In a global economy, it’s helpful to know that there are international organizations trying to ensure manufacturers, engineers and all kinds of other businesses adhere to global standards. This way, if you’re looking for a 60-foot length of chain for anchoring your sailboat during a tour of the Mediterranean coasts, you can rest assured that a DIN/ISO-certified length of chain is made to industry standards.
But ISO standards exist for 22,877 (and counting) products and processes, with everything from food safety to healthcare and general quality management. While adhering to ISO standards will never absolve anyone of liability, it can help prove good faith, and that's just the tip of what standardization can do.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
ISO/DIN are two separate organizations whose missions are to create international standards on everything from product output to operational processes across all industries.
Who Is ISO?
ISO describes itself as “an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 164 national standards bodies.” Being headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is fitting for this organization because it’s truly neutral — it’s on the side of science, safety and performance. That’s been the case since day one, back in 1946, when the delegates of 25 nations got together at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London, UK, to hammer out a means of creating international standards that could better world trade as well as reinforcing public safety.
In February 1947, the International Organization for Standardization was born with 67 technical committees helping to establish standards and best practices. To simplify matters across all languages, the organization chose ISO as its acronym.
Who Is DIN?
The Deutsche Institut für Normung is much like ISO in that it sets the standards for German manufacturing and safety, except it has done this since its inception in 1917. Today, much of its standardization work is international in nature. DIN standards are widely accepted to be on par with ISO.
Examples of Standardization
Paper is a day-to-day example of how standardization helps. With DIN/ISO standards for international paper sizes, you can buy a printer from nearly any brand in any country and know it’ll handle “letter-sized” and other typical dimensions.
But ISO and DIN govern more than just things that have been manufactured; they govern how processes are executed and the establishing of best practices. For example, ISO 9000 refers to its quality management guidelines and companies of all stripes can become ISO 9001-certified. The company could be a fast food chain or it could be a petroleum processor, but both could be ISO 9001-certified because it means there’s a quality management system implemented, and the company adheres to it. Plus, this isn’t a pay-to-play certification — it’s one that requires companies to submit to an external auditing in order to receive certification, and they must undergo auditing every three years to retain certification.
With nearly 23,000 standards in play, there’s an ISO certification that applies to your business, large or small. For instance, ISO/IEC 27001 applies to pretty much any company with a filing cabinet and a computer — it’s a certification for information systems security, and companies dealing with data of any kind can benefit from following these best practices standards in an era where data breaches can challenge consumer loyalty.
Why ISO/DIN Standards Matter
Employing ISO standards isn’t about having the appearance of being good at what you do — it’s about creating a culture where there's a proper way to do things. It’s about efficiencies, accountability, good results, customer satisfaction, keeping people (and information) safe, reducing liabilities, eliminating malfunctions and having clearly defined processes for nearly any situation.
Learning about the ISO standards that can apply to your business is a way to take a shortcut to excellence. Instead of learning things that can go wrong, and how to resolve them through bump-in-the-night procedures, you can benefit from the thousands of member businesses that have played a role in defining those ISO guidelines representing the best, safest, most efficient operations that relate to your industry.
Steffani Cameron is a professional writer who has written for the Washington Post, Culture, Yahoo!, Canadian Traveller, and many other platforms. Some writing projects have included ghost-writing for CEOs and doing strategy white papers. She frequently writes for corporate clients representing Fortune 500 brands on subjects that include marketing, business, and social media trends.