Are you aware that there is an internationally-recognised Standard for Quality Management (ISO 9001), providing a framework for demonstrating your commitment to quality delivery and enhancing Customer Satisfaction? How helpful would it be to you if you could demonstrate that to potential customers? Moreover, what if the Standard could help you to control, develop, grow and improve your business?
Whatever stage you are at with your business it is vital that you consider the management of quality from the outset. Presumably you want to meet, and hopefully exceed, customers’ requirements by ensuring that your products and services are always delivered to the highest standards; and moreover, ensure that your service is continually improved.
This is the first in a series of three articles and we will also look at:
- Quality Management Principles for setting up your business
- Getting your business ready for ISO Certification
So, what’s it all about? The ISO’s website (www.iso.org) tells us, “ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world’s largest developer of International Standards which give state of the art specifications for products, services and good practice, covering almost all aspects of technology and business and helping to make industry more efficient and effective”.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
“ISO Standards make a positive contribution to the world we live in. They ensure vital features such as quality, ecology, safety, economy, reliability, compatibility, interoperability, efficiency and effectiveness. They facilitate trade, spread knowledge, and share technological advances and good management practices”.
Well what a good start! If we are involved in any industry, or activity, of any kind we would surely want to be “more efficient and effective”. In any competitive economy, that is not an aspiration it is a prerequisite for survival.
Back to the ISO’s website; “We are a network of national Standards bodies. These national Standards bodies make up the ISO membership and they represent ISO in their country”. In the UK, the application of ISO Rules and Standards is under the control of UKAS, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (www.ukas.com). We will look at the role of UKAS in a later article but suffice to say that UKAS, here in the UK, administers the application of International Standards.
More background. Everyone talks of ISO rather than IOS, which would be the acronym for the ‘International Organization for Standardization’. Why? Because ‘International Organization for Standardization’ would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation). So, the founders decided to give it the short form ISO. ISO is derived from the Greek isos, meaning equal. Whatever the country, whatever the language, the short form is always ISO.
What is a Standard?
“A Standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose”. It’s getting better don’t you think? I’m sure you would agree that our customers want to know that our products, processes and services are fit for purpose. To have our offerings therefore assessed against a universally acknowledged appropriate “Standard” is therefore one way of our customers being assured that we are a safe pair of hands to engage and do business with.
Are you aware of any Standards that are important in your chosen areas of business? In purely general terms, and we are back to our friendly website here, “ISO International Standards ensure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality”. You can’t argue with that can you? “For business, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors and increasing productivity”. Can’t really argue with that either! “They help companies to access new markets”. Anybody want to access new markets?
A bit more background and then we’ll move on. “Standards are developed by the people that need them, through a consensus process. Experts from all over the world develop the Standards that are required by their sector. This means they reflect a wealth of international experience and knowledge”. You can rest assured that the best brains in the country have been involved in the development of our appropriate Standards. Standards that are needed by society, by business sectors and indeed by the government will be identified and will be developed with relevant sector partners. Which means that expertise will be brought in by those who understand the needs for the Standards and the desired ramifications of the effort in implementing them and putting them to use. It is this approach that makes ISO Standards broadly respected and implemented domestically and internationally, and by both private and public sectors.
Dig in a bit longer as there are other things you can’t argue with. The Quality Management Standard 9001 and other Standards that have a Quality Management System as fundamental to their effective application are based on Quality Management Principles (and we will look at these in the second article) which can be used as a guide for improving business performance. These Principles are derived from the collective experience of international experts so we’d expect them to stand up to scrutiny.
Applying ISO Standards can lead to more efficiency, more effectiveness, making us fit for purpose, safer and more reliable, minimising waste and errors and increasing productivity. Moreover, these Standards claim to be based on principles that we can use as a guide for improving overall business performance. Can we afford not to take all this very seriously? Large businesses, Local Authorities and others who might potentially use our services are increasingly insisting that we do!