Most of you will already know the importance of ISO certification and how it applies within your business.
However, if you are new to the concept or are struggling to get your head around it, this article will endeavor to introduce you to the principle behind ISO and the ISO management system.
In this article, we’ll investigate:
- What is the ISO Management System
- What is iso 9001
- What ISO certification means to your business,
- What are the key concepts of ISO,
- What are the benefits of ISO certification
- What are the issues you might want to watch out for?
Ok, Let’s get to it!
Who is ISO?
One of the very first questions people new to this ask is:
“who exactly is ISO? “
You’ve no doubt seen their name associated with many standards and plastered over most organizations you come across but who actually are they?
ISO is an acronym for International Organizations for Standardisation. You can find them online here: https://www.iso.org
Here’s a few key facts:
- ISO are a non-governmental federation made up of over 160 national Standard bodies.
- Meetings are held annually in Geneva at ISO’s headquarters in order to foster consensus-based Standards.
- These Standards are then published
- Businesses can then utilize these standards, building and introducing management systems that comply with and deliver against these requirements.
- There are A LOT of standards (ISO have published in excess of 20,000 standards and documents that cover various industries.
What is an ISO Standard?
Ok, so now we know who they are what is exactly is an ISO Standard?
The best way to think about a set of ISO standards is as a family tree, for example, lets take ISO 9000 as an example.
We have a few examples of this “family” below:
- ISO 9000 Quality Management Systems – Fundementals and Vocablary
- ISO 9001 – Quality Management systems – Requirements
- ISO 9004 Quality management — Quality of an organization — Guidance to achieve sustained success
When you look at this example, you can see how a business may look at qualifying against a number of the standards within the 9000 family. Each standard helps to develop a set of attributes around a key area of the business.
How often do ISO update standards?
A further consideration is that ISO update their standards regularly. Revised versions get released every few years.
You can see when a standard has been updated as the year of the release is usually included in it’s name, for example, ISO 9001:2015
Ok, so now you know who the ISO organization is, what a standard is and also how often they are updated, Now, let’s now dig a little deeper.
What is an ISO Management System?
If you are reading this piece, then the chances are you’re looking to implement ISO (or more precisely) an ISO Management system within your organization.
From the off, ISO can be very confusing for the uninitiated. No doubt you’re trying to get to grips with:
- What is an ISO management system.
- What are ISO Standards
- What are the different standards and all those numbers?
- Which standard do I need?
- How should an ISO Quality Management system work in practice within my business?
- How do I obtain a standard
- Can I get certification without any outside help?
- What collateral (data/documentation) do I need along the way.
We’ve put this piece together with the idea of trying to answer some of these questions, whilst also helping to allay any understandable fears you might have.
So let’s answer the first question…
What is an ISO Management System, and why should I want one?
This one’s easy. Having a Quality Management Systems helps enable your business empowering it with things like:
- Health & Safety
The fundamental task that the management system delivers is how to carry out your business effectively and meet your goals and objectives.
Let’s now take a look at these in a little more detail:
Processes and Procedures
One of the main challenges that many businesses face is consistency. Where businesses have weak management systems, you might find standards in output vary, staff do the same job in multiple ways, and higher levels of risks are introduced (such as non-conformances & Health and safety).
A robust Management Systems helps provide consistency.
This is a key component of why businesses should adopt such practices. Consistency and standards are a crucial business enabler; helping to:
- Reduce waste
- Enable staff
- Provide a framework that enables safety
- Creates a route to delivery of your objective/goal
Ok that all sounds great, but what is an ISO management system? Is it a bunch of papers & documents?
A Management System broadly contains the processes and procedures a business utilizes in order to deliver their products (and meet the requirements of the standard).
There are various standards which are specifically tuned to the various goals that could exist.
- Data management & protection
- Health & Safety
- Energy Management
Further to this there are standards that can be applied to particular industry sectors for example
- Food safety
For each, a specific management standard exists. For example ISO2200 Food Safety.
What is ISO Certification
While anyone can read an ISO standard and then put it into practice to demonstrate to your customers that you adhere to the standard, you’ll most likely want to become certified.
ISO Certification means that you have interpreted the standard and deployed it in your business. To validate that you meet the requirements of the standard, you have been audited by an independent, accredited body. The independent auditor has found that you meet the requirements demonstrating that you are following the guidance within your organization’s management system.
Why become ISO certified
There are a variety of reasons that you might want to become ISO certified – these include:
- Demonstrating to customers and potential customers that you adhere to a recognized standard
- Enable you to bid for work where the standard is a pre-qualification requirement
- Enable efficiency and effectiveness.
How long does ISO 9001 certification last
The certificate is typically valid for three years between major audits with annual surveillance. Once you are at the three-year point, you are assessed again to ensure that you continue to meet the standard.
If no notable non-compliances have been discovered or after any noncompliances have been corrected, the registrar issues the ISO 9001 certification.
ISO Standard Examples
As we stated earlier in the article, there are a plethora of standards, in fact ISO has developed over 23,000 International Standards.
You can view the catalog of standards on the ISO website (https://www.iso.org/standards-catalogue/browse-by-tc.html)
At the time of writing, it’s three best selling standards are:
ISO 9001:2015 – QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
ISO 22000:2018 – FOOD SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
ISO 14001:2015 – ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Can’t I just buy an ISO system off the shelf?
While it’s true that off the shelf packages are available this is unlikely to help you becuase a) the processes may not be tuned to your business needs and b) Auditors are trained to look for such “off the shelf” systems that are not embedded in a business.
Where do ISO Consultants fit in?
As you’ve probably seen, there are a vast array of ISO consultants that can assist businesses with ISO certification, ISO auditing and general consultancy services.
As we discussed at the beginning of the piece, ISO standards and certification can scare a lot of people, accreditation can appear complicated, the documents challenging, and the process of actually achieving certification confusing and difficult.
Many organizations choose to utilize consultancy as they find themselves faced with two key drivers:
· They don’t want to get it wrong and want to use someone experienced in ISO to help on the journey
· The organization is too busy doing the important stuff of building widgets or selling services and sees outsource of the task to a professional body who knows what they are doing advantageous.
ISO consultants are usually professional bodies who have vast experience in ISO standards. This includes what it takes to implement them, successfully audit against them and lastly, maintain them.
This can help a business not only achieve certification but ensure that the process adds value and helps them achieve the goals that pushed them to accreditation in the first place.
This is especially true of SME’s without the benefit of an experienced professional in the business.
ISO consultants can demonstrate the process and guide you through it, offering the benefit of their experience along the way.
As you’ll have no doubt seen there is a tonne of ISO consultancy services around that can help you meet and apply the ISO standards. Selecting the right one on your journey can be a crucial enabler so it’s vitally important that you take time to research and select someone appropriate.
So there’s our piece on ISO Management systems and certification. I hope you found both entertaining and enlightening. If you’re just about to start your ISO journey or maybe you’ve been through it and have some experiences you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can always message us via our twitter account or use the comments section below this article.