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Rather than referring to somewhere else, I'll attempt to give you a brief
Back in 1987, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
released the 9000-series of standards. These international standards
set forth controls associated with producing quality goods and services.
Prior to the 1990's, the twelve major European trading countries had
trade barriers and used country-specific product standards. The elimination
of these trade barriers and the forming of the Common Market provides
a unified consumer market of 320 million people. ISO-9000 becomes the
standard for doing business in this market. However, this standard has
won support by more than 90 countries worldwide, including the U.S.
The most comprehensive level of certification for the ISO-9000 series
is called ISO-9001. It covers design, development, production, installation,
To become ISO certified, you must go through a process of identifying
and documenting all your processes. The theory is that anything you do
should be repeatable and as such, it is measurable and the data from
the measurements can be used to identify trends and opportunities for
continuous improvement (i.e., total quality). Therefore, many companies
spend a lot of time and effort transforming their existing procedures
into more comprehensive documents, as well as documenting all the
undocumented processes. They also identify existing procedures which
are not being followed and either trash the procedure or correct it
to reflect the real world.
When the outside auditors visit your facility, they will examine all
your documentation, observe processes at random, and choose employees
at random to ask about their process. They will view your entire
company and consider every aspect of your product cycle and related
Most companies do fairly well with manufacturing processes, but research
and development are usually harder given the nature of the work. In some
cases, so are service, support and marketing groups. A lot depends on
the size of your company, the nature of your business, and how thoroughly
you did your self-assessment.
ISO-9000 certification is another way of showing you are a quality
company that produces quality products/services. Some customers require
you to have it; others prefer doing business with companies who have
it. However, depending on your industry and who your customers are,
this may only be one of several quality awards that you must strive to
earn (and retain through recertification). For example, in the
telecommunications industry, many companies strive for the following:
the Shingo Prize, the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award, your state's
quality award, and the Bellcore Customer/Supplier Quaity Process (CSQP)
Hope this helps get you started!
| The views expressed are my own and do not |
| necessarily represent those of any organization |
| that I am affiliated with. |