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Technologists: a front line look at ISO 9000.

Meeting ISO standards is now an established, and necessary, part of doing business, especially in the global marketplace

ISO 9000 is a series of international standards which is mentioned in many technical, and even consumer, magazines these days.

Why all the attention? Is this another "flavor of the month" to replace the current commitment to team meetings, empowerment to the worker/operator and flatter organizations? I do not believe this to be true. The ISO 9000 standard is a tool which will enable us to combine previous efforts and produce a sustainable, high-quality quality managing system. This is a system in which teams can work effectively, where fewer managers will be required and where operators can be sure to follow the correct procedures and make any necessary improvements.

Perhaps the most important advantage for a company (through compliance with the ISO requirements), is the assurance to the customers and to management that the processes and systems used to provide products and services do, in fact, consistently produce the level of quality that is specified by the supplier.

How did ISO evolve?

Quality assurance has undergone various stages of evolution since the idea of product quality/customer satisfaction became apparent. First, we had "Operator Quality Control" in the late 19th century. Here, the individual craftsman, who took pride in his/her creation, would inspect and pass their own products.

Next, as tasks were grouped together in a shop-type atmosphere, "Foremen Quality Control" appeared. The premise now was to shift responsibility upwards.

As we entered the 20th century, "Inspection Quality Control" came into existence. Companies moved towards mass production, more management divisions and a separate team of individuals (quality assurance lab) -- away from the production line -- to inspect all products.

By mid-century, Edward Deming and followers introduced "Statistic Quality Control". This initiated a new push towards the elimination of 100% inspection. The control chart came to be. Quality improvement became proactive instead of reactive.

The phase we now find ourselves in is "Total Quality Control". Programs like TQM (Total Quality Management) would address the major problems of quality as business management saw them. Now, we can look at how quality affects the whole company's bottom line.

With the development of Total Quality/Quality Assurance, an evolution in quality specifications began. This evolution is what brings us to the present with an internationally agreed-upon series of standards focused on quality. To achieve these standards, certified firms that specialize in assessing quality managing systems are granted accreditation. Individual companies then apply to such accredited firms for registration of their ISO quality system.

The ISO system

There are three measures key to any ISO systems:

* Say what you do.

* Do what you say (evidence).

* Continuously improve what you do.

The documented ISO system is not just for the quality assurance lab. This ISO standard covers all aspects of your business, from your own staff and departments, through all those who become part of your business as it strives to meet customer needs.

The whole company has the responsibility and must ensure that all those involved in providing a product and/or service are complying with a quality system that is acceptable. This means agreeing to and complying with procedures and instructions that clearly define responsibilities, authorities and actions.

The ISO 9000 standard consists of three choices or levels of quality management, depending on your company needs. ISO 9001 is the most sophisticated of the three standards available for use. The others -- 9002 and 9003 -- are designed for specific production or contract-type facilities.

ISO 9001 is a model for quality assurance where the product involves design, development effort, production, installation at the site and subsequent servicing.

ISO 9002 is a shorter version of 9001, essentially without the design/development and servicing activity, but retaining production and installation.

ISO 9003 is simply a final inspection/test system, with none of the production or design elements required to support the term quality assurance.

Support standards are also available -- 9000 and 9004. These broaden the scope to almost any industry or organization and add clarity and guidelines to the above three.

What's to gain?

So why do I feel ISO is here to stay? Let's go back and think about all those quality initiatives your company has been implementing over the last 10 years, compare the progress and fit them into the new ISO system I've described.

Team building: ISO requires all those involved to have defined responsibilities. What could be a better way to have teams accountable to achieve action. This system will ensure everyone who may affect the outcome will be included.

Fewer managers: ISO has defined procedures and clear lines to where decisions are required. Managers are usually in roles to add clarity to a managing system. If these systems are well mapped, documented and have clearly defined instructions, why would we need as many managers to carry out these roles?

Empowered employees: Nothing is less effective and draining than a bright idea getting lost in layers of administration as levels of managers decide the effect.

An ISO-documented system has procedures to manage change. This will enable an employee to calculate risk factors, deal with the people who will be effected and make a good decision without the administrative nightmares.

How many ideas in your organization come around for a second and third pass because a proper procedure is missed somewhere or a particular manager requires more detail? ISO requires you to document all procedures so ideas will follow a set path with all necessary detail recorded as needed.

Continuous improvement initiatives: Every company has worked and re-worked the idea of continuous improvement (CI). We all understand the need to improve and to stay competitive or better yet, to stay ahead of the competition. CI has run into two major problems in the past. It must be stewardable to results and it must focus on customer business objectives.

Most companies fail in this area because they don't understand the complete process they are trying to improve. The ISO system of documenting quality forces us to "Say what you do". This provides the basis for improvement, measurement and stewardship of what was improved. The ISO system defines responsibilities. This ensures the business effect of continuous improvement can be recognized as well. With an ISO quality system we can have CI initiatives which are stewardable and made with the business effect up front. CI will come about because of a fully active and stewardable ISO quality system.

The results demonstrated in the UK (for an average company implementing the conventional ISO 9000 registration process), shows a bottom-line savings of 20% of sales revenue. Company-wide registration, by addressing the internal overhead deficiencies and waste of time rather than material, has the potential to save even more.

Company-wide registration is the next logical step in the program of introducing Total Quality Management in the 21st century. It is probable that a company-wide registration will give the company all the individual strengths previously mentioned and will bond the entire organization to a winning competitive platform.

A quality system which is registered as being in conformance to the ISO 9000 series helps ensure consistency of performance of the product or service the company delivers to the customer. A quality system improves cross-functional working, assists team building, gives confidence to management that company-wide systems are in place and under control, improves effectiveness of the processes, reduces overhead costs and improves customer care, both internal and external.

Is all this possible? You bet! The ISO standards are here to stay and will be active in the companies of the next century. They are necessary to ensure your business is on track, empowered, cost effective and stewardable. Is ISO a trend? .... I think not. ISO is a reality.


QMI (Quality Management Institutes) for its Introductory to ISO 9000 course notes and to SGS Yardsley for its documentation course.

The SCC Can Help

A new booklet entitled Standards and Quality offers more information about quality system standards, in particular the ISO 9000 series. Published by the Standards Council of Canada, the 14-page booklet covers the meaning of good quality, the history of quality system standards, getting "registered" (certified) to a standard and the nuts and bolts of the ISO 9000 series.

Free copies are available from the Communications Branch, Standards Council of Canada 1200-45 O'Connor St., Ottawa, ON, K1P 6N7; Tel: 613-238-3222; Fax: 613-995-4564.

Cathy Cardy, MCIC, cCT, is currently a research technologist in the analytical section of the Sarnia Research Center, Imperial Oil Products Division.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Chemical Institute of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:conforming to International Organization for Standardization 9000 standard for quality systems
Author:Cardy, Cathy
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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