Learning the key lessons from ISO 9001

Learning the key lessons from ISO 9001

My last blog gave a brief overview of the recent UNIDO/ISO/IAF study of ISO 9001 across a number of Asian economies. In this blog I want to continue that theme but look at the main findings from the study and what we can learn from them.

The objectives of the study were as follows:
1. “Improved empirical evidence on the economic impact of management system certification in industries in SAARC and South East Asian Countries.
2. Improved knowledge base for national standards and accreditation bodies, governments, regulators, ISO and IAF on management system certification and supporting schemes.
3. Best practices and policy guidelines for improvement of functioning of management system certification and accreditation bodies

The project methodology was agreed jointly by UNIDO, ISO and the IAF and basically comprised the following phases:
– Survey of institutional purchasers
– Face to face interviews with selected purchasers
– Survey of certified organisations
– Visits to certified organisations
– Sampling criteria and limitations / bias in the methodology

The study is comprehensive and lengthy but it is the “key findings” that are of most interest and these are summarised below.


• Economic benefits: Clear and empirical economic benefits were derived by the ISO 9001 certified organisations in the manufacturing sectors of the Asian developing countries in which the project was conducted.
• Purchasers’ perceptions of their ISO 9001-certified suppliers: Although the role ofcertification is still not well understood in the region overall perceptions are very good.
• Transparency: There is still a lack of transparency and ‘openness’ of some of the certification bodies and their franchisees.
• Market Surveillance of certified organisations: One day visits to certified suppliers proved useful in distinguishing between ‘superior’ and ‘poor’ performances.
• Performance of certified organisations: Overall the performance across the 561 certified organisations surveyed was good but there is no room for complacency as some areas were still unsatisfactory.
• Use of the Quality Management System to drive improvement: There is still very low awareness about managing for continuous improvement.
• Handling of customer complaints: There is still a low awareness of the guidelines for handling complaints.
• Performance of small and medium enterprises: Results confirmed that the level of confidence in the performance of SME’s is lower than for larger organisations
• Use of Consultants: The vast majority (over 80%) of the certification organisations surveyed used consultants.
• Audit durations: Audit durations were generally acceptable.

The weakest areas of implementation were:
• Lack of focus on preventative actions
• Poor use of the ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ approach
• Poor culture of continuous improvement
• Lack of corrective actions for process, product and system non-conformities
• Little use of the “process approach”
• Differences in performance of certification bodies and accreditation bodies: Notable differences were observed in the performance of organisations certified by different certification bodies.
• Performance of local franchisees of foreign certification bodies
• The study confirmed that local franchisees of foreign certification bodies were performing more poorly than international certification bodies.
• Time taken to implement

More recently certified organisations are achieving certification in shorter times but those organisations that had spent less than six months implementing their systems had a lower level of confidence about their QMS.

These kinds of studies are useful for taking the ‘temperature‘ of different organisations and the challenges they face to gain certification. The results of this study were encouraging and positive but show there is still much room for improvement.

Share the Post