The ISO 9001 accreditation is part of the International Organization for Standardization 9000 standards. They are awarded to businesses for quality. The ISO 9001 is recognized worldwide as an award for a company's internal quality management or actions that the company takes to ensure the product or service they provide is of the highest quality. Customer satisfaction is a major factor in whether a company will be awarded an ISO 9001 accreditation.
The International Organization for Standardization in Geneva, Switzerland publishes thousands of international standards to help companies throughout the world more efficiently do business with one another. The 27 page ISO 9001 standard is focused on defining minimum business practices for the production and delivery of a company's products and services through the implementation of a formal "quality management system", or QMS. An ISO QMS is made up of certain processes, documentation and other formal practices that control internal company operations to ensure customer requirements are consistently met.
To pass an audit, an organization must follow these guidelines:
The achievement of an ISO 9001 certification is a milestone in demonstrating to your customers that you have implemented a reliable system of producing and delivering your products and services. The focus of this "system" is twofold: providing consistent products and services; and continual improvement in your processes leading to better results.
- Develop a Quality Management System (QMS) manual.
- Develop the procedures required by the ISO Standard.
- Determine the additional processes and procedures that are needed by the organization to perform work and satisfy the requirements in the ISO Standard.
- Operate in accordance with the organization's documented QMS.
- Provide evidence that the organization is operating according to the QMS.
The ISO 9001 certification is granted by a third-party auditing firm called a Registrar who specializes in quality system auditing. There are a wide variety of Registrars located in every ISO participating country. Some firms have offices internationally; others have a more regional focus. The selection of your Registrar is one of the more important decisions you will make to ensure the best alignment with your type of business, your location(s) and overall cost of maintaining the certification.
The initial certification audit is conducted in two parts. The Stage 1 audit is a general review of your QMS documentation to ensure you have addressed all of the requirements of the standard. Depending upon the size of your business, this can be conducted in a one to two day visit to your facility or virtually via phone. Any discrepancies noted during the Stage 1 audit will be documented in a formal report and must be corrected before the Stage 2 audit.
The main part of the ISO audit is the Stage 2 audit which is always conducted onsite at your location(s) and will be focused on the implementation and effectiveness of your QMS. During this audit which can take 1 day (for very small companies) to several days, the auditor(s) will tour your company, speak to managers and employees, and review documentation and records (along with any Stage 1 discrepancies) to ensure that your system is fully implemented. If nonconformances are found, they will be documented in a formal report for correction. Following the Stage 2 audit, you are generally given thirty (30) days to submit corrective action plans for all audit nonconformances. Once corrective actions are received, your certification is complete and your certificate is issued.
In order to maintain the certification, you will participate in an annual surveillance audit from your Registrar where they confirm that you are maintaining your QMS. Every third year, a more comprehensive re-certification audit is conducted, similar to the initial certification audit.