The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a network of the national
standards institutions in 147 countries, organized on a one member per country basis.
Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, ISO serves as a monitoring organization that
meets the requirements of business and quality. International Standards provide
a reference framework, a common technological language platform between suppliers
and their customers. This worldwide agreement facilitates trade and the transfer
of technology. Further information on ISO can be found on their website at http://www.iso.org.
ISO is the world's largest developer of standards. Standards play a crucial role
in ensuring quality, safety, reliability, efficiency and interchangeability. What
is more, standards result in higher return on investment and bottom line impact.
The ISO standards contribute to making the development, manufacturing, and supply
of products and services more cost effective, safe, and clean. They also often provide
governments with a technical basis for their health, safety and environmental legislation.
All ISO standards are voluntary, but the fact that they are developed in response
to market demands ensures widespread applicability of these standards. The ISO organization
takes into account the evolving technology and legislation by requiring a review
of its own standards at least every five years to decide whether they should be
maintained, updated or withdrawn. Developing any technical consensus on this international
scale is a major undertaking. There are more than 2850 ISO technical groups (technical
committees, subcommittees, working groups etc.) in which some 30,000 experts participate
annually to develop ISO standards.
What makes ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 so special?
The ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 families are among ISO's most widely recognized and successful
standards. While ISO 9000 has become an international reference for quality requirements
in product development and operations, ISO 14000 is achieving as much in helping
organizations meet their environmental challenges.
The ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 family of standards are considered worldwide as "generic
quality management system standards." "Generic" signifies that the same standard
can be applied to any organization, large or small, whether it's a business enterprise,
a public administration, or a government department The term "generic" also signifies
that ISO 9000/ISO 14000, Quality and Environmental Management Systems feature a
number of essential requirements which an organization of any size would need to
implement. The "Management system" refers to how the organization manages its processes,
or activities. "Quality management" refers to the organizational activity that enhances
customer satisfaction by meeting customer and applicable regulatory requirements.
ISO 9000 currently includes three quality standards: ISO 9000:2000, ISO 9001:2008,
and ISO 9004:2000. ISO 9001:2008 presents requirements, while ISO 9000:2000 and
ISO 9004:2000 present quality guidelines. All of these are process standards (not
product standards). The ISO 14000 series of international standards have been developed
for incorporating environmental aspects in operations and product standards. ISO14001
specifies all requirements for establishing environmental policies, determining
the environmental impact of products/activities/services, planning environmental
objectives and measurable targets, implementation and operation of programs to meet
objectives, checking and corrective action, and management review.
Why is conformity assessment so crucial?
Over the years, ISO has developed the standards against which processes are assessed
for conformity, as well as the standardized test methods that allow for meaningful
comparison of test results as necessary for international trade. However, ISO itself
does not perform the conformity assessment.
The most common way to show compliance to the ISO 9001:2008 standard is through
registration by an accredited third-party registrar. These are organizations that
have proven to national accrediting bodies that they have sufficient knowledge and
resources to offer registration. This approval, known as accreditation or registration,
is noted on the accredited certificates issued by these registrars. In simpler terms,
the registration process consists of a review of the company's documentation supporting
its quality system. During the physical audit of the site or sites, the auditor
interviews a section of company employees, and checks the records of the system's
operation. If any major non-conformances or discrepancies are found, the certificate
issuance is postponed until they are resolved; or else, the certificate of conformance