ISO 9001 certification demonstrates a company's compliance to the ISO 9001:2008, a set of guidelines developed by the International Organization for Standardization. These standards outline a philosophy of quality management. When applied well, the practices yield error-free products or services and result in high levels of customer satisfaction. ISO 9001:2008 has been deployed in more than 160 countries.
The International Organization for Standardization formed in Geneva, Switzerland in 1947 to explore the development of global standards that stimulate interoperability of technologies and harmonize industrial practices between countries. ISO invited nations to participate in technical committees. More than 100 countries sent representatives. Since 1947, ISO has issued more than 18,000 standards.
ISO 9001:2008 is rooted in BS 5750, a British standard designed during World War II to eliminate accidents in military factories. The British government encouraged ISO to develop a similar set of standards to cover non-military industries. From this emerged the ISO 9000 family of standards in 1987. Today ISO 9001:2008 forms the latest set of standards.
ISO 9001:2008 lists requirements that apply to all levels of management in an organization. These principles of quality management request that documented processes guide activities and that employees refer to the written instructions to guide their daily activities. Conformity to process documentation ensures consistent outcomes. Monitoring mechanisms measure how well an action is performed and raises a flag when the output stands outside of expected norms. Quality improves when employees revise the process to prevent a second occurrence of a defect.
A company seeking ISO 9001 certification engages an accreditation firm typically located in the same country as the company. This accreditation firm contracts an auditing agency that sends auditors on site. Auditors spend a few days to a few weeks monitoring the company. The cost to the company typically averages $1,000 per auditor per day.
Auditors interview the leadership team first, looking for the leadership's endorsement in the quality principles of ISO 9001. Specifically, they ask to see the corporate goals that pertain to quality management. They review management's commitment to adding staff and resources to ensure compliance to the ISO management guidelines. In a second phase, auditors observe employees in their daily activities and review how well they follow the process documents. The auditors study feedback mechanisms to flag defects for robustness and corrective actions.
Auditors conclude their visit with a report that analyzes the company's compliance with the standards. Typically, the report lists the gaps the auditors discovered, labeling them minor or major. Major deviations constitute roadblocks to certification. Minor disconnects will not stop the certification, but must be addressed within one year. Auditors visit the sites annually to monitor progress. Certification must be renewed every three years.
ISO 9001:2008 certification places the organization in a new league of companies that mutually respect each other for sharing the same philosophy about quality management. In this realm of excellence, companies will be open to setting partnership agreements among themselves.
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