A recent survey covering quality management system development, certification, accreditation and economic benefits has made some key findings which once again demonstrate the importance of well structured quality management systems.
ISO 9000 deals with the fundamentals of quality management systems including the eight management principles on which the family of standards is based. ISO 9001 deals with the requirements that organisations wishing to meet the standard have to fulfill.
The study, jointly carried out by UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) and IAF (International Accreditation Forum) clearly showed that the implementation of accredited certification to ISO 9001 brings positive results to certified organisations, their customers, and ultimately to the economies themselves. The study, entitled “ISO 9001– its relevance and impact in Asian Developing Economies” involved a survey, interviews with purchasers and visits to certified organisations.
The value to an organisation of implementing the principles of ISO 9001are fairly well documented but in recent years some specific concerns have been expressed in Asian developing economies. It seems that although the core elements and philosophy behind ISO 9001 were generally welcomed by managers there were some questions about the effectiveness of the quality management systems employed within some of the organisations involved. Because these concerns were also being shared by ISO, IAF and other institutions the study provided an opportunity to address the concerns – particularly in the context of business-to-business transactions in the manufacturing and construction sectors.
The main debate in Asian countries has been about the effectiveness of accredited certification in terms of whether the focus has shifted from one in which organisations strive to develop an effective quality management system to one in which certification itself has become the ultimate goal (sometimes achieved by cutting corners). Similarly, other concerns related to whether or not organisations were deriving real tangible benefits from ISO 9001, whether the certification bodies were carrying out the certification process effectively and whether the varied expectations from different stakeholders were being met.
The study resulted in a number of key findings which can be best categorised as follows:
1) Economic benefits – there were clear empirical economic benefits derived from the implementation of accredited certified quality management systems.
2) Credibility of ISO 9001 – In general, the perception of accredited certification to ISO 9001 in the Asia region was encouraging and positive.
3) Positive purchaser perceptions – purchasers confirmed that they were satisfied with the performance of ISO 9001 certified suppliers which generally performed better or ‘much better’ than non-certified suppliers.
The Director-General of UNIDO, Kandeh K. Yumkella summarised his feelings about the study in the Preface to the report, noting that, “It is pleasing to see that the results have demonstrated (with some exceptions) that the implementation of ISO 9001 and the associated certification has been a good investment of resources. The project has, however, highlighted some areas of weakness and we expect that all the parties involved will take the necessary actions to ensure continued improvements.”
The report raised some interesting points, and in a future blog I’ll be looking at the findings and what can be learnt from them.