ABOUT THE ISO STANDARD
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a network of the national standards institutions in 147 countries, organized on a one member per country basis. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, ISO serves as a monitoring organization that meets the requirements of business and quality. International Standards provide a reference framework, a common technological language platform between suppliers and their customers. This worldwide agreement facilitates trade and the transfer of technology. Further information on ISO can be found on their website at http://www.iso.org.
ISO is the world's largest developer of standards. Standards play a crucial role in ensuring quality, safety, reliability, efficiency and interchangeability. What is more, standards result in higher return on investment and bottom line impact. The ISO standards contribute to making the development, manufacturing, and supply of products and services more cost effective, safe, and clean. They also often provide governments with a technical basis for their health, safety and environmental legislation.
All ISO standards are voluntary, but the fact that they are developed in response to market demands ensures widespread applicability of these standards. The ISO organization takes into account the evolving technology and legislation by requiring a review of its own standards at least every five years to decide whether they should be maintained, updated or withdrawn. Developing any technical consensus on this international scale is a major undertaking. There are more than 2850 ISO technical groups (technical committees, subcommittees, working groups etc.) in which some 30,000 experts participate annually to develop ISO standards.
WHAT MAKES ISO 9000 AND ISO 14000 SO SPECIAL?
The ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 families are among ISO's most widely recognized and successful standards. While ISO 9000 has become an international reference for quality requirements in product development and operations, ISO 14000 is achieving as much in helping organizations meet their environmental challenges.
The ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 family of standards are considered worldwide as "generic quality management system standards." "Generic" signifies that the same standard can be applied to any organization, large or small, whether it's a business enterprise, a public administration, or a government department The term "generic" also signifies that ISO 9000/ISO 14000, Quality and Environmental Management Systems feature a number of essential requirements which an organization of any size would need to implement. The "Management system" refers to how the organization manages its processes, or activities. "Quality management" refers to the organizational activity that enhances customer satisfaction by meeting customer and applicable regulatory requirements.
ISO 9000 currently includes three quality standards: ISO 9000:2000, ISO 9001:2008, and ISO 9004:2000. ISO 9001:2008 presents requirements, while ISO 9000:2000 and ISO 9004:2000 present quality guidelines. All of these are process standards (not product standards). The ISO 14000 series of international standards have been developed for incorporating environmental aspects in operations and product standards. ISO14001 specifies all requirements for establishing environmental policies, determining the environmental impact of products/activities/services, planning environmental objectives and measurable targets, implementation and operation of programs to meet objectives, checking and corrective action, and management review.
WHY IS CONFORMITY ASSESSMENT SO CRUCIAL?
Over the years, ISO has developed the standards against which processes are assessed for conformity, as well as the standardized test methods that allow for meaningful comparison of test results as necessary for international trade. However, ISO itself does not perform the conformity assessment.
The most common way to show compliance to the ISO 9001:2008 standard is through registration by an accredited third-party registrar. These are organizations that have proven to national accrediting bodies that they have sufficient knowledge and resources to offer registration. This approval, known as accreditation or registration, is noted on the accredited certificates issued by these registrars. In simpler terms, the registration process consists of a review of the company's documentation supporting its quality system. During the physical audit of the site or sites, the auditor interviews a section of company employees, and checks the records of the system's operation. If any major non-conformances or discrepancies are found, the certificate issuance is postponed until they are resolved; or else, the certificate of conformance is issued.