ISO - An Overview
Updated: Apr 3
We have all seen products labelled “ISO 9001:2008 certified” or “ISO 9001:2015 Certified”. But do we all know what this certification really means?
ISO is derived from the Greek word “iso”, meaning equal. For instance, isosceles triangle means a triangle with two equal sides. Similarly, ISO standard means that all companies certified comply with the same norms set.
ISO, or the International Organization for Standardization, a non-governmental organization, was started in 1947 and has its office in Geneva, Switzerland. The three official languages of the ISO are English, French, and Russian. ISO aims at facilitating and supporting international trade and commerce through developing standards that people all around the world can recognize, respect and follow. ISO Standards helps ensure that products, services, processes, systems, and technologies are safe and efficient.
HISTORY OF ISO
Initially known as the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA), the organization began in the 1920s, but was suspended in 1942 during the Second World War. In 1946, ISA and UNSCC (United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee) delegates from 25 nations joined forces and created the new International Organization for Standardization. ISO officially began its operations in February 1947.
The International Organization for Standardization currently has 164 member countries and is the world’s largest developer of international voluntary standards. Members of ISO meet once a year to discuss the strategic objectives and to bring about any change in the standards as maybe required. Till date, there have been over twenty thousand standards set, and the standards cover everything from manufactured products to information technology, from agriculture to food safety.
HOW DOES ISO WORK?
ISO creates various standards that provide the requirements, specifications, guidelines and characteristics that are to be consistently used to ensure that materials, products, processes, and services serve their intended purpose.
Did you know that as a common man, each one of us is eligible to create a new ISO standard? ISO provides a framework for creating new standards stating all the requirements. Any individual / group of individuals can come up with a standard provided that you comply with the template already provided. ISO then goes through the proposed standard, compares it with other proposed standards, makes any changes that it may deem necessary, and publish the final standards.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT STANDARDS PUBLISHED BY ISO?
ISO has published around 22,950 standards, but the most popular one is ISO 9001:2015 (Quality Management Systems). Other common standards include:
ISO 14001:2015 (Environment Management Systems)
ISO 22001:2018 (Food Safety Management Systems)
ISO 27001:2018 (Information Security Management Systems) and
ISO 45001:2018 (Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems).
Let us have a look at a simple case to understand how each standard differs from the other.
Suppose there is an oil spillage in a factory. An ISO 9001 Auditor immediately sees if the spillage has affected any of the manufacturing processes or if it has damaged any raw material / product. The Auditor will not want the quality of the work to be affected, and will take immediate action to ensure the same.
In the same scenario, and ISO 14001 Auditor will immediately look into how the spillage is being dealt with, if they are throwing away the oil into a nearby river, or if they're disposing it an appropriate manner. The Auditor will not want any process to damage the environment.
An ISO 45001 Auditor will rush to see if no employee is being injured or hurt by the situation. He makes sure that those who are cleaning the spillage are using all the appropriate personal protective equipment necessary. He will not want the situation to have an effect on the health and safety of the employees.
Similarly, each standard prescribes a different set of regulations to be followed during different circumstances. An ISO 9001 Auditor will check for a first aid box in the company so that if a customer is injured or sick, he is being given immediate treatment. This ensures that the quality of the services provided is not diminished. An ISO 45001 Auditor ensures that the first aid box is available to make sure that the employees get the medical treatment when required.
HOW DO I GET MY COMPANY ISO CERTIFIED?
To get your company certified, you must first comply with the guidelines prescribed by ISO. If you're unsure of what the guidelines are, you can hire a consultant who can help the company prepare the required documentation and comply with all the requirements. Once the requirements have been complied with, the company must hire a certification body. An auditor from the certification body checks if all the requirements have been complied with. If not, they issue "non conformities" and set a certain time frame by when all the non conformities have to be rectified. The auditor then recommends the company for an ISO certificate.
If you are interested in getting your company ISO certified in any of the standards, we at Infimind Institute of Management Consultancy can help your company comply with all the prescribed guidelines and make your company "certification ready". Our USP, if at all there are any non-conformities, we will hand hold you to get it rectified.