You may have come across one of the following bizarre-looking codes in your business travels: ISO 9002, ISO 14001 and ISO 27003. Each of these arcane codes, formulated by the International Organization for Standardization, represents a different family of quality certifications for companies of all sizes. The ISO 9000 series covers overall organizational quality and efficiency. ISO 14000 addresses environmental management. And ISO 27000 is a new designation that covers information and physical security.
ISO certification doesn't guarantee quality, but rather verifies that companies are following consistent business processes, under the presumption that high-quality products and services will result. Achieving ISO certification costs in the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of your company, and takes up 18 months or more of your time. Benefits include:
- Greater credibility and marketability
- Lower operating expenses
- Increased employee and customer satisfaction
Discover basic requirements of ISO certificationThe ISO Web site defines the vocabulary and describes the basics and the requirements of ISO certification. You can also buy documents that will help you get on the road to compliance.
Get help and get goingThere are various organizations through which you can achieve ISO certification and numerous consultants to help you through the process.
Find out if your industry has its own certificationSome industries have created sector-specific interpretations of the ISO standards, so you'll want to find out if your industry has its own version of ISO.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for information on the aerospace industry's ISO 9000 interpretation. You'll find pharmaceuticals-specific standards on the Pharmaceutical Quality Group's FAQ. Quality Digest offers automotive-industry information and details on telecom interpretations. Find information about the medical-device industry at NSF International Strategic Registrations Ltd.
Check with your state for ISO helpA number of states offer training, assistance and even funding for small companies looking to get ISO certified, especially those looking to meet the ISO environmental-management standards.
- Consider becoming compliant rather than fully certified. In other words, you can research and implement the standards without going through the effort and expense of full certification.
- An ISO certificate isn't a one-time thing: You need to renew your certification every three years or so.
- ISO isn't just for manufacturing companies, but for service providers as well.
- Some large organizations might require your company to be ISO certified before doing business with you.