ISO: setting the Standard of Quality for all

Here's a quick rundown of all you ever wanted to know about the modern-day ISO 9000 'family of Standards', but were totally afraid to ask.

Where would we be without Standards? In the UK and across much of Europe we often complain about the standard of products or services – but at least we know, or should do, that there are governmental and organisational Standards in place to guarantee a certain level of Quality and safety.

Anyone who has spent any time in other parts of the world, particularly developing regions, knows all too well what happens when there are few such rules, if any at all.

This brings us to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and has a grand total of 163 member countries and their respective Standards bodies; which in the UK is the British Standards Institution (BSI). Since it was founded in 1947, ISO has published over 19,500 International Standards that cover nearly every single industry and sector, and the newest guidelines - ISO 9001:2015 - will soon be introduced, but more on that later.

In the UK the BSI and the associated professional institute, the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI), work with all the various ISO and related British Standards – and it's not just about safety and consumer protection. The use of the same industrial Standards means all kinds of trade gets a boost and companies that have adopted the Standards in manufacturing and distribution become far more efficient, and therefore more profitable, because inefficiencies and waste are massively reduced.

A (very) brief guide to ISO 9000

Here's a quick rundown of all you ever wanted to know about the modern-day ISO 9000 'family of Standards', but were totally afraid to ask. Like anything in life, this Standard of Quality is constantly being upgraded so that it improves over time and fits the needs of all sorts of companies that are operating in ever-changing situations.

It begins with ISO 9000, laying the framework for Quality Standards with the initial concepts that needed to be introduced. Then enters ISO 9001, which allows companies to implement a Quality Management System that places an emphasis on the customer as well as how executives at managerial level are running the show. So far it's been adopted by more than 1 million organisations and firms around the world.

Next up is ISO 9004, the document containing the principles of improving a Quality Management System by making it more efficient and therefore effective. Subsequent tweaks are unveiled in ISO 19011, with guidelines for audits of Quality (and related) Management Systems. You will learn much about the guidelines in ISO 19011 on any of our Internal or Lead Auditor training courses.


The newcomer: ISO 9001:2015

By the end of 2015, an updated version of the International Standard for Quality Management Systems, ISO 9001, will be introduced by ISO. So what's new? Well, ISO advises that this forthcoming update will follow a "new, higher level structure to make it easier to use in conjunction with other management system Standards, with increased importance given to risk".

The chairman of the ISO subcommittee responsible for the update, Dr Nigel Croft, said last November that he was hopeful that it would be published by September this year and gave further details on what to expect.

"The new version is very strongly based on three basic core concepts: [firstly] the process approach which was very successful in the 2008 version of the Standard, [and then, secondly] superimposed on that system of processes is the plan-do-check-act methodology; and a third core concept, which is new in the 2015 version, is risk-based thinking, aiming at preventing undesirable outcomes," he said.

The revision is currently at the final stage of deliberations among members, having undergone a number of stages over the past three years, starting with its proposal in May 2012. Companies and organisations that have already implemented ISO 9001:2008 will have three years to migrate to this updated Standard and they're advised to get in touch with their national member body (BSI in the UK) for details about what to do.


SQMC – ISO Trainers and Consultants

As ISO says, these International Standards have been devised to "make things work". It says they provide "world-class specifications for products, services and systems, to ensure quality, safety and efficiency. They are instrumental in facilitating international trade".

If you'd like to know more about ISO and its Standards, including how they translate into doing business in the UK, please get in touch with us here at the Scottish Quality Management Centre (SQMC) and we'll be more than happy to explain.