Why should I get ISO 9001 certified?
I am often asked by business owners “Why should I get certified to the ISO standards?”
For many businesses it can be a very easy decision to become ISO certified. A statutory or regulatory body may insist that you are certified, otherwise you cannot operate. These are very easy choices to make where you want to do business in a regulated environment. The most common management system standard is ISO 9001 for quality, but ISO 14001 for environment is becoming increasingly important. Also the new ISO 45001 health and safety standard is due for release late in 2016.
Similarly it is an easy decision where you want to do business with a customer that insists on ISO 9001. For example if you are supplying critical components in the automotive supply chain then it is likely that your management system must comply with the ISO 9001 and other standards. Alternatively, as one of my clients explained recently as a long standing supplier to Fonterra, they were told that future tendering considerations would include whether the supplier was ISO 9001 certified. Clearly if this business wants to continue supplying to Fonterra then they will need to get certified.
In many instances it is not so clear. It is useful to consider the stage or maturity of the business. Businesses that have survived the start- up stage, have a few good customers and are now looking to grow are generally going to gain significant benefit from installing better systems. For a business at this stage systems for effectively managing the delivery of products and services to customers become important to maximise profit. Businesses expanding by employing new staff, hiring senior managers, and establishing governance structures also need advanced systems. Also small businesses can gain considerable credibility by having become ISO certified. The standard provides guidance in what these systems need to include even if certification is not required.
While not everyone will have the same set of reasons, it is left to each owner to decide whether certification is right for their business.
At the most fundamental level all certified companies share a common understanding. This understanding crosses geographic, cultural and language boundaries that helps to develop the trust in each other necessary to do business together.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Most owners who have used the ISO management system standards to design and build their internal systems discover benefits. Research has shown that those companies using ISO 9001 will have improved financial performance. Businesses motivated internally for productivity and efficiency gains are more likely to achieve greatest benefit than those looking for a quick certification to meet externally motivated customer requirements. The greatest success comes from using the standard and embedding its principles in day-today operations.
Those owners that go further still and become certified see even more benefits. Some of the common comments I have heard business leaders who have obtained ISO 9001 certification make, include:
• It enhances our brand image in the marketplace.
• It provides competitive advantage.
• It adds to our credibility.
• People take us more seriously now.
• We receive more compliments and less complaints from customers.
• Regulators spend less time in our business.
• It forms part of the Board’s risk mitigation plan. • Our staff are clear about their own role.
• It has become easier to attract good staff.
• External audits verify how effective our systems are.
• My life has become easier through better processes and system.
• I feel the business is more in control.
• I am more relaxed.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN BECOMING CERTIFIED?
Certification is carried out by a Certification Body. Only a Certification Body can supply an ISO 9001 certificate to your business.
The Certification Body will typically follow a four step process 1. Conduct a document review of
your management system 2. Provide feedback on areas where corrective action is required for certification 3. Conduct a certification audit 4. Issue a certificate of compliance once no corrective actions are outstanding A certificate lasts for three years after which a full recertification audit will be required. Certification Bodies will usually conduct a surveillance audit annually to satisfy themselves that the management system continues to be effective and is being improved. Where a company fails to demonstrate this the Certification Body may increase the frequency of surveillance audits until it is satisfied.
The costs of these services can be significant. Care needs to be taken to understand the process used by the Certification Body, the costs, and the amount of staff time involved in the process.
CHOOSING A CERTIFICATION BODY
The Certification Body needs to be accredited before they may offer certification services to you. The status of the Certification Body’s accreditation will be listed on the Accreditation Agency www.jas-anz.org.au website. As with any supplier, you should check that they are accredited to provide certification services specifically in the ISO 9001 standard and any other standards that you need to comply with. You should also check on their process and the auditor’s experience in your particular industry.
All business owners will find it useful in having at least a basic knowledge of the ISO 9001 standard and knowing when to consult this resource. There is considerable value in using ISO 9001 to build systems to manage the business at appropriate times. These times include periods of growth and expansion.
ISO 9001 certification may be a statutory, regulatory, or customer requirement. For most businesses this will not be the case. Owners not requiring ISO 9001 certification should balance the ongoing costs associated in maintaining the ISO 9001 certificate with the benefits, including the mitigation of risks and ease of conducting business that certification provides.