Are you a service provider selling project management services, engineering or IT services? Have you been asked more than once whether you are ISO 9001 certified and wonder what is all that about? Before you tell your prospective client they have an error on their forms, see why more and more organizations are demanding their suppliers –materials and service – to become ISO 9001 certified.
ISO 9001 an international standard for services not just manufacturing
When the ISO 9001 standard was created over 22 years ago it was mostly seen as a tool for manufacturing organizations and was heavily embraced by industries in the chemical sector, machining, fabrication, volume production, etc. Although there was a specific standard for services, it was not until recent years, since the introduction of the process approach, that ISO 9001 has finally proven that it is the best standard to help any kind of organizations improve its processes. So whether an organization provides only services, its stands to gain tremendously from this clearly laid out standard. To be more specific, the process approach, so engrained in the ISO 9001 standard from the 2000 revision and above, facilitates the use of the standard for any organization, because it focuses on the processes of the organization regardless of what they make or provide.
Show me your certificate and I tell you what I think of you
Organizations who want to do business with companies overseas will find out that organizations abroad place a lot of emphasis in the ISO 9001 standard, regardless of whether you are a manufacturing or services company. The reasoning is simple. Imagine you want to hire an organization to supply you with data backup services or microchips for your products. Before you even attempt to do an audit of their operations, you would want to know whether this company:
- Has employees who have a common goal and unified direction.
- Has a system in place to provide quality services/or products
- Has a system that is structured in a way that can sustain changes and foster continual improvement
- Trains their employees adequately and not just by the seat of their pants
- Hires people with the right skills and background
- Has instructions that are documented in some way, not just hear say
- Maintains their equipment and facilities in good shape and working order
- Probes their system from time to time to see if everything is working well
By now you get the picture and that is, that the ISO 9001 standard answers most of the questions above by way of the certificate. So if an organization tells me that they are ISO 9001 certified, most than likely I will know right away that the organization:
- Has a quality policy
- Has a quality management system in place
- Has processes and procedures to conduct their operations
- Trains people to ensure they remain competent
- Has a maintenance system in place to take care of their equipment
- Goes through Internal and External Audits
Of course the degree of effectiveness as well as the maturity of the quality management system varies from company to company. Also the quality of the Registrar who certified the company to the ISO 9001 standard weighs a lot into how effective the QMS is. But all that aside, doing business with a company who is ISO 9001 certified is bound to give you a degree of quality assurance that you will not have in if the company was not certified.
What does it means to a Service Company
In most service companies, the availability of procedures is scarce creating processes that are broken and reduce the company’s ability to improve. However service companies do not have equipment that breaks down, have downtime, or product that needs to be reworked, they tend to think that they are doing well. Imagine how much better they could do if they will formalize the processes in place and measure those processes? Improvements will happen and employees will feel empower to excel.
Based on the points made above, you can see that regardless whether you are making widgets or providing data services, having an ISO 9001 certification will provide your company with a boost over the competition. ISO 9001 gives you guidelines on how to establish a world class organization and that will apply to any company.