What is ISO 9001?

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April 11, 2017

ISO 9001 is an international standard that outlines how a well-organized company should run its quality management system. Simply put, this standard provides a framework for running a successful business. Adhering to an established standard like ISO 9001 can improve customer satisfaction, mitigate risk and improve overall business performance.

Generally, an organization will implement ISO 9001 for one of two reasons: because they recognize the value of aligning their company with an internationally recognized standard, or because they have a customer that requires ISO 9001 certification to do business. Regardless of the reason, becoming ISO 9001 certified can be a big boost on the way to achieving company goals.

Getting Started

The ISO 9001 standard can be difficult to comprehend for the average person. Its dense and impersonal style can be as taxing to read as legislation or codified city ordinances. The content in ISO 9001 is written with broad strokes intentionally, so that it is applicable to any business – whether you’re selling widgets or writing software. Consider ISO 9001 as a good business handbook that strives to encompass all the best practices for running a business.

One suggestion that could help make ISO 9001 more digestible is to substitute the word quality with business. Also, familiarize yourself with the terminology used in ISO 9001 by reviewing ISO 9000, which defines terms used in the standard. These steps should help provide context for the material in the standard.

How is ISO 9001 Structured?

In the latest release, ISO 9001:2015, the standard is made up of 10 clauses, or overarching sections. Each portion of the ISO 9001 standard is numbered in an expanded outline-type format for easy reference. Beneath each of the ten sections there are supporting passages that go into greater detail to define objectives. Passages are often numbered themselves to show that they have distinct, actionable reasons for being included in the standard document. Businesses show compliance with the main clause by completing the actions outlined in the passages.

Main Principles of ISO 9001

ISO 9001 outlines a process-oriented approach that can apply to a business of any size, structure or geography. In fact, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that develops ISO 9001 lists over one million businesses in over 170 countries are certified to the standard on their website.

The main principles of ISO 9001 are a strong customer focus, the role of top management, risk assessment and continual improvement. Implementing a quality management system with these criteria in mind will help ensure customers receive high quality products, which in turn benefits your business.

How to Apply ISO 9001 to Your Business

The first step is to purchase a copy of the ISO 9001 standard. Many businesses begin with a document or spreadsheet to compare their current practices against the ISO 9001 requirements. You might be surprised to learn that you’re already using many of the processes and procedures that are required for ISO 9001 certification. Some next steps to successful ISO 9001 implementation might include reviewing your business to better understand your organization and its context, as well as the needs and expectations of interested parties. Then, you can determine the scope of your quality management system, the processes needed and their interactions and to the extent necessary, the documentation.

Once you have aligned your business with ISO 9001, you might consider becoming ISO 9001 certified by working with a registrar. A registrar, also known as a certification body, is certified to ascertain your conformity to industry standards, including ISO 9001. Smithers Quality Assessments is a registrar with extensive experience in ISO 9001 certification. Our focus at Smithers Quality Assessments is to put the client’s goals before our own and offer a no surprises approach when performing audits.

Smithers Quality Assessments provides many free resources and whitepapers for businesses interested in starting their ISO 9001 certification. This ISO 9001 Assessment Preparation Guide will help you to prepare your business for certification. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff would be happy to work with you to answer any questions relating to ISO 9001 certification. Call Smithers Quality Assessments at 866-688-0134 or email sqa@smithers.com today!

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About The Author | Smithers Quality Assessments

Smithers Quality Assessments (SQA) is a “Best in Class” quality and environmental management systems certification body. We serve large, medium and small clients in North America and Europe in several industrial, commercial, service and government business sectors. Since we were founded in 1993, SQA has sustained a growth rate that ranks among the best in the industry.

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