What is the process for ISO certification?

An ISO certification enhances a company's product quality and trustworthiness, showing a commitment to international standards and continuous improvement. Learn what ISO certification involves, its benefits, and the steps to achieve it, from evaluating your processes to conducting internal audits and passing external audits.
What is the process for ISO certification?

An ISO certification can help a company in numerous ways. For starters, the quality of its product or service becomes a known standard and the brand gains more trustworthiness and reputation. Customers, as well as business partners, value the status given by ISO since it’s a well-known set of international standards and it shows an interest to continually improve.

Let’s see what an ISO certificate actually means and go through the steps of obtaining it.

What is an ISO certification?

ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization, an entity that created a quality management system for companies. ISO 9001 is a set of standards that apply to any industry and are checked by performing both external and internal audits to see if candidate companies meet the requirements.

The processes that get checked when an organisation applies for an ISO 9001 certificate refer to the following quality principles:

  • Customer focus
  • Leadership
  • Engagement of people
  • Process approach
  • Improvement
  • Evidence-based decision making
  • Relationship management

The ISO 9001 certification is designed to fit any company’s industry and profile. Since the system was implemented on a large scale, several industries have adopted more precise and defined standards that are specific to their trade.

Why get ISO certification?

An ISO certificate shows that your company follows quality standards and ensures that the products or services offered are always within parameters. Quality is defined by how your customers perceive the end product they buy, so anything from your production process to the distribution network will contribute to your status as an ISO certified company.

Studies also suggest that companies with an ISO 9001 certification perform better than those that don’t have it. While a correlation is definitely there, it might not imply unilateral causation. In other words, the certification can, indeed, motivate your company to perform better, your customers will be more encouraged to buy your goods, but it can also be more likely requested by companies that are already performing well.

This being said, it definitely helps to be ISO certified, as it’s a globally recognised system that will build more trust in your relationships with customers and business partners. The latest version of the system is known as the ISO 9001:2015 standard, so make sure you are up to date with the requirements of the standard.

So, how does the certification process work?

Evaluate your existing process management

Instead of trying to fit your company in a manual, cookie-cutter type of model, it’s much more realistic and achievable to check what you are doing already, then adapting it to the standard system.
Before you find out what needs to improve and what chances you have of getting the certification, you have to know exactly where you stand.

Begin by identifying your processes and creating documentation that accurately defines and describes jobs, policies, processes, work instructions, and so on.

Have your employees access, edit, and distribute this documentation and train your managers to get this information to everybody.

Implement quality management practices

When you are aware of the business processes in your company, you can take steps towards improvement. Once a quality management system is implemented effectively, you are prepared for the registration process and maximise your chances of going through.

When you implement your quality system, go with processes and goals that comply with the ISO 9001 requirements. As a certified company, you will have to maintain those standards, as the certificate has to be renewed every three years.

Make sure that every employee, from top management to the smallest positions, are aware of the importance of these standards, and know where to access the documentation on it. Monitoring your activity by keeping an eye on relevant indicators will show if your system works.

Conduct internal audits to check your improvement

Before you invite an external auditor to perform a thorough check on your company, make sure you really are prepared for it. Conduct your own audits and refresh the standards in your employees’ minds by checking their knowledge of the quality management measures and see if there is any sub-performing element.

If the results of a gap analysis indicate the need for more changes or reinforcement of procedures, immediately take action and get the company back on track.

Apply for registration and have an external auditor check your company

To become ISO certified, the last step is to apply for the certification. First, find your ISO Registrar or Certification Body (CB) and select it. A third-party auditor will be scheduled to perform an audit of your company. The date and format will be communicated to you in time.

The auditor will check if ISO standards are followed by observing your processes and checking them against the requirements of ISO 9001. If your company doesn’t align with the specifically required standards, your certification will be put on hold.

But if you did everything right, you receive your ISO certification and you can advertise your brand as meeting these internationally recognised set of standards and continuously working on keeping them and improving your processes.

Do you need help?

If you need help getting certified, our specialists at Citation Certification can help you today.

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