Inspectioneering
Inspectioneering Journal

ISO 9000 for Inspection and Service Companies

By Yehuda Dror at DNV Certification, Inc.. This article appears in the March/April 1996 issue of Inspectioneering Journal

The ISO 9000 series of standards is one of the fastest growing quality initiatives in the world. Nearly 100,000 certificates of compliance with ISO 9000 standards have been issued in some 80 countries, including over 8,000 certificates in the U.S. But what are the standards? How do they work? And how do they apply to an inspection company?

The ISO 9000 series consists of several standards, the best known of which are ISO 9001, 9002, and 9003. They address those activities which help ensure that the customer's needs are met. The standards apply to a company's quality management system, not its product or service, and so are applicable to almost any company. ISO 9004 addresses the concept of a quality system and is intended for internal use only. 9001, 9002 and 9003 are the standards with which the company must comply in order to be registered (certified).

ISO 9001 is the most comprehensive standard and applies to companies whose activities include design or development of their product or service. ISO 9002 is almost identical to 9001 but is used for companies who have no design activities. ISO 9003 is not widely used in the U.S., but is similar to ISO 9002, with reduced requirements.

The International Organization for Standardization developed these standards. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the ISO is made up of members from over 100 different countries, including the U.S.

The intent of the 9000 standards is to provide a simple set of requirements for a basic quality system, which could be used as a universal benchmark for quality systems. The first set of standards was published in 1987; the current edition was published in 1994.

The majority of companies choose to have their quality system registered once it meets the requirements. In this case, an ISO 9000 registrar (an organization, such as DNV) audits the company's quality system, and once the requirements are met issues a certificate confirming the system's compliance. This is the most convenient way of proving compliance with the standards and eliminates the need for verification by the company's customers. Nevertheless, some companies may choose only to comply with the standards' requirements. In this case, the company develops and implements a quality system meeting ISO 900x requirements, without certification (registration).

The ISO 9000 registrar normally begins the registration process with a review of the company's written documentation of their system. The system documentation normally contains several levels (tiers) with the upper level consisting of a Quality Manual providing an overview of the system. Lower level documentation normally exists in the form of Procedures usually addressing cross-functional and/or interdepartmental activities and Work Instructions usually addressing specific tasks. The registrar primarily reviews the Quality Manual, which in turn usually references the lower level documents.

Next the registrar will visit the client's facilities, and perform an audit. The audit consists of reviewing additional documentation, interviewing employees on a random basis, and inspecting records and evidence of the system's performance. This usually takes less than a week.

Once the registrar is satisfied the quality system meets all requirements of the ISO standard, a certificate is issued. This certificate will name the company, the location of the certified facility or facilities, the applicable ISO 9000 standard, and the registrar issuing the certificate.

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