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|This article relies on references to primary sources. (March 2012)|
The ISO 9000 family of standards is related to quality management systems and designed to help organizations ensure that they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders while meeting statutory and regulatory requirements related to the product. The standards are published by ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, and available through National standards bodies. ISO 9000 deals with the fundamentals of quality management systems, including the eight management principles on which the family of standards is based. ISO 9001 deals with the requirements that organizations wishing to meet the standard have to fulfill.
Third party certification bodies provide independent confirmation that organizations meet the requirements of ISO 9001. Over a million organizations worldwide are independently certified, making ISO 9001 one of the most widely used management tools in the world today. Despite widespread use, however, the ISO certification process has been criticized as being wasteful and not being useful for all organizations.
The global adoption of ISO 9001 may be attributable to a number of factors. A number of major purchasers require their suppliers to hold ISO 9001 certification. In addition to several stakeholders' benefits, a number of studies have identified significant financial benefits for organizations certified to ISO 9001, with a 2011 survey from the British Assessment Bureau showing 44% of their certified clients had won new business. Corbett et al. showed that certified organizations achieved superior return on assets compared to otherwise similar organizations without certification. Heras et al. found similarly superior performance and demonstrated that this was statistically significant and not a function of organization size. Naveha and Marcus claimed that implementing ISO 9001 led to superior operational performance in the US motor carrier industry. Sharma identified similar improvements in operating performance and linked this to superior financial performance. Chow-Chua et al. showed better overall financial performance was achieved for companies in Denmark. Rajan and Tamimi (2003) showed that ISO 9001 certification resulted in superior stock market performance and suggested that shareholders were richly rewarded for the investment in an ISO 9001 system.
While the connection between superior financial performance and ISO 9001 may be seen from the examples cited, there remains no proof of direct causation, though longitudinal studies, such as those of Corbett et al. (2005) may suggest it. Other writers, such as Heras et al. (2002), have suggested that while there is some evidence of this, the improvement is partly driven by the fact that there is a tendency for better performing companies to seek ISO 9001 certification.
The mechanism for improving results has also been the subject of much research. Lo et al. (2007)  identified operational improvements (cycle time reduction, inventory reductions, etc.) as following from certification. Internal process improvements in organizations lead to externally observable improvements. The benefit of increased international trade and domestic market share, in addition to the internal benefits such as customer satisfaction, interdepartmental communications, work processes, and customer/supplier partnerships derived, far exceeds any and all initial investment.
ISO 9000 was first published in 1987. It was based on the BS 5750 series of standards from BSI that were proposed to ISO in 1979. However, its history can be traced back some twenty years before that, to the publication of the United States Department of Defense MIL-Q-9858 standard in 1959. MIL-Q-9858 was revised into the NATO AQAP series of standards in 1969, which in turn were revised into the BS 5179 series of guidance standards published in 1974, and finally revised into the BS 5750 series of requirements standards in 1979 before being submitted to ISO.
BSI has been certifying organizations for their quality management systems since 1978. Its first certification  (FM 00001) is still extant and held by Tarmac Limited, a successor to the original company which held this certificate. Today BSI claims to certify organizations at nearly 70,000 sites globally.
|Dec 2000||Dec 2001||Dec 2002||Dec 2003||Dec 2004||Dec 2005||Dec 2006||Dec 2007||Dec 2008||Dec 2009||Dec 2010||Dec 2011|
Source: ISO Survey 2011
In recent years there has been a rapid growth in China, which now accounts for approximately a quarter of the global certifications.
|Rank||Country||No. of certificates|
|10||Korea, Republic of||24,778|
Source: ISO Survey 2010
|Rank||Country||No. of certificates|
|10||Korea, Republic of||23,400|
Source: ISO Survey 2009
ISO 9001:2008 Quality management systems — Requirements is a document of approximately 30 pages which is available from the national standards organization in each country. It is supplemented by two other standards: ISO 9000:2005 Quality management systems — Fundamentals and vocabulary and ISO 9004:2009 Managing for the sustained success of an organization — A quality management approach. Only ISO 9001 is directly audited against for third party assessment purposes. The other two standards are supplementary and contain deeper information on how to sustain and improve quality management systems; they are therefore not used directly during third party assessment. Outline contents for ISO 9001 are as follows:
Before the certification body can issue or renew a certificate, the auditor must be satisfied that the company being assessed has implemented the requirements of sections 4 to 8. Sections 1 to 3 are not directly audited against, but because they provide context and definitions for the rest of the standard, their contents must be taken into account.
The standard specifies that the organization shall issue and maintain the following six documented procedures:
In addition to these procedures, ISO 9001:2008 requires the organization to document any other procedures required for its effective operation. The standard also requires the organization to issue and communicate a documented quality policy, a Quality Manual (which may or may not include the documented procedures) and numerous records, as specified throughout the standard.
|This section possibly contains original research. (May 2013)|
ISO does not certify organizations itself. Numerous certification bodies exist, which audit organizations and, upon success, issue ISO 9001 compliance certificates. Although commonly referred to as 'ISO 9000' certification, the actual standard to which an organization's quality management system can be certified is ISO 9001:2008. Many countries have formed accreditation bodies to authorize ("accredit") the certification bodies. Both the accreditation bodies and the certification bodies charge fees for their services. The various accreditation bodies have mutual agreements with each other to ensure that certificates issued by one of the Accredited Certification Bodies (CB) are accepted worldwide. Certification bodies themselves operate under another quality standard, ISO/IEC 17021, while accreditation bodies operate under ISO/IEC 17011.
An organization applying for ISO 9001 certification is audited based on an extensive sample of its sites, functions, products, services and processes. The auditor presents a list of problems (defined as "nonconformities", "observations" or "opportunities for improvement") to management. If there are no major nonconformities, the certification body will issue a certificate. Where major nonconformities are identified, the organization will present an improvement plan to the certification body (e.g. corrective action reports showing how the problems will be resolved); once the certification body is satisfied that the organization has carried out sufficient corrective action, it will issue a certificate. The certificate is limited by a certain scope (e.g. production of golf balls) and will display the addresses to which the certificate refers.
An ISO 9001 certificate is not a once-and-for-all award, but must be renewed at regular intervals recommended by the certification body, usually once every three years. There are no grades of competence within ISO 9001: either a company is certified (meaning that it is committed to the method and model of quality management described in the standard) or it is not. In this respect, ISO 9001 certification contrasts with measurement-based quality systems.
The ISO 9000 standard is continually being revised by standing technical committees and advisory groups, who receive feedback from those professionals who are implementing the standard.
ISO 9000:1987 had the same structure as the UK Standard BS 5750, with three 'models' for quality management systems, the selection of which was based on the scope of activities of the organization:
ISO 9000:1987 was also influenced by existing U.S. and other Defense Standards ("MIL SPECS"), and so was well-suited to manufacturing. The emphasis tended to be placed on conformance with procedures rather than the overall process of management, which was likely the actual intent.
ISO 9000:1994 emphasized quality assurance via preventive actions, instead of just checking final product, and continued to require evidence of compliance with documented procedures. As with the first edition, the down-side was that companies tended to implement its requirements by creating shelf-loads of procedure manuals, and becoming burdened with an ISO bureaucracy. In some companies, adapting and improving processes could actually be impeded by the quality system.
ISO 9001:2000 replaced all three former standards of 1994 issue, ISO 9001, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003. Design and development procedures were required only if a company does in fact engage in the creation of new products. The 2000 version sought to make a radical change in thinking by actually placing the concept of process management front and center ("Process management" was the monitoring and optimisation of a company's tasks and activities, instead of just inspection of the final product). The 2000 version also demanded involvement by upper executives in order to integrate quality into the business system and avoid delegation of quality functions to junior administrators. Another goal was to improve effectiveness via process performance metrics: numerical measurement of the effectiveness of tasks and activities. Expectations of continual process improvement and tracking customer satisfaction were made explicit. ISO 9000 Requirements include: (1) approve documents before distribution; (2) provide correct version of documents at points of use; (3) use your records to prove that requirements have been met; (4) develop a procedure to control your records.
ISO 9001:2008 basically renarrates ISO 9001:2000. The 2008 version only introduced clarifications to the existing requirements of ISO 9001:2000 and some changes intended to improve consistency with ISO 14001:2004. There were no new requirements. For example, in ISO 9001:2008, a quality management system being upgraded just needs to be checked to see if it is following the clarifications introduced in the amended version.
ISO 9001 is supplemented directly by two other standards of the family:
Other standards, like ISO 19011 and the ISO 10000 series, may also be used for specific parts of the quality system.
A new version of the standard shall be published in September 2015, if the ISO members vote favorably in March 2015.
Two types of auditing are required to become registered to the standard: auditing by an external certification body (external audit) and audits by internal staff trained for this process (internal audits). The aim is a continual process of review and assessment to verify that the system is working as it is supposed to; to find out where it can improve; and to correct or prevent problems identified. It is considered healthier for internal auditors to audit outside their usual management line, so as to bring a degree of independence to their judgments.
Under the 1994 standard, the auditing process could be adequately addressed by performing "compliance auditing":
The 2000 standard uses a different approach. Auditors are expected to go beyond mere auditing for rote compliance by focusing on risk, status, and importance. This means they are expected to make more judgments on what is effective, rather than merely adhering to what is formally prescribed. The difference from the previous standard can be explained thus:
The ISO 9001 standard is generalized and abstract; its parts must be carefully interpreted to make sense within a particular organization. Developing software is not like making cheese or offering counseling services, yet the ISO 9001 guidelines, because they are business management guidelines, can be applied to each of these. Diverse organizations—police departments (US), professional soccer teams (Mexico) and city councils (UK)—have successfully implemented ISO 9001:2000 systems.
Over time, various industry sectors have wanted to standardize their interpretations of the guidelines within their own marketplace. This is partly to ensure that their versions of ISO 9000 have their specific requirements, but also to try and ensure that more appropriately trained and experienced auditors are sent to assess them.
|This section possibly contains original research. (May 2013)|
The debate on the effectiveness of ISO 9000 commonly centers on the following questions:
Effectiveness of the ISO system being implemented depends on a number of factors, the most significant of which are:
It is widely acknowledged that proper quality management improves business, often having a positive effect on investment, market share, sales growth, sales margins, competitive advantage, and avoidance of litigation. The quality principles in ISO 9000:2000 are also sound, according to Wade and also to Barnes, who says that "ISO 9000 guidelines provide a comprehensive model for quality management systems that can make any company competitive." Sroufe and Curkovic, (2008) found benefits ranging from registration required to remain part of a supply base, better documentation, to cost benefits, and improved involvement and communication with management. Implementing ISO often gives the following advantages:
A common criticism of ISO 9000 and 9001 is the amount of money, time, and paperwork required for registration. Dalgleish cites the "inordinate and often unnecessary paperwork burden" of ISO, and says that "quality managers feel that ISO's overhead and paperwork are excessive and extremely inefficient."
According to Barnes, "Opponents claim that it is only for documentation. Proponents believe that if a company has documented its quality systems, then most of the paperwork has already been completed." Wilson suggests that ISO standards "... elevate inspection of the correct procedures over broader aspects of quality," and therefore, "the workplace becomes oppressive and quality is not improved."
One study showing reasons for not adopting this standard include the risks and uncertainty of not knowing if there are direct relationships to improved quality, and what kind and how many resources will be needed. Additional risks include how much certification will cost, increased bureaucratic processes and risk of poor company image if the certification process fails.According to John Seddon, ISO 9001 promotes specification, control, and procedures rather than understanding and improvement. Wade argues that ISO 9000 is effective as a guideline, but that promoting it as a standard "helps to mislead companies into thinking that certification means better quality, ... [undermining] the need for an organization to set its own quality standards."  Paraphrased, Wade's argument is that reliance on the specifications of ISO 9001 does not guarantee a successful quality system.
The standard is seen as especially prone to failure when a company is interested in certification before quality. Certifications are in fact often based on customer contractual requirements rather than a desire to actually improve quality. "If you just want the certificate on the wall, chances are you will create a paper system that doesn't have much to do with the way you actually run your business," said ISO's Roger Frost. Certification by an independent auditor is often seen as the problem area, and according to Barnes, "has become a vehicle to increase consulting services." 
Dalgleish argues that while "quality has a positive effect on return on investment, market share, sales growth, better sales margins and competitive advantage," that "taking a quality approach is unrelated to ISO 9000 registration." In fact, ISO itself advises that ISO 9001 can be implemented without certification, simply for the quality benefits that can be achieved.
Pickrell argues that ISO systems merely gauge whether the processes are being followed. It does not gauge how good the processes are or whether the correct parameters are being measured and controlled to ensure quality. Furthermore, when unique technical solutions are involved in the creation of a new part, ISO does not validate the robustness of the technical solution which is a key part of advanced quality planning. It is not unheard of for an ISO certified plant to display poor quality performance due to poor process selection and/or poor technical solutions.
Boohe 2007's ISO survey of certificates.