Quality management: The Importance of ISO

Benefits of ISO Standard
August 15, 2019
August 22, 2019

Companies know ISO standards may be good for them, but they may need motivation to get certified. Manufacturing sectors have adopted ISO 9000 for three reasons: the value of the standard, the sales and marketing advantage, and company requirements.

Companies know ISO standards may be good for them, but they may need motivation to get certified. Manufacturing sectors have adopted ISO 9000 for three reasons: the value of the standard, the sales and marketing advantage, and company requirements.

Companies appreciate how the standard can improve their business processes and reduce scrap, rework and cost. Second, manufacturers with similar products, service and price use the certification to differentiate themselves from their competitors. “It gives you a marketing advantage over the competition. It’s a differentiator,” says John A. DiMaria, BSI Management Systems (Reston, VA) product manager for business continuity for information security management and IT.

The final reason manufacturers adopt ISO 9000 is that they were mandated to do so. ISO-certified companies may require their suppliers to do the same. “It’s hard to do business with anyone-especially in manufacturing-if you’re not ISO 9000 certified,” says DiMaria, who has 25 years experience in international standards.

However, the certificate alone will not improve the company’s business processes. The goal should be improved business, not a piece of paper. Done correctly, ISO standards can improve an organization’s business processes and add value.

Robert King, president of ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB, Milwaukee, WI), has been involved with ISO standards for about five years and has learned how to get the most out of the standards. “The key is to actually implement it and get management involved,” King says. “ISO standards can help by actually saving money or improving a company’s environmental footprint.”

A good quality process drives a company, and ideally, involves everyone in producing a quality service or product. When implementing ISO, King emphasizes senior management involvement. “I can’t stress that enough,” he says.

If a company wants to get certified, they should first look at what sort of standard they need and create a
quality manual-a business process manual-based on that standard. It also is a good idea to talk to other companies who have received certification and learn from them. Then, look for a certification body.
Some certification bodies are fairly broad, while others are niche players. Choose one with relevant business expertise, interview the management and lead auditor, and ensure that the lead auditor is a fit for the business. Consider using a local auditor to cut travel costs.

Some certified bodies are not as credible as others, DiMaria says. Some substandard certified bodies take a company’s money without adding value to the company.

Meanwhile, other manufacturers are only looking for a certificate, and a certification body to open those doors for them. “In our industry we call these badge buyers,” DiMaria says. “The company gives the rest of the industry a bad name.”

To ensure that a company is working with a reputable certification body, DiMaria recommends researching the history of the organization, checking at least three references and asking for auditors’ resumes.

After a qualified certification body is in place, the business process will be audited to find holes and point out nonconformances. Gaps should be expected because it is unrealistic to create a perfect system the first time out, King says.

ISO certification does take hands-on senior management involvement and enough resources devoted to the task, which may include the use of consultants. “I think they are an important part of our business, unless they have a good quality manager who’s done this before. You can’t do this unless you have a little experience in it or you’re a genius,” King says.

When considering a consultant, look at how many resources are available and the size of your organization. With consultants, the best ones are usually mentors, not doers. “They’ll do things, but they’re basically involving the company the whole time. The company is doing a decent amount of work themselves. The consultant guides them in the right direction. The better ones will be mentors; they won’t do it all for you,” DiMaria says.

Finally, as with certification bodies, check the consultant’s references and portfolio. Also, ensure that the consultant is not involved with the certification body, which leads to a conflict of interest, King says.
After all of the people are in place and have bought into the ISO standards, it is time to begin the certification process. The timeline for implementing ISO 9000, from start to finish, can take anywhere from nine to 12 months, depending on the size of the organization, DiMaria says. It depends on how many people the organization can spare, and whether or not they use a consultant.

John Drengenberg, Underwriters Laboratories (UL, Northbrook, IL) manager of consumer affairs and a 38-year UL veteran, says, “Time to certification varies. It’s almost impossible to answer.” It depends on how much a company knows about what needs to be done, how quickly they pursue corrective action and how many resources are devoted to it.

By: Michelle Bangert