ISO 9001 Certification began in the western hemisphere during the latter stages of the twentieth century. Its aim was to assist companies to maintain quality management standards. Since its inception in the western industrial environment the International Standards Organization has attained genuine global credibility.
Ironically the communist country of China which is often portrayed by the western media as having low standards, actually has many more certified companies than its rather complacent counterparts in the West. In 2009 there were 257,076 certifications in China, compared with the comparatively paltry 41,193 in the UK.
These statistics need to be seen in the light of certification being a voluntary process, independent of state control. Stringent requirements must be complied with and audited by independent ISO auditors. The onus is on companies themselves to apply for certification and comply with regulations.
Some critics argue that the extensive documentation and staff training that must be waded through in order to qualify for certification is wasteful. It may even exceed the sort of red tape and over regulation that bureaucrats and governments sometimes use to strangle economic growth.
However, the reason that companies willingly jump through so many hoops is because certification can be good for business. The credibility of the certificate assures clients and other stake holders that a company is reputable and competent. This can translate into contracts, sales and profits. Even more importantly, it can help to maintain ethical standards and social responsibility at both company and country levels.
Before the management of a company decides to apply for accreditation it needs to understand fully what the implications are. A senior manager will have to be appointed to oversee the process and be known as the ISO representative. Whereas this was once quite a daunting obligation online resources are now available to facilitate the process.
With the necessary decisions and staff having been appointed the next stage will be to complete an analysis of the discrepancy between what is in place and what needs to be done. Here again questionnaires that are available online in templates can be used. Once the necessary steps are clear an implementation plan can be drawn up and executed.
As this process begins it will be essential to have a number of seminars and in-service training sessions so that staff are fully aligned with executive aims. If divisions occur between different staff levels the process could be made even more laborious and difficult. It is vitally important that top and bottom level employees should present a united face to the auditors.
As already mentioned quite extensive documentation is required in order to comply with requirements. The writing of these may be facilitated if online templates are downloaded and used in the implementation process. Care should be taken not to stifle original thought and responsibility in the course of implementing procedures. It is possible to go too far and end up with a staff of bureaucrats at all levels of an organization so that customers and clients can get the impression that they are dealing with a government department and not a private company. Wisely applied, ISO 9001 Certification can raise standards without stultifying a company.