ISO 9001 etc. – Why Bother?
Many companies wonder why they should bother with ISO certification “Waste of Time”, “Form filling for the sake of it”, “Doesn’t fit in with my business” are comments that are quite common in relation to ISO 9001:2015 or any of the other standards such as ISO 14001:2015 or the new ISO 45001:2018.
Unfortunately, the companies making the above comments are either using the certification for the wrong reasons, don’t understand the reason for ISO 9001 or have simply put some forms together to “get the certificate on the wall” to get on tender lists.
These companies above are never going to get their moneys worth and they are certainly not going to become a ‘Quality’ company just because the have the certificate on their wall in the foyer.
So what exactly is ISO 9001 and why should I have it?
Well let’s have a little history lesson to explain the origin and reasons for this standard.
Believe it or not the roots of ISO 9001 can be traced back to World War II. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) grew in response to a demand for better safety standards in factories that developed explosive devices – many of which prematurely detonated due to manufacturers not following an approved production process. The introduction of the ISO 9000 standard (or BS5750 as it was then known) meant businesses had to adhere to strict production procedures.
The original ISO 9001 issued in 1987 followed on from BS5750 and a lot of companies who jumped on the quality bandwagon weren’t happy. They complained that it was geared too specifically to manufacturing businesses and was a poor fit for anything else including construction companies. I believe that this is where the complaints and lack of trust identified earlier in this blog originated. Companies had to shoehorn their systems to fit in with this standard and it simply didn’t work.
You will be glad to know that the standard has gone through a number of revisions over the years culminating in the new 2015 version. This is the most business friendly version to date and can be adopted by all businesses including service businesses.
This most recent change has seen some dramatic changes. Gone are the requirements for the mandatory written procedures, with a new requirement for processes now bought into effect. These are now also dependent on risks, opportunities and the scope and context of an organisation, so in simple terms no one system is the same as each company develops its own systems based on the size, type and complexity of their organisation.
So what is it?
ISO 9001 was designed, in part, to help businesses:
Better understand the needs of their customers
Understand how their business works by analysing trends
Improve their services and products
Deal with faulty workmanship or products
Regularly check its business processes (Audits)
Essentially the ISO 9001 standard provides guidelines and structure for the processes which deliver services and products and dictates that businesses perform in a certain way in a number of areas, for example:
Managing documents and keeping records that are essential to the business
Understanding, managing and achieving customer requirements
Ensuring competency levels are satisfactory
Making business decisions based on actual data following reviews and analysis.
ISO 9001 is not mandatory for any business but used and implemented properly can be a good investment that can help your business become more efficient and grow by satisfying your customers. Many construction clients, especially public sector bodies will only deal with companies that have such certified systems in place as certification is seen as a benchmark of quality and consistency.
Being ISO certified demonstrates that your company has been independently verified as meeting recognised international industry standards.
Still not convinced?
Some reasons to convince you:
Meeting Customer Requirements: Your customers require consistency and reliability. Without this they will simply go elsewhere. Certification gives the customer assurance that you have a business system in place so that they can rely on you and keep coming back for more.
Access to New Markets: ISO 9001 certification can open up new markets you were virtually unable to do business with before your certification. When a business becomes ISO 9001 certified, it often finds itself able to access companies and customers that previously were unavailable. Many larger suppliers, retailers and service businesses only deal with entities that are ISO 9001-certified. Opportunities for new deals, partnerships and contracts suddenly present themselves after certification. ISO 9001 certification is also extremely valuable for companies that want to do business in the public sector. The Civil Service and local authorities often highly value the ISO 9001 standard, and many government contracts are only awarded to certified bidders. Research recently conducted by Asian economists confirmed that purchasers preferred working with ISO 9001 accredited companies because their performance was generally superior to that of non-accredited suppliers.
Improve Company and Product Quality: An ISO certified quality management system is all about quality (What a surprise!) A well-designed and effectively implemented ISO 9001 Quality Management System will put your company on the road to real quality.
Increased Customer Satisfaction with your Products: Generally ‘Quality’ means whatever you produce will be in accordance with customer expectations. You will meet not only their stated requirements — you will meet more of their implied requirements, too. Quality also means far fewer complaints and doing a better job of resolving those you do. If your quality management system is working correctly, you should know what your customers expect and you should be providing it, resulting in increased customer satisfaction.
Develop a Professional Culture and Better Employee Morale: Implementing an ISO 9001 Quality Management System can empower employees. Your QMS will provide them with clear expectations (quality objectives and job descriptions), the tools to do their job (procedures and work instructions), and prompt, actionable feedback on their performance (process metrics). The result? An improved company culture and a more professional staff!
Consistency of Operations: It is frustrating when things don’t go to plan and this happens most often when you don’t have defined systems and processes in place. Having such a system reduces variations in product or service quality and allows you to have more control of your business and become more efficient
Security: An effective quality management system helps avoid pitfalls that can stunt the growth or profitability of a company. It does not matter how unique or innovative or valuable your product or service, if your management processes are lacking, your business can flounder and fail. Here in the UK there are strict laws governing trading standards that clamp down on businesses that deliver unreliable products or deal with customers poorly. Well designed and implemented ISO 9001 standards also greatly reduce the chances of incurring litigation for adverse events or accidents caused by a quality issue. Additionally, certified businesses may also enjoy better deals on insurance.
Improve Efficiency, Reduce Waste, and Save Money: No one is perfect, and no companies are perfect even ISO 9001 certified ones. This is why there is a clause in the standard committing you to continuous improvement. As your processes improve and become more consistent, and you achieve your target objectives with greater regularity, you will see tangible results. Your process waste will decrease, for one.
Waste is money lost forever. Waste results from poor quality and inefficiency. Inefficiency results from variation and inconsistent processes. Reduce variation, improve consistency, and you’ll have less waste…and more money. It’s that simple!
Achieve International Quality Recognition
ISO 9001 is a worldwide standard administered by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), based in Switzerland. ISO 9001 is currently in use by over one million organisations around the world! It is truly a world-wide standard for quality! Obtaining ISO 9001 certification puts your company in a very select group.
How can I get help or advice?
If you need help or guidance in the development and implementation of a company management system and / or ISO certification please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01792 293736 or contact us via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
MCIOB BSc (Hons)