Around the industry, everyone is talking about attaining and acquiring ISO standards for their Organizations. ISO has grabbed the market very fast and has become a quality measurement parameter. However, what exactly is ISO and what is the process of attaining this certification?
To understand this more effectively, let us first understand what is Quality. Quality can be implied as a measure of degree of excellence. With better quality comes better service and value for money. Quality can mean different things to different people. For some people, Quality can mean doing the right job at the right time, for some Quality can mean continual improvement and for some, it may mean delivering the defect-free service to the end customer.
ISO, International Organization for Standardization (Yes, it is NOT an acronym) is an independent, non-governmental international organization which consists of 163 national standard bodies and has members from across the world. The headquarters of ISO is situated in Geneva, Switzerland. The members of ISO share their knowledge and experience on this common platform and together trying to devise various methodologies which helps in improving the way the world is working in various domains and industries. ISO is derived from the word – “iso” which means equal. The purpose of establishing this organization was to give the world a single standard parameter on which the processes and projects can be evaluated from quality perspective, irrespective of the industry they are working in.
ISO standards are international standards, and hence, are recognized across the world. The parameters remains same in every part of the world. ISO has published more than 21000 international standards and related documents, creating the footprints in almost every industry, from technology to agriculture, to marine and healthcare.
The concept of ISO is based on PDCA cycle concept. PDCA stands for Plan – Do – Check – Act. It is a four-step continuous circular repetitive model. It is used for implementing continuous improvement.
A standard can be a set of instructions, which are now baselined after doing lots of experiments and discussions. The experts, after discussing and experimenting has come out with the set of methods, using which the Organizations can improve their processes, and in turn can save cost.
An ISO standard is a set of guidelines & processes, which works as a tool for the creation of products and services, which are reliable, safe and would be of good quality. These standards helps the businesses in reducing the costs, reworks and waste, which in turn aids in increasing the productivity and capturing new customers.
ISO provides these standards in the form of a series. Each series has a unique code associated with them, like 9000 series, 14000 series, 18000 series, 20000 series etc. In a series, there will be only one standard against which certificate can be issued, which is also known as Certifiable Standard. Rest of the standards in the series are the supporting standards, which can help in the implementation of the Certifiable Standard.
The certification against any of these standards can be acquired only through a Certification Body. These certification bodies are the Organizations who are authorized to grant the certifications after performing a thorough audit of the client location. ISO has separate guidelines for the operations of these certification bodies.
These certification bodies consists of Certified Auditors who are authorized to perform the audits as per the guidelines established by ISO for performing an audit. ISO 19011:2011 is the standard which collates the guidelines for performing an audit in an Organization.
These Certified Auditors has to go through a regress course of 5 consecutive days which is concluded with a written test. Once the test is passed, the auditors have to complete at least 10 mandays of audits with an already certified lead auditor. Then, these auditors can get associated with the certification bodies and can start doing external audits.
ISO has standards, which can be applied in varied domains like: ISO 9000 series of standards focusses of Quality aspects of the processes, whereas ISO 14000 series of standards focus from environmental perspective. Similarly ISO 45000 series have specification guidelines for health and safety. Depending on the focus area of the Organizations, they can opt for the appropriate standard.
ISO may look an expensive affair from outside, but, when we get in the roots and understand the process it turns out to be more of an investment. It is believed that if the ISO standard is implemented correctly, it would help the Organization in recovering the amount invested in the implementation within 3 years. ISO does have other benefits like it is cost –effective, reliable, internationally acclaimed and re-known. It can be used as a good marketing tool for increasing confidence of internal as well as external customers.