ISO 9001 Made Practical, Simple and Effective
ISO 9001 - what is it?
The international standard for a quality management system, often just known as ISO 9001.
The focus is on satisfying your customers and achieving consistent quality of your services or products.
ISO 9001 is the most widely known and respected model used for a quality management system in the world. It also forms the foundation of many other management systems standards, to which are added more specific requirements, such as AS 9100 (aeronautical), ISO 22000 (food safety), ISO/TS 16949 (automotive) or ISO 14001 (environmental).
- General: overall requirements for the system including its processes, documentation and records
- Requirements for senior management
- Requirements to manage resources
- Requirements for services or products
- Requirements to review and improve the system, its processes and services/products.
For a plain English summary of requirements, see ISO 9001 requirements in a nutshell.
All the requirements of 9001 are really just good practice. For example, you must establish what customers want (clause 7.2.1) and give it to them. You need suitable controls over the way you operate. Where people do work that affects quality, those people must be competent (6.2). See what I mean about good practice?
While the vast majority of standards are specific and highly prescriptive, 9001 is a generic standard. Which means it is specifically intended for any kind of organisation, of any size and in any field.
How do you get ISO 9001?
To get ISO 9001 certification, you need to make sure that your quality management system meets all of the requirements of the Standard. When it does, you then have to be formally audited to establish if your management system complies with (meets) all the requirements of ISO 9001. It's an audit of your system (not your financials) and must be done by a duly accredited certifier.
Then you are awarded a certificate - assuming of course you pass, never a problem for our clients. You are then said to be ISO 9001 certified, have ISO 9001 certification or be registered to ISO 9001. Often called being ISO accredited though this isn't the right term. (Certifiers are accredited, companies are certified by them).
A few myths around 9001
Myth: It's only for large businesses. Reality: Small businesses can get many benefits from using the 9001 Standard, whether or not they get certification.
Myth: It's only for manufacturing. Reality: It can be and is used with great success by service businesses, including consultancies, importers, distributors and retailers. Indeed, about 40% of certifications are now issued for services. (Total number of certificates awarded to this Standard was over a million at last count.)
Myth: It's only for companies and commercial businesses. Reality: wrong again. It can be and is used successfully by non-commercial organisations, schools and colleges, statutory authorities, charities, even churches and missions.
Myth: It dictates what you have to do and how. Reality: While ISO9001 does say what you have to do or have, it does not specify the how. An example: the Standard requires you to plan what you want to achieve, organise your processes to achieve your goals, and operate, maintain, improve and control those processes. But it doesn't prescribe any specific methods or ways to do anything. That's up to you. Which is good news.
What's the catch?
One of the biggest is creating a difficult and bureaucratic system, because you don't know better or are told it 'must be like that' to get the certificate for ISO 9001: 2008. But that is not true. You can do it with an intelligent quality management system, one that's simple, practical and effective.
Doesn't everyone do that? Unfortunately, no. Some suffer under complex and bureaucratic systems, overloaded with documents that are hard to comprehend or use. Expensive to create and even worse to try and work with.
How does it happen? Often it's not understanding what's needed, or lacking experience. Because you really do need knowledge: there are some distinct pitfalls for the ignorant or unwary. See our free report on the ten most common mistakes with ISO 9001.
Why settle for less than a simple, practical and effective quality management system? So you can do what you do, but even better than you do now, and put the power of ISO 9001 to work with tangible improvements in your business?
Author: Jane Bennett