International Standards Organization – An Overview

What is the International Standards Organization (ISO)?

The international Standard Organization or ISO is an independent, non –governmental global entity that works to set standards across various companies and products. Its main objective is to facilitate trade, but it also focuses on safety, process, and quality improvement in different sectors.

Located in Geneva, Switzerland, The International Organization for Standardization is the world’s largest standards organization with a membership of 164 countries. Many of its members are mandated by their governments, while some are deeply rooted in the private sector. Thus, ISO enables a consensus to be reached between business needs and social needs.

Although ISO is not a governing body, nor does it have the power to enforce regulations, companies worldwide follow its guidelines. This enables them to provide safe, streamlined, and efficient processes.

What does the international standards organization do?
The International Standards Organization does not directly certify products or companies. Instead, there exist other certification organizations that audit a company then certify its quality management systems. These organizations are commonly known as registrars. They are certified under a different standard. The ISO certification involves the registrar auditing a company to ensure its operations comply with processes outlined in the ISO guidelines.

When a company is granted ISO certification, it means the registrar certifies its quality management systems, particularly applicable to its area of operation. For example, a company will be certified for manufacturing a specific product or providing a particular service. The quality is measured and approved per the provisions of ISO standards. Once a company is granted certification, it will receive a certification mark that is embedded in their vehicles, stationery, and websites.

ISO certification is valid for three years, after which the Organization must re-certify its processes to meet the current form of the standard. A registrar also assesses re-certification.Although ISO guidelines are freely available, the full strategies have to be purchased; Organizations seeking ISO certification should hire an ISO consultant to help them implement the guidelines effectively. Thus, hiring an ISO consultant increases their chances of certification.

What is the history of the international standards organization?
The International Standards Organization was formed in 1926 as the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA), which focused heavily on mechanical engineering. The Organization got disbanded in 1942 during World War II. In 1946 it was reorganized under the current name; ISO.

The name ISO is derived from the Greek word “isos” which means equal. The relation to standards implies that if two objects are of the same standard, they should be similar. Thus this eliminates confusion when the International Standards of Organization is translated into different languages that create different acronyms.

What are the different kinds of ISO standards?
There are different types of ISO standards used in various industries. The most common ones include:
• ISO 9000 for quality management – This is globally viewed as the best practice for quality management. It lays out the criteria for identifying quality management systems that help a company improve the quality of its products or services and customer relations. It is a collection of standardized implements and practices that identify where improvement is a need.
• ISO/IEC 27000 for information security management systems. It contains a set of standards that are used to keep informational assets safe. Organizations that manage customer and personal data Finances or intellectual property use it to ensure the data stays protected.
• ISO 31000 for risk management – Every entity that takes part in business is exposed to risk. Therefore, ISO 31000 creates a framework for managing the risks, with the best risk identification practices.
• ISO 22000 for food safety management. It sets out what a business is required to do to ensure their food is safe for consumption. It contains guidelines that are used in the food industry.
• ISO 14001 for environmental management – These guidelines are the basis for improving environmental management framework (EMF), aiming to promote ecological awareness. It emphasizes on the promise organizations abide by international environmental laws to prevent environmental pollution. Organizations with this certification have environmental integrity.
• ISO/TS 16946, which is used in the transportation industry. It focuses on monitoring, training, and upgrading within the transportation sector.

What are the principles of quality management systems, according to ISO?
The standards within ISO 9000 set out quality management principles that work within the Organization.
As per ISO, the seven quality management principles include:
• Customer Focus – It involves continually meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Organizations should focus on customer satisfaction. Organizations that do not satisfy their customers’’ wants do not stay around for long.
• Process Approach – Organizations should manage their processes effectively for success. Opportunities for improvement should be tracked behind the scenes to make the Organization successful.
• Improvement – A quality management system requires continuous change. Improvement activities should be aligned with the objectives of the Organization. The staff should also be empowered to measure and make improvements.
• Engagement of people – Every Organization wants to have an engaged workforce. This implies that the abilities of the staff are valued and adequately utilized. An engaged workforce is empowered to come up with issues, make suggestions, and execute change.
• Relationship management – Every Organization should maintain a good relationship with its partners, such as suppliers, to create more opportunities.
• Evidence-based decision making – Organizations should make sure their information is accurate, accessible, and reliable. They should use appropriate methods to analyze and evaluate the data to make decisions based on them.
• Leadership – For an organization to succeed, it has to have leaders who have set a vision for it. The leaders should be engaged at every level, meaning they have the right tools to be successful.