Introduction to ISO

Megan BurnsContinuous Improvement, Operations, Quality

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By Sara Goncus

In the business word the acronym ISO is often heard and associated with quality and continuous improvement. Companies that implement ISO standards know very well its power to affect positive change in an organization, while others may wonder what exactly the standards entail and whether or not it applies to them.This article will discuss what ISO is, an introduction to the most commonly used ISO standard, and how becoming an ISO Certified organization can help your business grow.

ISO stands for the International Organization of Standards. A standard is a document that gives requirements, specs or guidelines for a product or process. The purpose is to ensure consistency in either a services or production environment. Following these documents will propose that all materials will meet certain requirements, products will meet specifications to customer satisfaction and processes and services will fit for their purpose. Using a common standard or in this case an International Standard levels the playing field and allows the best practices from every industry to propagate across the world. ISO maintains dozens of of standards from many different industries from Medical to Automobile. The most commonly used standard, which can be implemented across industries, is called the ISO 9000 series.

Adopting the ISO 9000 series focuses around the implementation of a Quality Management System. One of the focal points of this series of standards is customer satisfaction which in turn will increase quality, decrease defects and add to the business bottom line. The series of standard includes other quality management principles such as the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement. These principles are implemented and verified with a series of audits. In addition to verifying the implementation of the standards the audits also help identify opportunities for improvement which ties back into the principle of continuous improvement.

Having and maintaining an ISO Certification can offer a company many benefits that can help to achieve corporate goals. One of the best outcomes of an ISO implementation is cost savings. Streamlining processes and implementing corrective and preventative actions when mistakes or defects do occur allows companies to produce better products faster which adds directly to the bottom line. A larger profit margin is a great motivator for any organization. In addition to adding to the bottom line ISO implementations also focus heavily on customer service and customer satisfaction. The idea is that a happy customer will be a continuing customer. A customer who knows the value of an ISO implementation will want to have suppliers that are ISO certified. ISO standards can even help to increase market share by finding new customers in current markets or even by opening access to customers in new markets. Finally, the use of International Standards also work to reduce waste both from a manufacturing perspective and an environmental perspective. We only have this one world to live in so it makes sense for us to take care of it.

So whether you looking to increase your customer satisfaction, decrease your defect and scrap rates or open your organization to new market and customer opportunities an ISO Implementation may be just what your business needs. For more information check out the official ISO website (ISO.org) and stay tuned to our newsletter for future ISO articles as we discuss the basic steps of an ISO implementation and descriptions of the different standards.