Are you ISO-Certified?

How to convince prospective buyers of your ability to maintain strict quality

The International Standards Organization is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

What is ISO 9000?

ISO stands for International Standards Organization, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland. The ISO 9000 helps organizations ensure that they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders - particularly for European and U.S. sales - on product quality assurances in purchasing agreements. It does this by way of international management standards that are relevant to the following parties, among others:

• Organizations are seeking a competitive advantage through the implementation of a quality management process.

• Organizations seeking the seal of approval from their suppliers and vendors that their product requirements will be satisfied.

• Users of the products worldwide.

• Auditors, regulators, certification and registration bodies.

• Developers of related standards.

Firms that conform to these standards are certified and registered with the ISO. The common standard is ISO 9000. The main reason for introducing this standard is to acknowledge and encourage the importance of quality by companies worldwide.

One key detail: ISO 9000 is a certification of the production process only and does not guarantee a manufacturer produces a quality product.

To receive ISO 9000 certification, a company requests a certifying body (an independent external body) to conduct a registration assessment of the core business processes of a company.

From there, the assessor asks questions about everything, leaving no stone unturned as it relates to the production process. Once the interview is complete, and accreditation is granted, the company receives certification.

Compliance can be proven by self-declaration (you may evaluate your quality system), second-party evaluation (typically the buyer's request) or third-party quality system (independent of both buyer and seller).

The real benefit of obtaining ISO 9000 certification is for a firm to use it as a marketing tool, convincing prospective buyers of their ability to maintain strict quality requirements. On a worldwide basis, those firms that don't have ISO 9000 certification will be at a disadvantage when attempting to compete against those who do.

Learn more about ISO 9000:

What is ISO 14000?

After ISO 9000 had been put in place, it served as a model and basis for moving forward into other areas of quality control. ISO 14000 serves a different need: It is a way to show a seal of approval on environmental improvements. ISO 14000, as the website states, "is a series of international standards on environmental management. It provides a framework for the development of both the system and the supporting audit program." Any person or organization interested in environmental protection or business management should familiarize themselves with the provisions and potential ramifications of ISO 14000.

Learn more about ISO 14000:

What Is ISO 9001?

ISO 9001 for Small Businesses aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to understand and implement the standard.

It is used in more than 176 countries by businesses in public and private sectors of all types of activity and by manufacturers and service providers.

ISO 9001 helps SMEs take the first step toward implementing a quality management process, implementing an environmental system and hiring appropriate consultants on an as-needed basis.

The handbook, "ISO 9001 for Small Businesses," is published by ISO and the International Trade Centre (ITC).

As the website states: The joint foreword to the handbook is contributed by ISO Secretary-General, Rob Steele, and ITC Executive Director, Patricia R. Francis, who comment: "Small business is the world's biggest business. More than 95% of the world's businesses are small to medium-sized, and many countries look to small and medium businesses to power economic growth and employment.

Therefore International Standards need to assist small business just as much as they do global enterprises, government, and society at large. In particular, SMEs should be able to share in gains in efficiency and effectiveness offered by ISO 9001."

Learn more about ISO 9001:

To sell successfully on a global basis, ISO-certification is worth a look and consideration for your business.

Further Reading:

ISO 9000 Essentials

ISO 14000 Essentials

ISO 9001 for Small Businesses

ISO Publications and e-Products

American Society for Quality (ASQ)

National Technical Information Service

The American National Standards Institute

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Photo Credit: Guillaume P. Boppe