International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) officially began operating in February 1947 following a meeting between delegates from 25 countries the previous year. The meeting was held to create a new international organisation which would ‘facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards’.
Almost seventy years later, ISO have now published over 250,000 international standards covering aspects of technology and manufacturing. The ISO head quarters is based in Geneva, Switzerland where more than 150 full time employees are based.
Through its 162 members, ISO brings together experts to share their knowledge to develop and issue relevant internationally recognised standards that provide solutions to ever changing worldwide challenges. ISO’s mission is to be “simpler, faster, better” and to reduce the time it takes to develop standards in order to better serve the needs of society today.
What are standards and why have them?
International Standards quite simply ‘make things work’ and provide worldwide recognised specifications for products, services and systems alike and impact everyone, everywhere. The standards ensure businesses are operating safely, efficiently and are providing a high quality product or service to its clients. Standards can be effectively adopted by businesses in varying industries, from agriculture to healthcare.
Businesses use ISO International Standards as strategic tools to help to minimise errors and increase productivity in the delivery of work. Standards help businesses identify how costs can be reduced and the standards’ in-built quality assurance ensures businesses deliver the same consistency to their clients. ISO certification can also assist businesses in accessing new markets both nationally and internationally, as they are recognised in their own right worldwide.
Organisations that have achieved ISO certification demonstrate that what gets measured gets done! This begins with the involvement of management and staff to ascertain their current positions versus the requirements of their chosen ISO standard. This process often leads to the identification of opportunities for improvement, regularly resulting in benefits to customers.
Win new business
ISO certification demonstrates a business has been verified by an independent third party Certification Body. Achieving certification brings vast business benefits and – by helping organisations stand out from the crowd – can open doors to new business while helping to retain existing custom. ISO helps further organise and manage a business, and as businesses are audited annually it ensures they remain committed to an ethos of continual improvement.
It is often a misconception that the ISO 9001 certification process is a complex and confusing one; when in reality it can easily be compared to something we are all very familiar with – recipes!
RECIPE: ISO 9001
INGREDIENTS: Team of staff
METHOD: Natural reaction
A very literal example to explain the process behind ISO 9001 is the expectation of visiting your favourite restaurant and ordering your favourite dish. You have plenty of experience eating in the restaurant and their signature dish is always fresh, well cooked and delicious…
Imagine the disappointment, having convinced your friends that they must try your favourite dish, you find the chef responsible is off sick at your next visit to the restaurant. Worse still, the remaining chefs aren’t sure about how to cook it!
Of course, as you are brought the plate of food, it’s not as expected; and the chances are you and your friends won’t enjoy what was your favourite meal! Next time you go out for dinner, you would be forgiven for visiting an alternative restaurant rather than remain loyal to your previous favourite.
It’s a simple story, but in reality can happen within business no matter the industry. Clients may not expect special treatment, but they would always expect consistency.
If you aren’t in control of your recipe, you aren’t in control of the output or consequences. In our example, all the restaurant had to do was have a contingency plan; have the recipe recorded, and right people trained to do the job. Then, the customer would not have been disappointed and unlikely to return. Processes in place would have meant this situation was avoided altogether.
This discipline is what ISO 9001 is all about, providing a framework so you can ensure your recipe is the best it can be and, just as importantly, consistent each and every time. With dissatisfied customers sharing their stories of bad service with 8-10 people, can you afford to leave things to chance?