Total Quality: Companies Near And Far Jump On The ISO Bandwagon

Total Quality," the catchphrase .le '80s and '90s, is embraced by jLstrial leaders around the world. 3 9000" is a quality standards tern with growing support, as ienced by the increasing numof organizations seeking certifiion to those standards. The folding is a primer on ISO 9000: to ilain why so many builders and jplier seek it; why owners and ;rators might require it; and how, the end, it will result in a better iduct and service for all.

hat Is It? ISO 9000 certification, described some as the key to doing busies internationally, is when a commy is certified as in compliance ith the ISO 9000 series of stanirds for operating a company, xactly what those standards are mited to in terms of company type a difficult question to answer. "I on't think there are any limitaons," said Anita Flematti, maret analyst for ABS Quality Evalutions, a certifying company, or regstrar, based in Houston. However, he said, "Not all registrars have he capability to certify for certain industries." What such certification means in terms of a company's operation is, in a word, efficiency. "It has to do with how you run your business," said Ms. Flematti. "It's looking at what your processes are: how you do purchasing, contract review ... You have to have a system to fulfill the client's contract." The same ISO 9000 labels apply to all industries, but signify different standards of quality assurance.

Those labels are as follows: • ISO 9000: a document meant to provide guidance to companies interested in pursuing the ISO 9000 as a quality assurance mechanism. It tells companies interested in ISO 9000 what level they should aspire to, and how to achieve it.

• ISO 9001: The most comprehensive of the ISO 9000 series of standards, it covers design, production, servicing and installation. • ISO 9002: This standard covers only production and installation. Often a company certified to ISO 9002 is engaged only in production and installation.

• ISO 9003: An even more specific standard that covers only final inspection and test operations.

• ISO 9004: Like ISO 9000, a guidance document, but issued to companies already in the ISO process to help them implement and maintain its chosen standard.

Certification to the ISO 9000 standard involves an application, a review of documentation, a possible pre-assessment, then an actual assessment. The process requires exhaustive examination of company documentation to ensure all the elements of the ISO 9000 standard are being addressed and implemented. If a company is certified, there follows periodic surveillance to ensure adherance. The pre-assessment is often optional.

A company is either approved, approved conditionally/provisionally until minor flaws are corrected, or disapproved. Conditional/provisional approval means the registrar will make certain the minor flaws are corrected and then engage in periodic surveillance; and disapproval means the company must repeat the procedure. Who Does It? The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Geneva, Switzerland established the ISO 9000 series of standards, but does not certify compliance with those standards. "There is no such thing as ISO-certified," according to Roger Frost, press officer of the ISO. The structure of the ISO certification system has three tiers: • Certifying Organizations (Registrars): these organizations perform extensive examinations of companies wishing ISO 9000 certification to determine if they meet the standards. Some certifying organizations are in turn given approval by accrediting organizations. These organizations are more often called registrars in the U.S.

• Accrediting Organizations: these accredit registrars, in effect certifying the certifier: ascertaining that certifications are done properly, studying the documentation and procedures of certifying bodies extensively. Two of the main accrediting organizations are the National Accreditation Council for Certifying Bodies (NACCB), U.K., and the Raad voor de Certificatie (RvC), The Netherlands. Some registrars are accredited by more than one organization: for example, ABS Quality Evaluations is accredited by the RvC and Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB), a U.S. accrediting organization.

The third tier is made up of the companies seeking certification, but there are other organizations involved. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the U.S. member body to the ISO. The American Society for Quality Control (ASQC) was designated by ANSI as the administrator for the Technical Advisory Group through which the U.S. participates in the ISO. ANSI and RAB, an ASQC subsidiary, joined forces and now offer a joint program for evaluating and accrediting registrars.

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