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ISO 9001: Here's What You Need to Know

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on August 15, 2017 at 10:44 AM

ISO 9001:2015 certification signifies to potential customers, as well as key internal and external stakeholders, that an organization is committed to customer satisfaction. That commitment is shown by constant improvement of organizational processes through a quality management system (QMS).

Organizations already know what they excel at, but achieving certifications like ISO 9001 demonstrates those unique qualities to others. It isn’t always enough to tout your company as the best in the industry. Your customers want proof that they’re doing business with a reputable organization who takes pride in their products and services.

Granted, earning an ISO 9001 certification is no easy feat, nor is it meant to be. Only certain companies are capable of receiving this revered seal of approval. But don’t let the requirements intimidate you. Having the right EHS software on your side can help you on your journey to achieving an ISO 9001 certification to give you the competitive edge you’ve been looking for.

What Is ISO 9001?

Simply put, ISO 9001 is an international standard of excellence that requires companies to meet strict quality guidelines. This quality management system is recognized by organizations worldwide and demonstrates your company’s focus on quality performance in your products and business operations.

The ISO 9001:2015 standard requires adherents to pursue customer satisfaction through increasing efficiency and improvement of procedures based on observations and assessment. According to ISO, the standard incorporates seven core tenets: customer focus, leadership, engagement, process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision-making, and relationship management.

The onus is on the organization to define the terms of the standard. What looks like customer satisfaction, leadership or engagement for one organization probably won’t look identical at another. But the standard does clarify the steps necessary to monitor, assess, evaluate, revise, and repeat processes in an ongoing method. ISO 9001:2015 can apply across sectors, from manufacturing to service providers. And it’s scalable from small to large companies.

According to ISO, more than a million certificates were issued in more than 180 countries. This doesn’t count the organizations that have adopted ISO 9001:2015 standards but have not sought certification. While ISO sets the standard it does not itself carry out the certification process; that is left to third-parties only.

Benefits of ISO 9001

ISO 9001 can be achieved by companies of any size and industry, and is currently at work in more than 160 countries. Through incorporating ISO 9001 practices in your organization, you may find it easier to manage quality systems, improve efficiency, and continually improve various areas of your operations.

It can also help you to build trust with your customers, end users, vendors, and other stakeholders. Those who are familiar with ISO 9001 requirements know that the certification isn’t easy to achieve, which means a company has worked hard to earn the designation.

Certification to ISO 9001:2015 may be desirable or required, depending on the standard, the company, and the industry. It’s not a quick or inexpensive process. It can take several months to more than a year, with a lot depending on how close an organization already is to practicing ISO 9001:2015 standards.

There are certain benefits that come with certification:

  • Insight. With the analysis required for the certification process, company leaders can gain the insight needed to facilitate growth, whether that’s new markets or new products. It can also identify areas of risk so that steps toward mitigation can be undertaken.

  • Premium. Certification may allow companies to place a greater premium on their services, having demonstrated their commitment to excellence.

  • Customer Satisfaction. Adherence to ISO 9001:2015 standards may result in improved customer satisfaction, whether those customers are consumers or internal/external stakeholders, and could encourage loyalty or repeat business.

  • Efficiency. Greater efficiency through streamlined processes can cut down on wastes of time, money, and resources, thereby improving the bottom line.

  • Compliance. Awareness of and compliance with local, state, and federal laws and regulations as part of ISO 9001:2015 compliance can reduce chances of civil or other penalties.

  • Requirements. Certification may be required as part of standard business operations in some cases or in some sectors (e.g., some state governments can only work with certified vendors)

  • Rigor. Even if not required, organizations can benefit from the discipline mandated by the ISO 9001:2015 standard.

Requirements for Certification to ISO 9001:2015

Any organization planning on applying for certification must have an established and functional quality management system in place. Very broadly, an organization must be able to document their quality management system. (See quality management software to learn more).

Processes must be in place for identifying problems and how to fix them. Organizations must also demonstrate a commitment to professional development and/or training, internal auditing, and make correction based on the results of the internal audit. Additional requirements may vary by industry.

Here’s the order of events of a typical certification process:

  1. Typically, an organization makes the decision to pursue certification and locates a certifying agency that meets its needs. Some of these third-party companies have industry accreditation. For some organizations, that will be the minimum standard they’ll consider hiring.

  2. An auditor from the certifying agency will carry out an audit to determine where the gaps or weaknesses in the quality management system are.

  3. Once the organization determines the appropriate steps to fix the gaps or weaknesses and follows through on them, the external auditor returns for another review.

  4. If all goes well, the auditor recommends the organization for certification.

  5. The application is then submitted for official approval.

  6. An organization must carry out annual audits and a recertification process every three years to maintain their credentials.

Deciding to pursue certification to ISO 9001:2015 is a big step for an organization. While some may already have a few of the standards in place and need only minor modifications to some processes, other organizations will need to build a quality management system from scratch. That being said, the benefits can certainly outweigh the costs.

How You Can Manage ISO 9001 Certification with ISO Compliance Software

If you are seeking to achieve ISO 9001 certification, the right software can help. ISO 9001 management software makes it easy for EHS and quality professionals to audit, measure, monitor, and record every activity related to ISO. Take a look at some of our product highlights:

  • Conduct audits and inspections
  • Report and track quality incidents
  • Mobile access with offline functionality
  • Retrieve and record data in real time
  • Stay on schedule and avoid missing deadlines
  • Gain insights at a glance

It takes time and dedication to become an ISO 9001-certified company, but good ISO management software can get you closer to your goals.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Compliance, EHS Management, Quality Management, ISO 9001

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