In addition, learn about the specific ISO standards in question as there are over 22,000 standards. Therefore, if a company says that they are ISO certified, you want to ask the specific standard they are talking about. If they say that they are ISO 9001 certified, be sure to ask which year/version. This is because there have been three ISO 9001 versions; the first version was ISO 9001:2000, the second version was ISO 9001:2008, and the current version is ISO 9001:2015.
For your company to be considered ISO certified, you have to complete the certification process, which involves audits by a qualified third party. The process sounds simple, but it is rigorous as the auditors will assess your processes and document the relevant details before presenting their findings to the ISO.
Organizations that seek to become ISO 9001 certified must meet the ISO requirements, which typically revolves around meeting the customers' expectations. The process typically takes 2 months or more, and there is no guarantee that your company will become certified. In addition, the certification is only viable for three years, and after they lapse, you'll undergo the process again to become recertified.
If your company does meet the requirement, they’ll not become recertified. This is why companies need to embrace a sustainable approach that allows them to achieve and maintain certification.
Becoming certified has its benefits as it means that your company has been assessed by an external auditor who has verified that you're compliant with ISO 9001 standards. With this certification, you can easily prove to your customers or other interested parties that you're compliant. The level of audits and scrutiny from clients who prefer to purchase high-quality products from their suppliers is greatly reduced.
Since the goal of ISO 9001 certification is to meet customer expectations and satisfaction, companies may choose to be compliant instead of completing the entire process and becoming certified.
When a company says that they’re ISO 9001 compliant, it means they’ve adhered to requirements of the said standards. It’s cheaper to become compliant than to achieve certification as it excludes the cost of certification audits.
Companies can, however, hire an internal auditor to assess whether they meet the standards. The internal audit is voluntary, and some companies might opt not to audit. Instead, the company can wait until one of their clients audits their quality management system and claim that the said client deemed their QMS to be compliant. That's the problem with being compliant because your clients will occasionally ask to audit your QMS before you can proceed with a business transaction. However, when you're certified, you have proof that you're compliant with the standards. In addition, companies that claim to be compliant may not accurately document the processes that the company took become compliant.
Which is better? ISO Compliance or Certification?
Of course, ISO certification has its perks as you can use their unique certification mark to assure your clients that your products or services are in with the ISO standards. However, this doesn't mean that ISO compliance isn't good enough. If you're a small business, you can comply with the ISO standards without necessarily trying to achieve certification.
You can wait until your budget allows you to seek certification, and in the meantime, you can implement the relevant ISO requirements. Occasionally, you can conduct internal audits as well as management reviews to assess whether you're compliant. These reviews and audits will help you track your compliance progress in case you decided to seek certification.
If you are the client who is doing business with a company that claims to be ISO compliant, you might want to assess if they're genuinely compliant. This is because anyone can claim to be compliant, but it doesn't mean that they are. You can confirm if they are compliant by conducting an audit.
Even when a company is certified, it doesn’t mean that all its processes are compliant, it means that the company has implemented the requirements and documented it. If the company documents everything accurately, they have an easy time implementing corrective action where needed.
Although ISO certification isn’t a legal requirement, your business will benefit from being compliant and ultimately achieving certification. Think of the substantial improvements in efficiency and success that your business will enjoy once you become certified and remain compliant.