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United Nations Report Explores the Impact of ISO 9001

ISO 9001 is considered to be one of the most recognized ISO standards in the world and is designed to fit any organization regardless it industry or size. Many organizations worldwide have employed this standard to prove that they operate effectively and efficiently, subsequently enabling them to offer qualitative products and services, meet customers’ needs and comply with regulatory requirements. However, the potential of an accredited certification is still being discussed; there is a debate whether many organizations have shifted their attention from establishing an efficient quality management system, to obtaining a certification being the only goal. Nonetheless, this questioning of the value of certification is grounded on anecdotal evidence.

According to ISO/IEC 17021-1 the purpose of the certification is to offer confidence to all parties that management systems meet certain requirements. On that account, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization conducted a survey involving more than 1,600 certified organizations. These certified organizations were placed under “Market Surveillance” for one day in order to rate the quality of their processes, products, and services.

However, the most reliable way for organizations to prove that they have fulfilled the ISO 9001 requirements is by undergoing an audit. If the organization has met requirements, a certification of conformity will be issued along with an on-going surveillance by the certification body to ensure the system is sustainable. The UN report reveals that although companies are aware that this not a lifetime valid certificate and needs to be renewed regularly by the certification body; their main goal continues to be “once certified, we are accepted everywhere”. The doubt, however, was if organizations were gaining tangible benefits through ISO 9001 certification; whether the certification process was being carried out efficiently, and if the certified suppliers are trustworthy enough to provide consistent, conforming products and services.

From 2009 to 2015, feedback was collected from businesses about their perceptions of their ISO 9001 certified suppliers and from ISO certified organizations about their implementation and certification process.

One of the main findings was that the performance and confidence levels of the different organizations significantly varied depending on the certification body they were certified with as well as the certification body’s underlying accreditation. For the most part, all certified clients reported satisfying results with their certification bodies, with only a small number CB’s performing poorly, as shown in the table below:

Similarly, the variations in the performance of organizations with accredited certification from different accreditation bodies are being displayed in the figure below. It is presented that the majority of organizations certified with certain CB’s performed well, in comparison with a small number of organizations which expressed doubt about the value of the certification:

Therefore, it is important to emphasize that ISO 9001 is considered an economic benefit due to the fact that:
  • 95% of the organizations that participated in the survey considered ISO 9001 a “good’ or “very good” investment
  • The general opinion of both the ISO 9001 standard and the accredited certification to ISO 9001 are good.
  • There was a high rate of satisfaction from businesses regarding the performance of their ISO 9001 certified suppliers. The overall perception was that certified suppliers performed much better” than those not certified.

A related point to consider is the lack of transparency that certification bodies delivered by not agreeing to share information about the organizations they have certified. However, generally, the certified organizations involved in the market surveillance report showed an adequate performance and efficiency during the certification process. Only around 6-8% reported unsatisfactory results, doubting the benefits of their certification.

In addition, one of the main purposes of conducting ‘market surveillance’ was to identify the level of confidence organizations have in Certification Bodies’ processes and improve the credibility of certification.

Despite the fact that doubts were expressed regarding the value of certification, the finding clearly demonstrated that becoming certified against ISO 9001 has been beneficial to over 95% of the organizations. ISO 9001 is designed to provide continual improvement to all organizations, regardless of the industry they operate in. It is important to recognize that this standard does not specify the requirements regarding “quality” or “customer satisfaction”, but rather it assists organizations to define these objectives and improve their operations in order to achieve them.

Becoming certified against ISO 9001 is not mandatory; however, its implementation and certification create a competitive advantage by enhancing customer’s level of trust in certified organizations. Due to their efficiency, improved processes and services, the organizations certified against ISO 9001 provide more qualitative products and services in contrast with non-certified organizations

Having said that, PECB is a Certification Body offering training, examination, audit and certification services globally. PECB is accredited as a Management Systems Certification Body by IAS – International Accreditation Services. It is also a Full Member of the International Personnel Certification Association (IPC) which implies that PECB is a transparent Certification Body.

It is safe to say that the value of ISO 9001 certification is being recognized worldwide. PECB concluded that from 2015 to 2016 there has been an increase of 35.7 % in ISO 9001 certification.

About the author:

Erza Ajvazi is a Portfolio Marketing Manager for Quality Management Systems at PECB. She is in charge of conducting market research while developing and providing information related to QMS standards.

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