So What's The deal With ISO-9000?

I am trying to decide if I should alter my purchasing decisions, based on whether the supplier is “ISO CERTIFIED” or not! Supposedly, ISO certification means that the manufacturer has in=process quality controls, etc., such that their products should be BETTER than non-ISO certified firms. Well, I am testing this theory-I decided to ask around. Herewith, a sample of my experiences:
-New Car dealer (Oldsmobile): “ISO certified”-I dunno-what’s that?
-Supermarket Chain (asked the cashier): “whats that all about”?
-Paint shop (hardware chain)” …”I don’t know what you are talking about”
-Footware mfg. (athletic shoes): “sorry, I don’t know if we are certified”
Given this, I have to ask, what the hell is the big deal with this (ISO 9000 certification)? Does it really mean superior products, or is it just a load of bull? Should I CARE if I buy from and “ISO” company or not?

We discussed ISO9000 in a thread last fall. I can look it up, or you can, on the search feature.

I pushed my last company through its initial Registration audit, and through two Surveillance audits for ISO9000 (actually ISO9002, but I won’t spliy hairs too much). It is a pain in the neck, but arguably worth it. Nonetheless, I’m happy I don’t have any ISO responsibilities here at my new job.

Having ISO certification means that you have a standard series of practices that you have documented and that you adhere to in your daily production. The setup you have must be certified by a registrar agency. What I always told people was that it meant we could trace our standards (measuring tools and such) back to a certifying agency and could trace our parts and operations as well, so that if a bad batch of product turned up you could tell through the records where the error came from, which parts had been affected, and where they went. This lets you fix the error and warn customers who may have gotten bad product.

ISO is a worldwide system along the lines of Us MIL SPEC and MIL Standard. It involves a lot of record keeping, procedure writing, and internal reviewing. All of this can easily build up to swamp you in useless make-work and paperwork if you don’t watch it. But the up-side is product of traceable quality and procedures that are (in a perfect world) continually improving. Whether this makes a difference in what you buy from an ISO approved company (as opposed to one not ISO approved) I don’t know. Theoretically, it’s supposed to. One would hope that it does, to make up for all the cost and effort. Time will tell.

Let me preface this by saying that although I was/am a Certified QS-9000 auditor (which, of course, includes prior ISO certification), I am by no means an expert, and you might be better served by checking theISO 9000/14000 site.

What ISO does, or rather what it is…okay, you know what, I’m not going to get into the international effect of ISO. Okay, so what ISO does for a company, is it provides a method, a set of guidelines, by which the company can document their Quality Systems. My documentation is, of course, at home or I could give you the schpele they provide.

Basically, ISO deals with manufacturing processes, not the actual product itself. That is, the process used to make something can be certified ISO-9000, but you can not then say that the product is ISO-9000 certified. Only the process is. Because of this, there is no reason the people you asked should have been ISO certified, though the companies that make the products they sell ight have been.

There are more certifications than strictly ISO-9000: 9001/2/3/4, IIRC, though I think the latest revision is getting rid of some of those clasifications. They denote certification of different stages of the manufacturing process, from design to creation.

Saying a company is ISO certified is effectively saying that they have met the standards required to prove they follow their quality procedures. The old tag-line I remember is: “I say what I do, I do what I say and I can prove it.”

BTW: QS-9000 is specific to the automotive industry (taking the basic ISO standards, adding much more detail to some and adding a few more outright). CMM is specific to the tech industry (with specific requirements to reach a particular level, 5 being the highest)
I hope I didn’t ramble too much in this post, I’m fielding a phone call right now, too, multitasking and all that. :rolleyes:

Oh, another thing: what is sadly not that uncommon among plants adopting the ISO standard is the tendency to hold off on doing anything ISO related (updating documentation, training, removing obsolete information, etc.) until they are under the gun, that is, until they have an audit coming, then there is a mad scramble to get everything squared away and make sure all the paperwork is completed, all the boxes are checked and shop-floor workers know the Quality Policy.

In school this was known as cramming, in manufacturing it is justified by old-school managers as “one more flash in the pan policy that will change next year so why bother doing it right.” Yeah, quality is such a pain in the ass. The reason people get buried under a pile of documentation is because they don’t keep up with it.

Anyhow, this doesn’t address the OP, but bears saying, regardless.

egkelly, if your company performs quality audits on your suppliers, has them fill out questionnaires on their production process, or spends inordinate amounts of time on incoming inspection of products you buy, then ISO 9000 can be a benefit to you and your company. Let THEM pay the money for certification, not YOU. But keep in mind a plant that makes cement life preservers can be ISO 9001 certified.

thinksnow, CalMeacham, I feel your pain. First job out of military was ISO Program Manager/Quality Manager to implement 9002 in a box plant. Later I was Quality Systems Manager at another with 9001. It provides a great vehicle for communication and process improvement, but you don’t have to take advantage of the vehicle.

Don’t get me started on Gallup Customer Satisfaction Surveys. I tend to foam at the mouth.