ISO 9000 Series Quality Standards: Worldwide Implications for Quality and Professional Internal Auditing

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The past five years have seen a significant increase in ISO 9000 registrations across the world. The ISO 9000 series of international standards on quality management and quality assurance have had an enormous worldwide impact since publication by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) in 1987. As a global and generic guide for quality, they have spread across all industry sectors and sizes of organization.

Quality - The Stakeholders' Interests in ISO 9000

There can be few stakeholders in any organization who do not associate quality with success. Any examiner of an organization's results must take into account the quality of its products and/or services - not just today's products and services, but those in the past and predictions for the future. Evidence of quality as a continuous process is important for the customer - and equally important for those who rely on an organization for their own well being. Such evidence is not always easy to find by outsiders, many of whom must rely on published financial and operating statements for their inspections, and sometimes these statements are issued only at irregular or even annual intervals. Many such statements have a bias, being issued by persons responsible for the quality being reported.

Independent verification of financial information is a requirement for most organizations. Independent verification of quality statements is equally important, but less common. Not so for those organizations with external ISO 9000 quality standard registrations. Independent inspections of the quality of products and services grew as a requirement in some industries many years ago. These audits are known as second-party audits, a type of audit associated with contracts for supplies. Today, many organizations design second-party audits into all their contracts for major supplies.

In the fifties and sixties, second-party audit standards developed in many industry sectors, establishing some comfort and security for organizations (first parties) and their stakeholders. This was the starting point for ISO 9000, the international standard for quality. Born in the seven ties and eighties out of second-party auditing, ISO 9000 establishes recognized standard requirements for all quality systems; links quality to business objectives and results; improves auditing in quality systems; provides a worldwide process for third-party audit registration of quality systems; and adds a new dimension for the coordination of all reviews of an organization's operations.

Not everyone agrees that all the above are achieved by ISO 9000, but evidence is growing of its impact in many organizations. Judgements of ISO 9000 are still mixed, despite its wide use in all industry sectors and the growing number of registered quality systems in countries across the world. This is partly because of the variety of interpretations placed on its quality requirements and partly because of the variety of motives for its use. However, the main reason for the mixed judgements is that ISO 9000 is still in its infancy.

The now titled BS EN ISO 9000 series of quality standards and guides was issued in 1987 and revised in 1994. The supporting ISO 10011 standards and guides for quality system auditing were issued and revised in 1991. Each is supported by 21st century visions and active international working parties reviewing how they will be developed to meet stakeholders needs in the future. Each is being interpreted by many national registration bodies and certified quality professionals. European organizations lead in their pursuit and maintenance of registered quality systems. But, there is now a growing interest in North America.

Supplier schemes based on a foundation of ISO 9000 are also being developed. A good example of these is QS 9000, developed and introduced by the U.S. automotive industry (Chrysler, Ford and General Motors) in 1994, to define their quality expectations. …