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By: Ben Baldwin
May 12, 2022
The illustrious ISO 9001 certification has been a desirable credential for decades within the manufacturing community. Since its inception in 1987, it has been a symbol of quality practices, continuous improvement, and customer satisfaction. But is ISO 9001 worth it?
Even though there are some definite benefits to this certification, whether it is right for your company will be highly dependent on your business, operation, and goals.
With this question in our minds, let’s explore the pros and cons of ISO 9001 and determine if the certification is truly worth it for your organization.
When determining if “ISO 9001 is worth it”, the first things we need to look at are the requirements. And, as we’ll see, these requirements can be a little complex.
If it were easy, everybody would be ISO 9001 certified and it wouldn’t be such a desirable accreditation.
But alas, nothing good is ever that easy. Neither is every good thing beneficial for everyone. So you’ll need to see if these requirements are worth the time and effort.
ISO 9001 requires you to implement a Quality Management System (QMS) that meets the following 2 criteria.
These two criteria may seem a bit generic. That’s because they are meant to be. These criteria are purposely generic so that organizations of any size and purpose can implement a QMS that meets their specific needs while also adhering to ISO 9001 standards.
A Quality Management System (QMS) is a set of rules, processes, procedures, and best practices that ensures the company can continue operating. In other words, a QMS is a systematic approach to controlling and documenting your business operation.
Let’s quickly break this down. A QMS has four basic components:
Each of these components is then applied to any stakeholder group. For example:
There are many more requirements but I think we get the picture.
A well-laid-out QMS doesn’t need to change any part of your business so long as the requirements are fulfilled. However, it does give companies the opportunity to observe, control, and optimize their processes with a specific goal in mind. This paves the way for smarter improvements as time goes on and certification with a governing body.
Pro Tip: Is your company meeting these requirements? VKS integrates your organization's internal processes and provides your team with detailed procedural methods. This enables you to identify, measure, control, and improve your essential business processes, resulting in enhanced business performance.
Now that we understand what the certification entails, we can explore the pros and cons. This will help you determine if ISO 9001 is beneficial to your business.
Companies choose ISO 9001 because it is an illustrious name known within the manufacturing industry. It symbolizes quality practices and high customer satisfaction. But the benefits are not only for the customer, there are key advantages that make ISO 9001 potentially favorable to modern manufacturers.
When pursuing ISO 9001 certification, you’ll need to firmly evaluate your operation’s strengths and weaknesses. This evaluation enables you to set clear goals and determine how well you are performing or meeting the requirements of your stakeholders.
Knowledge is power. The more you know about your business, the more you will be able to optimize the production process. A QMS centered around fulfilling ISO 9001 requirements encourages companies to gather valuable data and understand their organization to a greater degree than normal.
Perform a Gemba Walk in your facility and track your key metrics to gain a complete overview of where your operation stands. Then use this knowledge to create goals and establish your QMS. Establishing a firm direction is beneficial on all levels.
Pro Tip: Use VKS Pro or Enterprise to gain a keen understanding of your operation through detailed production history. From in-depth data on quality, productivity, completion times, and more, you and your team can extract more knowledge than ever before. With a tool like VKS work instruction software, you are better able to assess which areas of your operation are ISO 9001 compliant and what areas are not.
ISO 9001 is primarily a program focused on quality and value. When businesses focus on these two factors, they can consistently improve the experience of their customers, their employees, their product, and their organization.
Businesses pursuing this certification need to constantly review their output across several levels. These include.
Each of these, which closely follow The 7 Principles of Total Quality Management, is an essential part of improving quality and value across your organization. By focusing on these areas with an in-depth understanding of their operation, businesses stand to see intelligent and sustainable methods that consistently improve quality and add value as time goes on.
Pro Tip: Capture quality data from every process with didigital standard work instructions. VKS guidebooks autonomously capture valuable quality data and prompt users to enter their feedback and concerns through easy to use Smart Forms.
As time progresses under ISO 9001, businesses will find that their operations become more efficient and productive as a result of their hyper-focus on quality processes. Although businesses will not see this benefit from day one, optimizing your operations with smart principles will undoubtedly increase efficiency and resiliency in the face of new challenges,
With greater knowledge of your operation, comes greater stability. A properly implemented QMS leads employees of all levels to have greater control over their tasks and responsibilities. Employees no longer have to sift through the guesswork of what needs to be done or if certain precursors to production will be fulfilled on time.
Pro Tip: Remove the guesswork for your employees and give them work instructions that detail every step with pictures, videos, annotations, and more.
By following the guidelines of ISO 9001, businesses engage their workforce in a new and intelligent way. With a more in-depth understanding of your operation that removes the guesswork and focuses on sustainable quality practices, the workforce is made stronger and smarter.
ISO 9001 encourages participating companies to involve all of their employees in setting production and quality goals. This enables employees to have a better understanding of what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and why.
As a result, employees are engaged in the goals and performance of the organization. Tools like work instruction software enable companies and their employees to consistently share insight and knowledge simultaneously. This manifests in two key directions:
Once your operation is more efficient and employees are engaged, customers are more likely to see increases in quality customer service interactions and faster lead times overall. This directly contributes to customer satisfaction levels.
Adding to this, any quality issue can be quickly and decisively dealt with. Here’s how.
Imagine a customer has a quality complaint about a bicycle rim that your company has manufactured. It seems that a few spokes have been tightened outside of the proper specifications. You can quickly resolve the issue for the customer and then move to prevent the issue from happening again.
Within VKS, you look through the quality records and find the precise bicycle rim in question through the documented serial numbers. You then perform a root cause analysis to determine why the error occurred. With a complete process and item history, you discover that a tool was miscalibrated at one of your workstations.
To prevent this from occurring again, a tool calibration check is inserted into the process’s work instructions. Operators verify the tool is working properly at the beginning of the production day and now the error is effectively eliminated.
As a result, quality, customer satisfaction, and revenue levels have increased.
One of the key markers of efficient and intelligent processes is sustainability. If waste is effectively cut down and processes are continuously improving and becoming leaner, then costs will go down as well. This directly contributes to how sustainable your operation is.
Adding to this, ISO 9001 is a trustworthy symbol to prospective customers looking for quality companies. If potential customers know that you adhere to the guidelines of ISO 9001, then you are more likely to earn their business.
It is never a bad thing to be ISO 9001 certified. Few companies will regret the advances they’ve made pursuing the certification. But there are a few reasons that cause some manufacturers and other companies to question if ISO 9001 is worth it.
Probably the number 1 complaint about ISO 9001 is that the certification process is complicated. Depending on the size of your company and the number of products or services you offer, getting every piece of your company to be ISO 9001 compliant can be difficult to say the least.
Adding to this, since the certification is not a set of rules set in stone, it can be challenging to understand exactly what your company will need to do. In this case, many companies will hire specialists that can offer consulting and guidance in the matter.
There’s no doubt about it, ISO 9001 takes time.
If choosing whether ISO 9001 is worth it for your company, it is helpful to remember: No company is immediately certified.
On average it takes about 3-6 months for smaller companies and can take up to a few years for larger companies. The larger and more complex your business, the longer it will take to become ISO 9001 compliant.
Adding to this, implementing a QMS will seem like a lot of work, especially in the beginning. That can be a major deterrent for companies that are not looking to change or improve their operation in the short or long term.
ISO 9001 compliance requires organizations to keep extensive documentation. You can’t be certified by simply saying you complied. You need proof. But not every company has an easy method of gathering this information or easily displaying it for ISO 9001 representatives.
Pro Tip: VKS work instruction software is a simple no-fuss method of capturing and reviewing compliance data from your production lines. As guidebooks are used, VKS is gathering data that can be easily found in the Reports tab.
At the end of the day, employees at every level need to make sure the organization is adhering to ISO 9001 standards. With the high amounts of documentation and the highly regulated processes, pursuing and maintaining the certification can add potential stress to the workforce.
But with a properly laid out QMS and purpose-built software, companies can mitigate this stress and support their workers through the new standards.
Pro Tip: Using work instruction software that details processes and procedures in a step-by-step format, workers have detailed instructions guiding them through every step of the process.
As we said before, this certification takes time and effort. On top of this, there are very few benefits that can be seen from day one, leaving many to question if ISO 9001 is worth it for modern manufacturers.
But businesses need to remember that the main goal of the certification is to see improvement over time. For this reason, the more time invested, the greater the results will be. But there is little incentive in the short term.
Whether you want to be ISO 9001 certified or you think it's a load of “you know what”, every company benefits from implementing a structured Quality Management System alongside standardized practices that enable intelligent improvement in quality and value.
In many ways, you don’t need special certification to embrace the smart practices of Industry 4.0 and 5.0. But as we have seen, there are a few key benefits that make ISO 9001 worth it for some modern manufacturers.
On the other hand, intelligent software that guides your workforce while also enabling you to gather, send, and receive data in real-time gives any company the ability continuously improve and innovate in the short and long term.
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