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A brief guide about how to proceed to obtain ISO certification

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For many people, quality usually means the quality of products. However, quality generates from the entire operational process and does not depend on the manufacturing process only. The manufacturing process integrates the inherent variety of different operations for imparting quality to goods and services. From the quality of raw materials to the method of testing raw materials and finished products as well as the quality of packing, everything contributes to the quality of finished goods. Organizations have to focus on implementing comprehensive quality systems across the organization that governs the entire operations and not manufacturing alone.  

This concept of quality has resulted in the formulation of ISO 9000 which is a set of international standards on quality assurance and quality management. The aim is to help companies in effectively documenting the quality management systems that it has to implement for developing an efficient quality system. The standards mentioned in the quality manual template are generalized to enable any organization to achieve it by making necessary changes to suit the organizational objectives. Any businesses of any size can implement ISO 9000 that demonstrates its commitment towards delivering quality goods and services.

Achieving certification like ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 might feel like facing a daunting task.  It is tough to decide where to start the process, the steps to follow and the sequence of steps to maintain.  If you are new to the process of implementing ISO, then this article could be of some help to you. Here, you will find a concise guide to the procedure of obtaining ISO certification that should give you the confidence of moving in the right direction.

Choose the right standard

Before you decide to take up ISO certification for your company, get a feel for it first by finding how it has worked for some other companies. You can engage with some companies in your industry niche to gather information about what they have done to get the certification and how they are maintaining it. It should help to understand the infrastructural requirements for implementing the system. Besides, you must also choose the right standard that suits your organization.  Different ISO standards like ISO 9000, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, etc. are available with each standard having specific needs for implementation.

Know well about the standard

Good understanding of the standards should help in making the right choice. Gather as much knowledge as possible about the quality system you wish to implement. Many ISO (International Organization for Standardization) handbooks are available that give detailed insight into the processes involved in ISO 9001 and ISO 14001so that it becomes easy to get a good grasp on the subject.  The handbooks are excellent tools for making the standard more accessible.

Communicate the goal with others

All members of the organization become stakeholders in the quality management system. Although there would be some person or team spearheading the initiative, every member of the organization has to contribute towards its success.  ISO is an organization-wide target, developed by the senior management but it is essential to ensure that the good habits that the process entails are maintained throughout the organization and at all levels. It needs some good convincing to all members about the need and necessity of embracing ISO and how each one has a role to play in making it a success. Implementation of ISO needs excellent teamwork throughout the organization because unless the members believe in the philosophy, it will be difficult to sail through the process.

Establish the need for training

To get the most from the standard, you must take proper training that gives you confidence and imparts the skills necessary for successful implementation of the program. The measure is always evolving, and training helps all, whether you are a fresher in the world of ISO or a seasoned ISO practitioner.

Appoint a consultant

Experience in implementing ISO matters a lot. When you plan to implement ISO for your organization, seek guidance from an experienced consultant in the field. The consultant can add real value to the process of implementation and advise you on strategy as they are aware of the best practices and can match it effectively with your organizational setup.  The responsibility of establishing and implementing ISO quality management system rests on you, and the consultant can only hold your hand to take you through the process for a meaningful conclusion. It is in your interest that you must actively work alongside the consultant who can only pave the path that you have to tread on your own.

Choose a certification body

A Certification Body awards the quality certificate for which you have to sign up with a certification body. Know the norms of the certification body before you sign up because they would charge you based on the tenure of the contract and the number of visits (inspection) that they have to do. Usually, every contract is valid for three years with one annual visit.

Develop a management system

The essential thing about ISO certification is that you must have a Management System in place comprising of Quality Management System (QMS) about ISO 9001 and Environmental Management System (EMS) related to ISO 14001.   All management activities find a place in the Management System.

Stage 1 Audit

The purpose of the audit is to create an action plan for achieving the certification. It begins with a gap analysis report prepared by the auditor by reviewing the existing system. That would help to create a list of actions to be taken for meeting the standard.

Stage 2 Audit

The purpose of this audit is to assess the effectiveness of the management system that you have implemented in pursuance of the recommendations of the stage 1 audit. You will be awarded the certificate if you can prove to be fully compliant.

While obtaining the certificate might appear a hard task, the real tough job is to maintain the system.  Developing a culture of quality in the organization helps to sustain the excellent work.

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