ISO 9001 certification is an indication that a company has an efficient management process overlooking their production process – and gives companies a track for continuous improvements. But what exactly are the benefits of this type of certification? And what’s the process for becoming certified?
The ISO 9000 Quality Management System
ISO 9000 is a group of quality management systems (QMSs) designed to evaluate organizations and help them ensure they’re meeting both regulatory guidelines and stakeholder expectations. With more than 1 million organizations currently certified using ISO 9001, this is one of the most widely accepted and used systems in the world.
Originally, the International Organization for Standardization (abbreviated ISO, despite what you might think) published ISO 9000 in 1987. But its true origins date back to other systems of evaluation and certification, including the U.S. Department of Defense’s MIL-Q-9858 from 1959.
The 7 Quality Management Standards
Companies that pass an ISO 9000 series certification audit must meet a series of 7 quality management standards:
- Customer focus. For starters, companies should keep their customers as the top priority. Every aspect of the business, from hiring to production and follow through, should be designed and perfected with customers in mind.
- Leadership. Leaders are responsible for setting the tone and direction for the organization. Everything flows from the top down, requiring organizations to choose strong leaders and enable them to do their best.
- Engagement of people. Engaged employees are more productive, happier, and capable of maintaining a safer environment. Employees at all levels should be engaged at all times.
- Process approach. There should be documented processes in place to guide employees through their daily responsibilities – and ensure the company can meet its long-term goals.
- Improvement. It’s not enough to have a company that works well currently; there need to be policies and practices in place to continually self-improve.
- Evidence based decision making. Major company decisions need to be based on facts and data – not whims or assumptions.
- Relationship management. Relationships between the organization and its customers, stakeholders, vendors, partners, and contractors matter – and should be maintained in a healthy way.
As you can see, these qualities all lend themselves to higher chances of success in a given organization.
The Benefits of ISO 9001 Certification
So what are the benefits of ISO 9001 certification?
- Improve productivity. Going through the ISO certification requirements has the potential to increase the productivity of the entire organization, especially as you design better processes and provide more support to employees.
- Reduce employee turnover. With happier, more engaged, more productive employees, you’ll likely see lower turnover – and most employees will be happy to be working for a certified organization.
- Round out company processes. Companies tend to perform better with solid, documented processes outlining correct procedures. ISO certification gives you a chance to design these.
- Improve company reputation (and gain more sales). Customers are more likely to buy from companies that are certified; it’s an indication of quality and experience. Similarly, stakeholders may be more likely to invest.
- Increase efficiency. Preparing a company for ISO certification almost always increases the efficiency within that company.
- Reduce waste. In line with this, ISO standards can help companies eliminate or sharply reduce waste – including wasted time, wasted materials, and ultimately, wasted money.
- Boost customer satisfaction. Some of the core principles of ISO certification require companies to engage with customers and maintain better relationships. Accordingly, ISO certified companies tend to see higher rates of customer satisfaction – and longer-lasting customer relationships.
- Gain a track for continuous improvement. Without firm standards for continuous improvement in place, companies tend to stagnate. But with a track for ongoing improvement in place, an organization can keep growing and getting more efficient over time.
Criticisms of ISO 9000 Certification
Of course, there are some criticisms of ISO 9000 certification. For example, ensuring compliance with the ISO 9000 series qualifications can be both expensive and time consuming, pulling decision makers and professionals away from work that could be used to improve the business. To implement and maintain this certification, businesses often need to hire and coordinate multiple administrators. Additionally, the ISO certification standards tend to be firm, making it a poor fit for businesses in certain industries. Despite this, businesses feel pressure to conform to these standards.
Other criticisms focus on ISO’s potential to reinforce bad behaviors. For example, managers who already have a tendency to adopt a “hands-off” style and only monitor documented reports of activity aren’t encouraged to change up their leadership style.
Still, the ISO 9000 series certifications remain some of the most popular, most widely accepted, and most valuable certifications in the world. If you own a manufacturing company, or operate in another industry relevant to ISO 9000, getting certified is almost a practical necessity.