So What Exactly is “ISO”?

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ISO and the International Organization for Standardization

Have you ever heard the old business saying “You can’t manage what you can’t measure?” ISO standards are the answer to the problem of measurement. The International Organization for Standardization, based in Geneva, Switzerland, publishes over 25,000 international standards that cover everything from quality management, to health and safety, to sustainability, to codes used to convey international currency types.  Founded in 1947, the organization now consists of 170 members of national standards bodies.  These members bring together experts to share knowledge and collectively develop international standards to provide solutions to global challenges.

Standards are documents that provide requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics used to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are consistent and fit to their purpose. ISO’s international standards are the language of world-wide trade, creating world-class specifications for products, services and systems to ensure consistent quality, safety and efficiency. They also guide businesses in adopting sustainable and ethical practices – blending quality with conscience.  Even the name ISO is consistent – it is derived from the Greek word isos, which means equal. In every country and every language, ISO is always ISO.  

ISO 9001 and Beyond

The most widely used standard adopted worldwide, is ISO 9001, which revolves around quality management and customer satisfaction.  Manufacturing and service organizations use the standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements. In 2022, a total of 1,265,216 million ISO 9001:2015 certificates were issued. As ISO 9001 certification has been adopted across a wide range of industries, the standards have been altered to fit specific industry requirements. From the automotive and aerospace industries to telecommunications companies, laboratory settings, medical device manufacturers and more, each industry has adopted its own set of standards that all derive from the basic principles of the ISO 9000 series. And these standards have an impact on almost everyone, even in their daily lives. Because of standards, cars and airplanes are safer for travel, food is safer to eat, workplace accidents are reduced, waste is reduced and sustainability increased to improve the environment. 

While ISO Certification is based on those international standards, the International Organization for Standardization does not actually certify any organization or conduct any audits. Rather, they identify the need, create, maintain and update standards with the help of a panel of experts within a technical committee. Actual certification is the result of an audit conducted by a Certification Body (also known as a Registrar). The audit confirms that the system’s requirements are being satisfied, all standards are being met, and that the management system is implemented effectively.

There are several routes to ISO certification. A company can create its own documents and systems, then prepare for and manage their audit (refer to our free Guide to Certification), or they can work with a specialist to provide consulting, internal auditing and training services to expedite the certification process. For guidelines on choosing an ISO consultant, watch our helpful video. For 18 years, simpleQuE’s quality management and ISO experts have assisted companies in preparing for certification. 

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