What is ISO 9001 and what can I do with it?

WHAT IS ISO-9001 AND WHAT CAN I DO WITH IT?

ISO 9001:

  • latest version ISO 9001:2015

  • is basically a Quality Standard

  • it is written and issued by the ISO organization - the International Organization for Standardization.

First of all, it’s a Standard, not a Law. Your organization doesn’t have to follow it. But as it was and is written by people and organizations with a broad experience on Quality Management Systems, it contains very useful information on how you can improve your organization and its processes.
This can lead to more customer satisfaction, improved internal relations (with your employees), improved efficiency et cetera.
Eventually, you can make more money in a pleasant way.

It’s not necessary to get certification. You could simply start with very basic steps:

  • You might be interested in measuring your customer’s satisfaction.
  • Or you may feel the urge to start up a system that allows you to use detected problems in your organization (including customer complaints) as opportunities for improvement, rather than negative issues.

Certification:

But if you want to set up a Quality Management System that you want to have certified (this could be the case if one of your customers requires it), then you must contact an external certification organization (Certification Body) to check your system.
In that case, you must comply with all the provisions of the ISO 9001 Standard (although you could exclude some of these provisions, but only if they really don’t apply to your organization).

The external auditor (that’s how they call the person who checks your system on behalf of the certification organization) will then check two things:

  1. Does your organization have a Quality Management System in place that meets the requirements of the ISO 9001 Standard (Stage 1);
  2. Is this Quality Management System effectively implemented and followed in your organization (Stage 2)?

Normally, you will get some time between these two stages. And the external auditor will only allow you to go to Stage 2 if Stage 1 is in order.
After the successful completion of both Stage 1 and Stage 2, the external auditor will advice his or her organization (the Certification Body) to issue an ISO 9001 Certificate.

This certificate is valid for a period of three years. And every year the external auditor will visit your organization in order to check if you still use your Quality Management System (pro)actively.
This is also to prevent your organization from “sitting still”.

I tried to avoid official language, but this is basically it. So you may go for certification, but you may also start setting up a Quality Management System in a more relaxed way.