – General guidelines on implementation.
- ISO 14006: 2011 – Environmental management systems – guidelines to incorporate eco-design.
- ISO 14031: 2013 – Environmental Management – environmental performance evaluation guidelines.
- ISO 14064: 2006 – Greenhouse gases standards.
- ISO 14020: 2000 – Environmental Labels and Declarations – general principles.
Aim of ISO 14000 Standards
The ISO 14000 standards were developed as industries recognized the need for standardization in the area of environmental management. They aim at ensuring organizations promote environmental management systems that are effective.
The first standard for environmental management systems was the BS 7750 which was published in 1992. In 1996, ISO published the ISO 14000 family of standards, which was subsequently revised in 2004 and the latest version available is of 2015. ISO 14001 is the standard to which organizations can get certified.
Benefits of ISO 14000
ISO 14000 certification has several benefits for organizations, such as:
- It helps meet legal obligations towards environmental protection.
- Resources are used more efficiently.
- Waste is reduced.
- Environmental impacts get measured.
- Customer and stakeholder trust increases.
- Environmental obligations are managed the right way.
ISO certifications are important for organizations because they provide customers with evidence of the company’s commitment to quality. The standards have a process-oriented approach and look at how processes operate across departments and their interaction; they also help to focus on the most critical of products and services and therefore, are an effective check of the company’s quality management systems.
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