Are ISO’s worth the paper they are written on?

10 Dec Are ISO’s worth the paper they are written on?

This is actually a difficult question to answer because my own company survived and thrived for 40 years without any ISO certification. It’s also true to say that we did not have a company policy to purchase only from ISO registered companies. So why are we now proud possessors of not one, but two ISO certifications? Incidentally, ISO stands for the International Organisation for Standardisation.

Well part of the answer was the engagement of a younger management team. Unlike us old fogies they recognized the potential of upgrading the company’s image and gaining an advantage over the competition. There has been the odd case in the past where the lack of an ISO approval has put us at some disadvantage, insofar that we were not requested to quote for certain high-tech projects.

So what are the two ISO’s whose framed certificates are now adorning a wall in the conference room? The first and obvious one is ISO 9001:2008, which few companies today have not attained. This is part of the ISO 9000 family of standards related to quality management systems and designed to help organisations ensure and demonstrate that they meet the needs of customers, while meeting statutory and regulatory requirements related to the product. ISO 9000 contains all the requirements which an organisation must address within their Quality Management System (QMS) if they wish to be certified against the Standard. The majority of these requirements would be identified by many organisations as ‘common sense’ topics, which they would want to address in order to run their business successfully, e.g. sales, design, purchasing, training, calibration of test equipment and control of records.

ISO 9001:2008 also contains some changes intended to improve consistency with ISO 14001:2004 and that is where our second ISO comes in.

ISO 14001 is part of the family of standards related to environmental management that exists to help organisations (a) minimise how their operations negatively affect the environment (i.e. cause adverse changes to air, water or land); (b) comply with the applicable laws, regulations and other environmentally orientated requirements and (c) continually improve in the above. The requirements of ISO14001 are an integral part of the European Union’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).

ISO 14001 is similar to ISO 9001 quality management in that both pertain to the process of how a product is produced or used, rather than the product itself. As with ISO 9001, certification is performed by third-party organisations rather than being awarded by ISO directly.

Having ISO 14001 will have an advantageous financial benefit for our company, insofar that we get a reduction of the charges levied by the Environment Agency for our Environmental Permit to operate.

Obtaining an ISO is only part of the story. In addition to the initial audit, standards have to be maintained or even improved. This will be monitored during periodic audits by the approving body and this will come at a cost. And the answer to my initial question? If you wish to compete with the best in your industry, you will undoubtedly need a certificate on the wall.

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