International Standards provide world-class specifications for products, services and systems, to ensure quality, safety and efficiency. They are crucial in facilitating international trade. ISO (International Organisation for Standards) is responsible for the general documenting and formalising of an ISO specification so that it can be set as a global standard; new standards are only developed if there is a demand in the market.
How are standards developed?
According to ISO, there are six stages in the development process: the proposal stage, preparatory stage, committee stage, enquiry stage, approval stage, and publication stage.
The proposal stage confirms that there is a need for a new international standard in the market. To start the process, a new work item proposal (NWIP) must be submitted to the technical committee for consideration. The committee consists of industry experts, consumer association representatives, and government officials. The draft international standard (DIS) is then submitted to the ISO central secretariat from where it’s circulated to all ISO members. The members will have 12 weeks to vote and comment on the draft. If the DIS is approved, the project is moved straight to the publication stage. If changes are introduced, the draft will move to the approval stage.
The final draft is submitted for publication through the submission interface. Editorial corrections are the only changes that can be made to the final text. Finally, it is published as an international standard by the ISO central secretariat. The draft must be approved by two-thirds of ISO members that have actively participated in its development process. If an agreement is reached, the draft becomes an ISO standard. If not, the item is returned to the technical committee for editing.
With over 22,560 international Standards having passed through this process and covering almost every industry, it would be impossible just off the bat, to know exactly which one is right for your business.
“Shopping” for a standard
Choosing the right ISO standard is dependent on your industry. You need to be aware of the standards you may need to implement before you start ‘shopping’ for a standard e.g. if your company is a waste collector you will probably want to implement an environmental standard and as such you will go for ISO 14001. In a nutshell, all ISO standards are industry-specific, so it’s crucial as a business owner, to know your industry and select a suitable standard accordingly. ISO standards can be purchased from the ISO website.
Making sure a standard is right for you
Once again, ISO standards are all dependent on the type of business you own. To ensure that a standard suits your business’ needs, ISO suggests reviewing the standards a little closer, as each ISO standard has an intended purpose. If a standard’s purpose aligns with your business goals, it is more likely to be your best option. An example of this is ISO 9001. It is the international standard for a quality management system (“QMS”). This Standard is relevant to any sized organisation, irrespective of the industry in which it operates. It is considered relatively generic and applicable to any type of product or service. In order to be certified to ISO 9001, your business must follow the set requirements of the standard. ISO 9001 helps companies focus on customer requirements, improve leadership and ensure continual improvement in quality.
The Benefits of being ISO certified
ISO certification may be required by law in some industries. Even if this is not the case in your industry, conforming to ISO standards can greatly benefit your business by creating awareness that your products are safe and reliable. This keeps existing and potential customers satisfied by improving complaint management and quality control. This in turn boosts your credibility.
ISO standards can also help you to identify and solve recurring problems within your business, thus saving time and money. It can also boost productivity. Adhering to ISO standards requires you to set objectives for your business and regularly define, document and monitor your business processes. This will help to unite managers and employees and encourage them to work together toward a business goal using consistent processes. “Certified businesses report better job satisfaction, turnover, absenteeism, employee motivation and manager-employee communication”, says Muhammad Ali, Managing Director and Lead ISO Auditor for WWISE (Worldwide Industrial and Systems Engineers).
In addition, ISO standards open doors to new opportunities in other markets. This ensures that your business is more competitive when tendering for contracts.
ISO certification is beneficial to any and all types of businesses regardless of their size. ISO standards help businesses adhere to international best practices, thereby ensuring consistent high-quality operation. ISO standards should not be perceived as an impossible challenge, but rather as the biggest opportunity for a business to minimise waste and errors and increase productivity. While it may feel like a long road, looking back at all the businesses we have assisted, it is actually the shortest route to success and sustainable business.
For further guidance on the right ISO Standard for your business contact WWISE on 08610 99473 or visit www.wwise.co.za.