We’re not the only company who has their ISO 9001 certification. Where we think we differ is how we view it. Some companies see certification as a mark of achievement, and it is, but we view it more as a tool that helps us meet the expectations of our customers. Here’s a deeper dive into the topic to explain this attitude.
An Overview of ISO 9001
ISO is the International Standards Organization. It’s through their work, and that of related standards bodies, that we can all agree on measurement units, types of steel and so on. Their 9001 standard is a little different though. Rather than defining physical properties this sets out how a Quality Management System (QMS) should work.
A QMS isn’t about manufacturing tolerances and inspections. It’s about how a business should organize itself to consistently provide products and services that meet customer requirements.
The standard itself is surprisingly slim. It talks about how an organization should have policies and procedures that define how things get done. For example, you’ll see sections on training, (identify needs, make sure people are competent,) and purchasing, (define your requirements, verify your suppliers are capable.) What you’ll see very little of are instructions about what to actually do. That’s because every business and industry is different. To pick a random example, fabricating perforated tubes has little in common with mixing latex paint, yet the standard is applicable to both.
About that 2015
ISO 9001 has been around several decades and the ISO keeps refining it. Partly that’s because the world keeps changing, but it’s also because the standard encourages organizations to keep making improvements. So what we have is a kind of bootstrapping process where 9001 encourages companies to get better, and then ISO raises the bar.
When you see a company certified to ISO 9001:2015, as we are at Perforated Tubes Inc., it means they meet the latest edition of the standard. Now the standard is reviewed on a five year cycle, so it’s likely there’ll be a 2020 version along at some point soon. When it is we’ll be sure to get certified to that new edition.
These two words get bandied around a lot in connection with ISO 9001, but they mean slightly different things. Let’s start with “Certified.”
Any organization can tell you their QMS meets ISO 9001:2015, but how do you know they’re right? Well that’s why there are third party audits and certification. When we tell you we’re ISO 9001:2015 certified it means independent experts have audited our QMS and verified that it follows the ISO standard. At the end of that process they give us a certificate to hang on our wall.
That raises another question: how do you know the experts are truly independent? Well here’s where we get into “accreditation.” The auditing organizations can have their competence verified by another body that provides accreditation.
If you want to judge how seriously a company like Perforated Tubes takes ISO 9001 a good place to start is by looking at who performs their certification, and who that body is accredited by.
As shown on the top of our Certifications web page, we partner with American Systems Registrar, (ASR) for certification. In turn, they have their competence to certify Quality Systems assessed by the ANSI National Accreditation Board. (ANAB.)
On top of that, ANAB can’t just say that ASR are good at what they do, they have to follow yet another ISO standard. In this case it’s ISO/IEC 17021:2011, Conformity assessment. This defines requirements for organizations that provide QMS audit and certification services, like ASR. The ANAB ensures that ASR comply with ISO/IEC 17021:2011.
Yes it’s a complicated system, but if ISO 9001:2015 certification is to mean anything it has to be done right. Our partnership with ASR and theirs with ANAB ensures it is.
Our QMS as a Tool For Meeting Customer Expectations
We take pride in our ISO 9001:2015 certification, but for us it’s about much more than a framed piece of paper. Our goal is to consistently give our customers the perforated tubing products they need. The procedures laid out in our QMS ensure we do that, but we want to keep getting better.
“Better” takes two forms. First, our QMS provides the numbers we need to improve both the service we provide and the consistency and performance of the products we make. And as part of ISO 9001:2015 is about making improvements, it drives us to review data and implement changes.
Second, the standard also requires us to review how our QMS is working and look for ways to make it even more effective. To use ISO’s own words, they expect an emphasis on, “processes for improvement of the system.” This of course is what continuous improvement is all about. It’s also why we value ASR’s contribution.
ASR aim to add value throughout the audit process by helping us identify opportunities to improve. And even better, from our perspective, they do it from a business point of view. So they’re helping us streamline, simplify and become more efficient while at the same time sharpening our already rigorous procedures.
Meeting Customer Expectations
Keeping a QMS up to scratch takes a lot of effort. We do it because the rewards are much greater than a framed certificate in the lobby. For us it’s a tool that helps us give our customers what they expect, not just once but time after time. And that’s what it means to be ISO 9001:2015 certified.