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Quality Management System Gains Global Acceptance: Using ISO 9000 to Develop International Business Opportunities

Innovations in technology and Web-based commerce have opened many new market opportunities for everyone. Regardless of a current customer base, the long-range success of many companies will depend on increasing exposure to new markets. It is important to build a business strategy that can quickly respond to the many challenges of the 21st century.

Some of these challenges will include closer integration of the changing needs of people, processes, technology and markets. ISO 9000 is a universally accepted quality standard that has gained worldwide support and acceptance for ensuring quality and reliability of all products and services. Not only has it become the preferred standard for most industries, but it has also become a prerequisite for making smart business decisions and market choices.

Since its initial introduction in 1987, more than 24,000 U.S. companies have achieved ISO 9000 certification. This number continues to grow as companies around the world demand the same certification requirements from their vendors and suppliers. Some companies will implement ISO 9000 as a proactive business strategy while others will respond to customer demands and competitive threats.

Regardless of what drives businesses to implement this internationally recognized standard, the gains from achieving ISO 9000 certification will produce measurable improvements in product and service quality, in overall customer satisfaction and market share.

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The question facing a company today is not whether to become ISO 9000 certified, but how to do so with a minimum amount of pain and expense. Integrating ISO 9000 with the other requirements in a business strategy will involve new knowledge and skills.

First of all, have a clear understanding of ISO 9000 as a complete quality management system. Secondly, develop a comprehensive road map on how to get there.

‘Quality’ Refers To

The Whole Organization

The most common mistake made by a company results from a limited view of the scope of ISO 9000. Reference made to “quality” in the ISO 9000 definition should not be restricted to the traditional quality assurance department. The focus on quality in this standard relates to the whole organization with particular emphasis on a new role for management.

A comprehensive definition of ISO 9000 includes the following ingredients:

– New Role of Management , ISO 9000 is a “quality management model” that promotes a new leadership role for managers across the company. Management is required to take a more visible role in supporting the quality system.

– System of 20 Generic International Standards , As a quality management system, ISO 9000 is made up of 20 generic standards that outline the requirements for assuring quality output of products and services regardless of company size, industry or geographic location. These standards cover all elements of running a company.

– Four-Level Integrated System , The 20 generic standards are supported by a four-level integrated system of policies, procedures, work instructions and records that cut across all areas of the company.

– System of Traceability and Accountability , With the use of an integrated four-level system, ISO 9000 ensures traceability and accountability throughout all activities and processes that affect the quality output of products and services.

Records Show Proof

Of Quality Management

The 20 policies can be traced throughout all documented procedures, work instructions and records. The day-to-day work records are the final supporting evidence of successful implementation of a good quality management system and are tied back to the company policies which set the overall direction. Management’s role is to ensure that there is accountability and traceability where needed.

It is the strength of a good implementation plan that turns theory into practice. The following is a partial list of some of the tips and techniques used by many companies to execute a successful ISO 9000 implementing plan. This list is by no means complete and will need to be supported with a detailed evaluation of a company’s business requirements and readiness condition.

– Identify a senior management champion to support the implementation of this international standard.

– Establish an ISO 9000 management board made up of members from a cross-section of the company. This board will be responsible for coordinating the whole effort.

– Provide detailed ISO 9000 standards training.

– Develop a communication strategy to educate and inform the company on the purpose, status and progress of this strategic initiative.

Create A Realistic

ISO 9000 Action Plan

– Develop a realistic ISO 9000 plan of action with milestones, dates, responsibilities and deliverables.

– Identify initial prototype areas for early implementation of ISO 9000. Use these areas as a “lessons learned” approach to achieve total implementation across the company.

– Perform a “gap analysis” of the company’s readiness for ISO 9000. This will provide the initial baseline requirements.

– Complete the ISO 9000 quality system policy manual as the first tangible building block in the implementation process.

– Develop a “subject matter expert” team as a resource group for training, auditing and other ISO implementation requirements.

– Complete procedures, work instructions and records to support the total system.

– Perform internal audits to establish ISO 9000 readiness.

– Implement corrective actions as required.

– Schedule ISO 9000 formal certification for your company.

The journey of pursuing international markets may bring growing pains for many companies, but the option of not taking this road may quickly lead to limited opportunities. Therefore, it is important to take notice of the increasing worldwide interest in ISO 9000 as an international standard of choice. Developing a sound business strategy that includes ISO 9000 certification will provide a winning formula for international success.

Fox is president of Objectives International, Inc., a San Diego-based woman-owned consulting company that assists industry and government in ISO 9000 implementation strategies, industrial process improvements, and high performance teams.


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