A quality management system can improve a business’ operational processes and, as a result, the quality of its products or services. A quality management program also makes clear to customers the business’ strong focus on quality and satisfaction. To this end, implementing ISO 9001 quality management standards from the highly respected ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) can be an especially smart step for businesses in any industry sector or part of the world.
ISO 9001 comes from ISO, the largest and most widely known and respected source for quality management standards. This nongovernmental organization is a network of national standards institutes of 162 countries. ISO standards do not have the power of law but are based on consensus among its members, who represent the needs of both business and society at large. Since its founding in 1947, ISO has published more than 17,500 international standards.
For society, ISO 9001 standard operating procedures help to ensure that products and services around the world meet expectations for quality. For businesses who implement ISO 9001, the main benefits as described by ISO are “the connection of quality management systems to organizational processes” and “a natural progression toward improved organizational performance.” Companies using ISO 9001 see reduced costs and increased customer satisfaction due to improved quality.
In 1987, ISO developed ISO 9001 to define the components of a quality management system—for example, specific processes, documentation and roles dedicated to ensuring quality.ISO 9001 calls for organizations to adopt ISO’s Quality Management Principles and a process approach and to heavily engage top management in the quality process. In addition, organizations following ISO 9001 must establish relevant quality objectives and closely measure outcomes with a focus on continuous improvement.
Once an organization has chosen to use ISO 9001 standard operating procedures, it should begin to instill in its employees the Quality Management Principles. Next, the business should analyze the standards and conduct a gap analysis to understand how existing processes might need to change to comply with ISO 9001. Finally, the organization should work through the adjustment of existing processes and the development of new processes to achieve compliance with the ISO 9001 standards.
While organizations can follow ISO 9001 without being certified, taking this additional step can help raise an organization’s image and credibility. ISO does not provide certification; organizations can obtain certifications from specialized third-party auditors that verify compliance to ISO 9001. The organization can then publicize and promote its certification, within ISO guidelines, as a hallmark of its quality commitment.