Since the first publication of ISO 9001 in 1987, over one million organizations around the world have been certified to it. Today, the number of organizations deciding to use ISO 9001 as their guide to implement or improve a quality management system continues to grow. The reasons for implementing and seeking certification differ from company to company. Some make this decision hoping to improve customer satisfaction, gain new customers, improve process efficiency, meet legal or customer’s requirements or simply to become more competitive in their market.
Regardless of the reasons, deciding to embark an organization in the implementation and certification process needs to be carefully planned, as it involves a significant amount of effort regarding time and money. Therefore, the initial question that leaders seek to answer is if all that effort will be worth it?
There are many opinions for and against ISO 9001 certification, and even though surveys have shown that there are organizations that have reported no benefits at all after their certification, most organizations acknowledge numerous benefits after obtaining certification.
Surveys have shown that many organizations have perceived external benefits after their organization has been certified. Some of these are:
- Improved perceived quality
- Improved customer satisfaction
- Competitive advantage
- Reduced customer audits
- Increased market share
- Quicker time to market
Additional to these external benefits, organizations have also reported the following internal benefits:
- Greater quality awareness and better documentation
- Increased efficiency
- Positive cultural change
- Improved financial performance
- Improved employee morale
Another study published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2002, compared the performance of similar certified and non-certified organizations over a 10 year period. The results of the study showed that the certified organizations improved their relative performance substantially, compared to the non-certified ones. The study concluded that organizations that did not seek certification experienced substantial deteriorations in their performance, while organizations that obtained certification generally managed to avoid such declines.
Most of the information available suggests that ISO 9001 is worth the investment if it is perceived as a valuable tool that organizations can use to improve their processes, meet their customer’s requirements and continuously improve their quality performance. If an organization gets certified and shortly forgets about maintaining and improving their processes, it is likely that their initial investment will not pay off, and ISO 9001 certification will end up being a waste of time and money.
ISO 9001 will be a positive and well perceived investment if it is planned, implemented and maintained correctly. There are information and tools available for organizations to make the best of the most widely used standard in the world.
To the novice quality manager, ISO jargon can be extremely overwhelming. What is an NCR? What do you mean by OFI? Are we certified or accredited? But before you go and pull out your hair, let’s take a moment to go over some of the most frequently used terms and their definitions with regards to ISO and Management System Certification.