ISO standards provide a framework for organizations to operate efficiently, ensure product quality, and meet regulatory requirements. Their benefits are far-reaching and impactful.
ISO standards, such as ISO 9001, are specifically designed to improve quality management systems. By implementing these standards, manufacturers can establish robust quality control processes, ensure consistency in product/service delivery, and enhance customer satisfaction. ISO 9001 emphasizes continuous improvement, risk management, and customer focus, enabling organizations to achieve higher levels of quality assurance and meet customer expectations.
Adhering to these standards helps organizations assure customers that they are focused on customer satisfaction, says Deb Iafrate, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Eagle Group USA. “The 14001 & 45001 standards not only [enhance employee investment] but can provide customer satisfaction by [indicating] that major disruptions are less likely,” Iafrate says.
Similarly, Robert Katz, president, Florida Standards Lab, says ISO accreditation serves as a great marketing tool.
Achieving certification to ISO standards can offer many benefits to organizations; however, the degree to which those benefits are realized can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors, says David English, group marketing director, Orion Registrar.
“Primarily, ISO certification is there to demonstrate that an organization meets internationally recognized standards in various areas,” English explains. “In doing so it is able to provide evidence to stakeholders that they are a credible and reliable supplier or partner. As a result, being able to present third party validation of an organization’s ability to meet the requirements of the standard can provide a competitive advantage, or more frequently, provide access to commercial opportunities that are only open to businesses that have the required certification.”
Adhering to such standards also improves operational efficiency. ISO standards provide guidelines for streamlining and optimizing operational processes within manufacturing organizations. By adhering to ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System) or ISO 50001 (Energy Management System), companies can effectively manage resources, minimize waste, and reduce their environmental footprint. These standards not only promote sustainable practices but also drive cost savings, operational efficiency, and regulatory compliance.
Expanded Market Access
ISO certifications serve as a globally recognized symbol of quality and compliance. Manufacturing organizations that achieve ISO certifications, such as ISO 9001 or ISO 13485 (Medical Devices), demonstrate their commitment to meeting internationally recognized standards. These certifications enhance credibility and open doors to new markets by reassuring customers, suppliers, and partners about the organization's dedication to quality and industry best practices.
Increased Customer Confidence
ISO standards instill confidence by ensuring that manufacturers follow standardized processes, prioritize customer satisfaction, and deliver reliable products. ISO 27001 (Information Security Management System) and ISO 22301 (Business Continuity Management System) address data security and resilience, respectively, strengthening customer trust in handling sensitive information and ensuring uninterrupted business operations.
ISO standards provide frameworks for identifying, assessing, and managing risks within manufacturing organizations. ISO 31000 (Risk Management) and ISO 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety Management System) help organizations implement systematic approaches to mitigate risks related to workplace safety, occupational hazards, and business disruptions. By adhering to these standards, manufacturers protect their employees, assets, and reputation while minimizing potential liabilities.
Continuous Improvement Culture
ISO standards foster a culture of continuous improvement by promoting the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle. Organizations that embrace ISO standards are encouraged to regularly evaluate their processes, measure performance, and implement corrective actions. This iterative approach drives ongoing optimization, innovation, and the pursuit of excellence within manufacturing organizations.
How Standards Have Shifted
While most ISO standards have endured over time, the IATF 16949 standard seems to be tougher to obtain and has undergone a number of updates each year, says Iafrate.
Requirements for most ISO standards are regularly updated to support changing market conditions and other variables, says Christopher M. Morrell, vice president and general Manager, NSAI.
As these changes take place, organizations generally need more system and process controls to prove compliance with the revised requirements.
For example, medical device notified bodies are seeing one of the most dramatic standards evolutions in recent history, Morrell says, including the complete reshuffle of the EU Legislation as well as the implementation of the Medical Device Single Audit Program (MDSAP), which encompasses multiple country specific requirements.
English cites the recent release of ISO 27001:2022, which reflects the rapidly changing needs related to cyber security.
“When these new versions of a standard are released, organizations are given a grace period to make the transition to the new requirements,” English says. “For example, clients looking to be certified to ISO 27001:2022 have until October 2025 to do so.”
Of course, not all certifications are created equal, English adds.
“It is perhaps surprising that it is not illegal for anyone to issue an ISO certificate, in fact organizations can even issue their own. However, it is only certificates issued by an accredited certification body that carry internationally recognized credibility as part of the International Accreditation Forum’s Multi-lateral Framework Agreement, which ensures that certificates will be accepted, worldwide. ANAB in the U.S. and UKAS in the UK are examples of such accreditation bodies.”
ISO standards are crucial for manufacturers due to the wide range of benefits they offer. From enhancing quality management and operational efficiency to expanding market access and increasing customer confidence, ISO standards provide a roadmap for organizations to achieve excellence. By implementing these standards, manufacturing organizations can manage risks, drive continuous improvement, and gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace. Embracing ISO standards is a strategic investment that paves the way for long-term success and sustainable growth.