By Michael Shabaka, Ph.D., Director of Sales and Innovation for Manex
Every day, the world relies on sets of standards for thousands of different products, tools, and usages. Without such standards, the world would become a confusing place for anyone trying to do business across different markets. In the world of manufacturing, adherence to quality standards is paramount to a company’s reputation in the market. The best way to signify to your potential customers that your business takes quality concerns seriously is to become ISO certified. But what exactly does that entail? We will break it all down for you as we discover how to get ISO certification.
What Is ISO?
What exactly is ISO? ISO itself is an acronym for the International Organization for Standardization. For over 75 years, the ISO has served as an extra-governmental body dedicated to standardizing all sorts of processes in thousands of different applications in countries around the world. The standards set by ISO are agreed upon and accepted by international experts on a particular subject, with many different types of ISO certification available.
For example, the international standard for date and time format (ISO 8601) states that dates should be written in the YYYY-MM-DD format. Can you imagine the confusion if businesses around the world all used a different standard for measuring dates? You can quickly understand why standardization is hugely important for businesses of all kinds.
By establishing and maintaining these sets of standards, companies are able to guarantee products, services, and systems adhere to quality standards across industries, and around the world.
What Is ISO Certification?
ISO certification is the process of confirming that a specific organization is in compliance with the quality standards set forth by the ISO for a particular industry. The ISO itself does not issue these certifications. Rather, they are administered by independent 3rd parties, called certification bodies.
Independent bodies can be accredited, meaning they are formally recognized as adhering to international standards, or they can be unaccredited. Accreditation is not mandatory, and if an independent body is not accredited, it does not necessarily mean that they are not reputable.
For companies in the manufacturing sphere, ISO certification ensures that products are produced consistently, which can reduce defects, along with customer complaints. ISO certification can help streamline processes, improve consumer trust, and allow companies to operate in markets that require certification.
Why Become ISO Certified?
It’s clear that standards are valuable, but what are the specific business advantages of becoming ISO certified?
First and foremost, if your business lacks crucial industry standards, you will severely limit the range of clients willing to work with you. In order to work with the largest original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), they need to know that you can consistently produce quality products that meet their specifications. Obtaining a quality management system (QMS) certification does just that.
Secondly, by ingraining QMS standards from the start, a manufacturing business can establish industry-standard best practices that promote a quality-conscious culture. Adhering to QMS standards also increases your operational efficiency, and ensures coordination between all levels of the organization.
Lastly, obtaining an ISO certificate can positively impact your sales with increased customer satisfaction leading to long-term business partnerships. It can also help streamline your processes and eliminate inefficiency and waste. Certification can also open your business to overseas markets that require ISO certification.
It is also important to note that obtaining an ISO certificate is not a one-and-done deal. Certification requires renewal every 3 years, so it’s critical that these standards become ingrained into your day-to-day operations. When quality is built into your culture, it will pay dividends through increased efficiency, customer satisfaction, and a boost to your overall reputation.
Types of ISO Standards
There are several ISO standards that are crucial to a successful business. With regards to the manufacturing industry, these are some of the most important standards to become ISO certified in:
ISO 9001 sets the criteria for quality management systems (QMS). For manufacturers, ISO 9001 increases quality assurance, reducing defects and errors. It helps improve customer satisfaction by delivering consistent quality products and helps optimize operational efficiency, reducing waste.
ISO 14001 establishes criteria for environmental management systems (EMS) within an organization. This certification ensures that a company exercises environmental responsibility with sustainable business practices. This standard also helps an organization stay in legal compliance with environmental laws and regulations where they operate.
ISO 45001 covers occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS). It ensures a safe workplace that minimizes accidents for all workers and employees and keeps a company in legal compliance with safety laws wherever they operate.
ISO 27001 is the standard for Information security management systems (ISMS). This standard helps companies keep data and sensitive information, such as product designs, customer information, and other operational details, secure.
How to Get ISO Certification
Now that we know the benefits, we’ll break the ISO certification process down into 6 steps.
Step 1: Select the ISO Standards You Need
The first step is to determine which certifications you wish to obtain. For manufacturers, the standards mentioned above, including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 45001 are among the most common.
Step 2: Perform a Gap Analysis
Once you’ve decided which standards you want to become certified in, you’ll need to conduct an assessment of your current operations to see how you measure up to the ISO certification requirements.
Step 3: Document and Review
At the same time, you’ll need to make sure that your company’s procedures, processes, and operations are well documented in detail. An internal audit of your current operating processes will need to be conducted to ensure that they follow the ISO standard’s requirements. This is your management’s chance to identify any areas where you are currently lacking and get them up to speed before starting the application process.
Step 4: Stage 1 Audit
Once your operation has been reviewed by management and given the green light to proceed, it’s time to choose a certification body. Once you’ve selected a certification body, the ISO certification process will audit your operation in two stages. The Stage 1 audit is a preliminary audit that examines the readiness of your organization to move on to the next stage. The auditor will review your documentation and may also conduct interviews with management. They will also conduct their own gap analysis and create a report that details their findings and determines if you are ready for the Stage 2 audit.
Step 5: Stage 2 Audit
Once you’ve passed the Stage 1 audit, you’ll move on to the real deal: Stage 2. This is a more in-depth review of your documentation, practices, and procedures. The auditor will gauge how well you stack up against the ISO certification requirements. Auditors can potentially interview various employees within the organization, so make sure your employees are well aware of their roles and responsibilities. If the auditor discovers any instances of non-compliance, there will be a small window to rectify any issues.
Step 6: Certification Decision
The final step will determine whether or not you have met the ISO certification requirements during the Stage 2 audit. If you’ve managed to meet all the requirements, you’ll be awarded the ISO certificate.
Remember, becoming ISO certified is not a one-and-done deal. To remain ISO certified, an ISO certificate must be renewed every 3 years. The principles of each ISO certification must become deeply rooted in your organization’s day-to-day operations.
By now, you should have a strong understanding of what exactly ISO standards are, and how to get ISO certification for your organization.
When you’re ready to become ISO certified, Manex can lead the way. We follow a robust process that can help you identify what standards your organization needs, conduct a gap analysis to see how your current operations stack up, and document your systems in writing. Manex will ensure that your organization is ready to meet the ISO certification process head-on while instilling a culture of quality in your organization.
Contact Manex today at 925-807-5100 to begin your journey to ISO certification.
About the Author
Michael Shabaka, Ph.D., is the Director of Sales and Innovation Excellence for Manex. He has over 20 years of business development, sales and marketing experience, spanning several industries including biotech, high tech, publishing, environmental lab services, and the non-profit sector. Dr. Shabaka holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior with a concentration in Transformative Learning and Change from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco. He also holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing and Finance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs from Holy Names College, Oakland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.