The ISO 9000 family of quality management systems (QMS) standards is designed to help organizations ensure that they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders while meeting statutory and regulatory requirements related to a product or service. ISO 9000 deals with the fundamentals of quality management systems, including the seven quality management principles upon which the family of standards is based.  ISO 9001 deals with the requirements that organizations wishing to meet the standard must fulfill.
Third-party certification bodies provide independent confirmation that organisations meet the requirements of ISO 9001. Over one million organisations worldwide are independently certified, making ISO 9001 one of the most widely used management tools in the world today. However, the ISO certification process has been criticised as being wasteful and not being useful for all organizations.
ISO 9000 was first published in 1987 by ISO (International Organisation for Standardization). It was based on the BS 5750 series of standards from BSI that were proposed to ISO in 1979. However, its history can be traced back some twenty years before that, to the publication of government procurement standards, such as the United States Department of Defense MIL-Q-9858 standard in 1959, and the UK's Def Stan 05-21 and 05-24. Large organizations which supplied government procurement agencies often had to comply with a variety of quality assurance requirements for each contract awarded which led the defence industry to adopt mutual recognition of NATO AQAP, MIL-Q and Def Stan standards. Eventually, ISO 9000 was adopted as a suitable option, instead of forcing contractors to adopt multiple - and often similar - requirements.
The global adoption of ISO 9001 may be attributable to a number of factors. In the early days, the ISO 9001 (9002 and 9003) requirements were intended to be used by procuring organizations[clarification needed], as the basis of contractual arrangements with their suppliers. This helped reduce the need for "supplier development"[vague] by establishing basic requirements for a supplier to assure product quality. The ISO 9001 requirements could be tailored to meet specific contractual situations, depending on the complexity of product, business type (design responsibility, manufacture only, distribution, servicing etc.) and risk to the procurer. If a chosen supplier was weak on the controls of their measurement equipment (calibration), and hence QC/inspection results, that specific requirement would be invoked in the contract. The adoption of a single Quality Assurance requirement also lead to cost savings throughout the supply chain by reducing the administrative burden of maintaining multiple sets of quality manuals and procedures.
A few years later, the UK Government took steps to improve national competitiveness following publication of cmd 8621, and Third Party Certification of Quality Management Systems was born, under the auspices of the National Accreditation Council of Certification Bodies (NACCB) which has become the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).
In addition to many stakeholders' benefits, a number of studies have identified significant financial benefits for organizations certified to ISO 9001, with an ISO analysis of 42 studies showing that implementing the standard does enhance financial performance. Corbett et al. showed that certified organizations achieved superior return on assets compared to otherwise similar organizations without certification.
Heras et al. found similarly superior performance and demonstrated that this was statistically significant and not a function of organization size. Naveha and Marcus claimed that implementing ISO 9001 led to superior operational performance in the U.S. automotive industry. Sharma identified similar improvements in operating performance and linked this to superior financial performance. Chow-Chua et al. showed better overall financial performance was achieved for companies in Denmark. Rajan and Tamimi (2003) showed that ISO 9001 certification resulted in superior stock market performance and suggested that shareholders were richly rewarded for the investment in an ISO 9001 system.
While the connection between superior financial performance and ISO 9001 may be seen from the examples cited, there remains no proof of direct causation, though longitudinal studies, such as those of Corbett et al. (2005) may suggest it. Other writers, such as Heras et al. (2002), have suggested that while there is some evidence of this, the improvement is partly driven by the fact that there is a tendency for better performing companies to seek ISO 9001 certification.
The mechanism for improving results has also been the subject of much research. Lo et al. (2007) identified operational improvements (e.g., cycle time reduction, inventory reductions) as following from certification. Internal process improvements in organizations lead to externally observable improvements. The benefit of increased international trade and domestic market share, in addition to the internal benefits such as customer satisfaction, interdepartmental communications, work processes, and customer/supplier partnerships derived, far exceeds any and all initial investment.
The increase in ISO 9001 certification is shown in the tables below.
|Rank||Country||No. of certificates|
|Rank||Country||No. of certificates|
|10||Korea, Republic of||24,778|
|Rank||Country||No. of certificates|
|10||Korea, Republic of||23,400|
The ISO 9000 series are based on seven quality management principles (QMP)
The seven quality management principles are:
Principle 1 – Customer focus
Principle 2 – Leadership
Principle 3 – Engagement of people
Principle 4 – Process approach
Principle 5 – Improvement
Principle 6 – Evidence-based decision making
Principle 7 – Relationship management
ISO 9001:2015 Quality management systems — Requirements is a document of approximately 30 pages which is available from the national standards organization in each country. Only ISO 9001 is directly audited against for third party assessment purposes.
Contents of ISO 9001:2015 are as follows:
Essentially, the layout of the standard is similar to the previous ISO 9001:2008 standard in that it follows the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle in a process-based approach but is now further encouraging this to have risk-based thinking (section 0.3.3 of the introduction). The purpose of the quality objectives is to determine the conformity of the requirements (customers and organizations), facilitate effective deployment and improve the quality management system.
Before the certification body can issue or renew a certificate, the auditor must be satisfied that the company being assessed has implemented the requirements of sections 4 to 10. Sections 1 to 3 are not directly audited against, but because they provide context and definitions for the rest of the standard, not that of the organization, their contents must be taken into account.
The standard no longer specifies that the organization shall issue and maintain documented procedures, however, ISO 9001:2015 requires the organization to document any other procedures required for its effective operation. The standard also requires the organization to issue and communicate a documented quality policy, a quality management system scope, and quality objectives. The standard no longer requires compliant organizations to issue a formal Quality Manual. The standard does require retention of numerous records, as specified throughout the standard. New for the 2015 release is a requirement for an organization to assess risks and opportunities (section 6.1) and to determine internal and external issues relevant to its purpose and strategic direction (section 4.1). The organization must demonstrate how the standard's requirements are being met, while the external auditor's role is to determine the quality management system's effectiveness. More detailed interpretation and implementation examples are often sought by organizations seeking more information in what can be a very technical area.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) does not certify organisations itself. Numerous certification bodies exist, which audit organisations and, upon success, issue ISO 9001 compliance certificates. Although commonly referred to as "ISO 9000" certification, the actual standard to which an organization's quality management system can be certified is ISO 9001:2015 (ISO 9001:2008 expired around September 2018). Many countries have formed accreditation bodies to authorize ("accredit") the certification bodies. Both the accreditation bodies and the certification bodies charge fees for their services. The various accreditation bodies have mutual agreements with each other to ensure that certificates issued by one of the accredited certification bodies (CB) are accepted worldwide. Certification bodies themselves operate under another quality standard, ISO/IEC 17021, while accreditation bodies operate under ISO/IEC 17011.
An organization applying for ISO 9001 certification is audited based on an extensive sample of its sites, functions, products, services and processes. The auditor presents a list of problems (defined as "nonconformities", "observations", or "opportunities for improvement") to management. If there are no major nonconformities, the certification body will issue a certificate. Where major nonconformities are identified, the organization will present an improvement plan to the certification body (e.g., corrective action reports showing how the problems will be resolved); once the certification body is satisfied that the organization has carried out sufficient corrective action, it will issue a certificate. The certificate is limited by a certain scope (e.g., production of golf balls) and will display the addresses to which the certificate refers.
An ISO 9001 certificate is not a once-and-for-all award but must be renewed at regular intervals recommended by the certification body, usually once every three years. There are no grades of competence within ISO 9001: either a company is certified (meaning that it is committed to the method and model of quality management described in the standard) or it is not. In this respect, ISO 9001 certification contrasts with measurement-based quality systems.
The ISO 9000 standard is continually being revised by standing technical committees and advisory groups, who receive feedback from those professionals who are implementing the standard.
ISO 9000:1987 had the same structure as the UK Standard BS 5750, with three "models" for quality management systems, the selection of which was based on the scope of activities of the organization:
ISO 9000:1987 was also influenced by existing U.S. and other Defense Standards ("MIL SPECS"), and so was well-suited to manufacturing. The emphasis tended to be placed on conformance with procedures rather than the overall process of management, which was likely the actual intent.
ISO 9000:1994 emphasized quality assurance via preventive actions, instead of just checking final product, and continued to require evidence of compliance with documented procedures. As with the first edition, the down-side was that companies tended to implement its requirements by creating shelf-loads of procedure manuals, and becoming burdened with an ISO bureaucracy. In some companies, adapting and improving processes could actually be impeded by the quality system.
ISO 9001:2000 replaced all three former standards of 1994 issue, ISO 9001, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003. Design and development procedures were required only if a company does, in fact, engage in the creation of new products. The 2000 version sought to make a radical change in thinking by actually placing front and centre the concept of process management (the monitoring and optimisation of a company's tasks and activities, instead of just inspection of the final product). The 2000 version also demanded involvement by upper executives in order to integrate quality into the business system and avoid delegation of quality functions to junior administrators. Another goal was to improve effectiveness via process performance metrics: numerical measurement of the effectiveness of tasks and activities. Expectations of continual process improvement and tracking customer satisfaction were made explicit.
ISO 9000 Requirements include:
ISO 9001:2008 in essence re-narrates ISO 9001:2000. The 2008 version only introduced clarifications to the existing requirements of ISO 9001:2000 and some changes intended to improve consistency with ISO 14001:2004. There were no new requirements. For example, in ISO 9001:2008, a quality management system being upgraded just needs to be checked to see if it is following the clarifications introduced in the amended version.
ISO 9001 is supplemented directly by two other standards of the family:
Other standards, like ISO 19011 and the ISO 10000 series, may also be used for specific parts of the quality system.
In 2012, ISO TC 176 - responsible for ISO 9001 development - celebrated 25 years of implementing ISO 9001, and concluded that it was necessary to create a new QMS model for the next 25 years. They subsequently commenced the official work on creating a revision of ISO 9001, starting with the new QM principles. This moment was considered by important specialists in the field as "beginning of a new era in the development of quality management systems." As a result of the intensive work from this technical committee, the revised standard ISO 9001:2015 was published by ISO on 23 September 2015. The scope of the standard has not changed; however, the structure and core terms were modified to allow the standard to integrate more easily with other international management systems standards.
The new ISO 9001:2015 management system standard helps ensure that consumers get reliable, desired quality goods and services. This further increases benefits for a business.
The 2015 version is also less prescriptive than its predecessors and focuses on performance. This was achieved by combining the process approach with risk-based thinking, and employing the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle at all levels in the organization.
Some of the key changes include:
Two types of auditing are required to become registered to the standard: auditing by an external certification body (external audit) and audits by internal staff trained for this process (internal audits). The aim is a continual process of review and assessment to verify that the system is working as it is supposed to, to find out where it can improve, and to correct or prevent identified problems. It is considered healthier for internal auditors to audit outside their usual management line, so as to bring a degree of independence to their judgements.
The ISO 9001 standard is generic; its parts must be carefully interpreted to make sense within a particular organization. Developing software is not like making cheese or offering counseling services, yet the ISO 9001 guidelines, because they are business management guidelines, can be applied to each of these. Diverse organizations—police departments (United States), professional soccer teams (Mexico), and city councils (UK)—have successfully implemented ISO 9001:2000 systems.
Over time, various industry sectors have wanted to standardise their interpretations of the guidelines within their own marketplace. This is partly to ensure that their versions of ISO 9000 have their specific requirements, but also to try and ensure that more appropriately trained and experienced auditors are sent to assess them.
The debate on the effectiveness of ISO 9000 commonly centres on the following questions:
The effectiveness of the ISO system being implemented depends on a number of factors, the most significant of which are:
Proper quality management can improve business, often having a positive effect on investment, market share, sales growth, sales margins, competitive advantage, and avoidance of litigation. The quality principles in ISO 9000:2000 are also sound, according to Wade  and Barnes, who says that "ISO 9000 guidelines provide a comprehensive model for quality management systems that can make any company competitive". Sroufe and Curkovic, (2008) found benefits ranging from registration required to remain part of a supply base, better documentation, to cost benefits, and improved involvement and communication with management. According to ISO the 2015 version of the standard brings the following benefits:
A common criticism of ISO 9000 and 9001 is the amount of money, time, and paperwork required for a complete implementation, and later when needed; ISO 9001 certification. Dalgleish cites the "inordinate and often unnecessary paperwork burden" of ISO, and says that "quality managers feel that ISO's overhead and paperwork are excessive and extremely inefficient". The level of minimum documentation for a minimum scope organization has been greatly reduced, going from ISO 9001:2000 to ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015.
According to Barnes, "Opponents claim that it is only for documentation. Proponents believe that if a company has documented its quality systems, then most of the paperwork has already been completed". Wilson suggests that ISO standards "elevate inspection of the correct procedures over broader aspects of quality", and therefore, "the workplace becomes oppressive and quality is not improved".
One study showing reasons for not adopting this standard include the risks and uncertainty of not knowing if there are direct relationships to improved quality, and what kind and how many resources will be needed. Additional risks include how much certification will cost, increased bureaucratic processes and risk of poor company image if the certification process fails. According to John Seddon, ISO 9001 promotes specification, control, and procedures rather than understanding and improvement. Wade argues that ISO 9000 is effective as a guideline, but that promoting it as a standard "helps to mislead companies into thinking that certification means better quality, ... [undermining] the need for an organization to set its own quality standards". In short, Wade argues that reliance on the specifications of ISO 9001 does not guarantee a successful quality system.
The standard is seen as especially prone to failure when a company is interested in certification before quality. Certifications are in fact often based on customer contractual requirements rather than a desire to actually improve quality. "If you just want the certificate on the wall, chances are you will create a paper system that doesn't have much to do with the way you actually run your business", said ISO's Roger Frost. Certification by an independent auditor is often seen as the problem area, and according to Barnes, "has become a vehicle to increase consulting services".
Dalgleish argues that while "quality has a positive effect on return on investment, market share, sales growth, better sales margins and competitive advantage," "taking a quality approach is unrelated to ISO 9000 registration." In fact, ISO itself advises that ISO 9001 can be implemented without certification, simply for the quality benefits that can be achieved.
Pickrell argues that ISO systems merely gauge whether the processes are being followed. It does not gauge how good the processes are or whether the correct parameters are being measured and controlled to ensure quality. Furthermore, when unique technical solutions are involved in the creation of a new part, ISO does not validate the robustness of the technical solution which is a key part of advanced quality planning. It is not unheard of for an ISO-certified plant to display poor quality performance due to poor process selection and/or poor technical solutions.