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Making Quality A Priority: The Importance Of ISO

By Anoop Garg, Deputy General Manager - Corporate Legal, Aircel

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Anoop Garg, Deputy General Manager - Corporate Legal, Aircel

Aircel is one of India’s leading innovative mobile service providers in the telecom space. Anoop is a motivated self-starter and performance driven professional who helps in negotiating & securing favorable deals with providing general legal counsel, and driving business to new areas and elevations.

A Drive for Continuous Improvement
The ISO family addresses various aspects of quality management and contains some of ISO’s best known standards. The standards provide guidance and tools for companies and organizations who want to ensure that their products and services are reliable.

"More industry/ sectors now are implementing ISO and changing it slightly to fit their particular industry, raising ISO certifications worldwide"

According to an ISO survey from 122 countries, Customer satisfaction is the main reason companies get ISO 9001 certification, followed by market need, mandated customer requirement, and self-declared conformance. The survey found that the most important benefits of ISO 9001 were improved customer satisfaction and standardized business processes.

Companies know ISO standards may be good for them, but they may need motivation to get certified. Manufacturing sectors have adopted ISO 9000 for three reasons;

(a) The value of the standard,
(b) The sales and marketing advantage, and
(c) Company requirements.

This ISO standard is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of the top management, the process approach and continual improvement.

Companies appreciate how the standard can improve their business processes and reduce scrap, rework and cost. Second, manufacturers with similar products, service and price use the certification to differentiate themselves from their competitors. It gives you a marketing advantage over the competition. It’s a differentiator.

Sector-specific applications of ISO 9001
ISO has a range of standards for quality management systems that are based on ISO 9001 and adapted to specific sectors and industries and these include;
ISO/TS 29001 – Petroleum, petrochemical and natural gas industries
ISO 13485 – Medical devices
ISO/IEC 90003 – Software engineering
ISO 17582 - Electoral organizations at all levels of government
ISO 18091 - Local government

The final reason manufacturers adopt ISO 9000 is that they were required to do so. ISO- certified companies may require their suppliers to do the same. It’s hard to do business with anyone especially in manufacturing-if you’re not an ISO 9000 certified company.

If done correctly, ISO standards can improve an organization’s business processes and add valueto its products and services. But for implementing ISO, emphasizes should be given on the involvement of the senior management of the company.

Companies who have received certification, it’s always good to talk to them and learn from them and then, look for a certification body. Some certification bodies are fairly broad, while others are niche players. Choose one with relevant business expertise, interview the management and lead auditor, and ensure that the lead auditor is a fit for the business. Consider using a local auditor to cut travel costs.

To ensure that a company is working with a reputable certification body, it’s recommended that we must research the history of the organization, checking at least two to three references and asking for auditors’ resumes.

It’s important when you are considering the appointment of a consultant, look at how many resources are available and the size of your organization. With consultants, the best ones are usually mentors, not doers. They will do things, but they’re basically involving the company the whole time. The company is doing a decent amount of work themselves. The consultant guides them in the right direction but the better ones will be mentors; they won’t do it all for you.

Finally, as with certification bodies, check the consultant’s references and portfolio. Also, ensure that the consultant is not involved with the certification body, which leads to a conflict of interest.

After all of the people are in place and have bought into the ISO standards, it is time to begin the certification process. The timeline for implementing ISO 9000, from start to finish, can take anywhere from 9- to- 12 months, depending on the size of the organization. Experts agree the most important component to ISO improvements should be an attitude/work culture within the company.

Customer Service
When a potential customer visits your website, it is not the size of your company that interests them, but rather the quality of your products and your ability to ship them. As potential customers can be located anywhere in the world, the presence of certain internationally recognizable symbols of quality is important, encouraging visitors to look through your website and buy your products.

The logo indicating ISO registration, and ISO 9001- 2008 certification in particular, says several things about your company. It indicates that you have a quality manual defining how your company will perform to ISO standards, and states your quality policy and quality objectives.

Cost to ISO Certification
The registration of ISO 9001-2008 is certainly a major expense, although in long run it can also reduce costs significantly. Generally employees like to work for a company that listens & encourages its employees, feedback and involves them in problem solving sessions.

ISO Issues
Experts agree that the most important component to ISO improvements should be attitudes within the company. The business process is important, but unless there is a change in the company culture, it will not work.

Another obstacle to ISO certification is the silent resistance to change-the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude. The biggest mistake companies make is shoving the requirements down employees’ throats. Instead, companies should offer a training and awareness program to get people involved. The good organizations are the ones that make the standard fit the company, not the company fit the standards.

ISO Trends
More industry/ sectors now are implementing ISO and changing it slightly to fit their particular industry, raising ISO certifications worldwide. In recent years, particularly in Asian,countries like Japan, China, India and Italy have all had good growth whereas companies also see it as an international trade facilitator.

Though the rate of certifications has slowed after the initial rush to convert to ISO 9001:2000, experts predict the manufacturing sector’s ISO certifications will continue to grow. While it may not be a household phrase, ISO awareness also is slipping into the public consciousness as companies publicize their ISO success.

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