'The customer needs the assurance and confidence that the supplier has the ability to provide the product or service consistently to the defined quality.'
British Standards Institution
External quality standards have an important role to play in helping organizations develop a TQM culture. They are not compulsory and, while many organizations prefer not to be burdened with meeting someone else's standard, nevertheless they are worth considering when developing a quality programme. They are very useful for purposes of self-assessment and as a framework for auditing quality processes.
The ISO9000 series is the world's major quality standard with some 350,000 users worldwide. It was first published in the UK in 1979 under the title 'Quality Systems' and was known until the mid-1990s in the UK as BS5750. It had its origins in the United Kingdom in quality procedures required by the Ministry of Defence and NATO in their roles as procurement agencies. These AQAPs (Allied Quality Assurance Procedures) developed into an international standard in the 1980s.
ISO9000 is concerned with quality management, defined as the means by which an organization employs its resources to meet its customer and regulatory requirements and the mechanisms it employs to make continuous improvements. From December 2003 a new set of ISO9000 standards are in operation. These are known as ISO9000:2000.