Operating any form of business intoday’s modern climate is a very competitive affair. In order to compete with
industry leaders for market share in any business niche, it’s not only
essential for companies to have a product or service that is in demand, but the
way that the business itself carries out
its operations must also be seen to be exemplary. To reinforce their
professionalism, their commitment to best practice, and to open the window to
new opportunities, more and more business are acquiring ISO certification.
The Formation of the ISO
The initials “ISO” stand for the International
It’s a body that was formed back in 1947 with their headquarters in Geneva,
Switzerland. It was launched with the express purpose of developing voluntary
international standards. The aim was to create a number of standards that
businesses could adopt by gaining appropriate ISO certification. The end goal
was to raise the global levels of business behaviour, competence, and
Since its inception, the ISO has
created more than 19,500 different ISO standards. They cover virtually all
aspects of business, commerce, and technology, from food safety to information
technology, and from agriculture to pharmaceuticals.
ISO accreditation is very useful to
companies as a sales tool. Of course it doesn’t sell products and/or services
per se; however it says a lot about the professionalism of the companies that
hold it. But in addition to raising standards, and offering potential customers
some assurances regarding quality, ISO certification also helps companies to be
become more efficient, and therefore to reduce running overheads and running costs.
Using a UKAS Accredited Certification Body
Companies seeking to gain ISO
accreditation are required to elect a certification body to work with. The
certification bodies here in the UK are all privately owned companies. When
rching to find a partner to work with and to gain certification through, it
is recommended that businesses should use a UKAS accredited organisation.
UKAS stands for the United Kingdom
Accreditation Service. They specialise in providing accreditation, imaging, and
diagnostic services, and they also design and host training courses and
seminars. Companies that have decided to try and obtain an ISO certificate in
whatever discipline is appropriate to their theatre of operations, should
choose a UKAS accredited certification body or partner. It will guarantee that they
will be working with an organisation that meets UKAS’s strict criteria.
The Journey towards ISO Certification
The journey that some businesses
follow in pursuit of ISO certification varies from company to company. This is
largely dependent on the professionalism of the company. The more aware a
business is of its obligations, and the harder it has strived to achieve best
practice – the closer that company will be to ISO conformance. However, there
will still be a large learning curve to be negotiated in order to achieve full
compliance and eventual certification. The partnership that develops between
the company seeking certification and the certification body itself will be
crucial to the outcome of the journey.
ISO9001 and ISO14001
The two most sought after ISO
approvals are ISO9001, which is awarded for the management of quality, and
ISO14001, which is awarded for the way a business manages its affairs in terms
of the environment. Both certificates are very topical. ISO is all about
quality, so having an official recognition of good quality management is what
many companies are seeking to achieve.
Protecting our environment is also
something that is on many people’s minds. They are becoming increasingly aware
of the impact that businesses can have on the planet’s environment, and
therefore the social responsibility that they all share. Achieving ISO14001
certification not only helps to fulfil that obligation, but it also lets
clients know that a company is taking its responsibility seriously and is pro-actively
doing something about it.
The Importance of the ISO Auditing Process
The ISO auditing procedure is pivotal
in two ways.
Stage 1 & 2
audits measure a company’s compliance in terms of systems and management. Approval is followed by certification.
audits measure a company’s ongoing compliance once certification has been
The audits are not only vital to achieving ISO
certification, but they are also critical to maintaining compliance and
eventually becoming re-certified. Most ISO certificates last for 3 years. During
this 3 year period the best accreditation bodies will carry out surveillance
audits on an annual basis. At the end of the 3 years a rectification audit will
be carried out. Once any reported variances of compliance have been acted upon
and corrected, a new 3 year ISO certificate will be issued.
Implementation of Change is Key
The journey towards achieving an ISO
certificate will sometimes necessitate change. Change to working practices, and change to
management and procedural approaches. Change is one of the most difficult
things that many companies have to deal with. It’s the area where the
relationship between the company and the accrediting body will be most tested.
However, that’s not to say that all
businesses will need to implement changes as a well-run business will already
have an efficient system in place that documents processes and procedures
If this is not already a strong part
of the business, then not only must all of the systems be put into place, and
correct procedures followed systematically, but the company ethos must also
change. If ISO procedures are not fully welcomed and embraced by the new
company ethos, they will fall by the wayside shortly after the certificate has
been issued. ISO can then be managed effectively, using procedures that work
for the individual business, such as getting customer feedback, collecting
information via surveys and so on.
ISO is one of those things that appear
to scare some smaller businesses but it’s really not something that should. It
needn’t be a burden to a company, but one that uses existing processes to prove
quality of product or services.
Photo Credit: Argonne National