Tangible Benefits of ISO 9001 – (done right)

It is important to remember that if ISO is not implemented correctly then it is likely that you won’t get any benefits.  The probability is that it will do harm to your organization — increasing bureaucracy, creating duplication of effort, pointless maintenance efforts, and higher ISO costs.  Worse still, frustration and avoidance of important controls could affect your quality.

But with a good ISO program tangible benefits are there for the taking.

Unfortunately, there are few public reports with hard facts and good data for analysis.  Many organizations don’t see the benefits (see above) but kept their ISO for marketing purposes and simply don’t want to talk about it.  Many of the benefits are “soft” are subjective to quantify and even when tangible benefits are obtained, it is technically an admission that the situation before ISO was less “good” as it should have been and organizations frequently don’t want to admit to this either.  So there is no generally available data to support quantifying benefits.

Marketing Benefits

The most commonly cited reason for obtaining ISO certification is the marketing/customer reason.  It is reasonable for customers to pressure suppliers to assure the quality of their services and ISO 9001 is an easy way for them to do this.  Clearly access to markets, customers and contracts is a tangible benefit of certification.  How much benefit will depend on your situation.  If your market expects certification (it’s common throughout your industry), and a customer won’t consider your contract quotes unless you are ISO certified, then you need to be certified.  If your ISO certification is unique among your competitors then you have a tangible marketing advantage.  Even if these influences don’t exist in the market it is still possible to use your certification as an excuse to talk to your customers, to show them how good you are and to promote your organization.  All too frequently organizations get ISO certified and barely tell anyone.  Whatever your situation, you have to proactively market your certification in order to realize the benefit.  It won’t come knocking.  These benefits are real and can be quantified although subjectivity makes it debatable.

Organizational Benefits

It is important to remember that ISO is really about Quality Management Systems (QMS) and that you already have a QMS in your organization.  But how effective is the QMS system is another matter.   You have no choice but to have a QMS.  It is how your organization operates.  ISO just provides an opportunity for us all to compare our QMS performance to a very good model.  This allows us to look at our processes and seek out opportunities for improvement.

The main value stream processes in organizations tend to be fairly effective.  If they weren’t then the organization would be in trouble.  Sometimes however, these processes don’t have good controls in place (often excused in favor of “good” people) and frequently they don’t have metrics, objectives or continual improvement built in.   In these instances ISO is designed to drive tangible benefits by “forcing” real improvements in process performance.  Whatever your situation, no matter how good your processes are ISO requires that you improve them.  Tangible benefits.

As the ISO model also covers supporting processes (e.g. Management Review, Document Control, Training and Competency, etc.) as well as main value stream processes, it is common to find that some of these processes in our systems are not as disciplined as they ought to be.  ISO gives us the opportunity to review them, ensure appropriate value driven controls and to squeeze every bit of value out of these processes. Even though these processes don’t directly drive value, it is possible that improvements can assist with improvements in the value stream.  For instance, better document control may simplify and streamline a production process.  However a problem in a support process can completely cripple a product process.  The wrong documentation can cause wasted production time, wasted materials, wasted resources.  The preventive nature of better support processes, balanced with risk generates tangible benefits.  Again subjective but still very real.

The summary here is that ISO helps, tangibly, in driving real discipline, consistency and improvement into your processes but how you quantify and justify that is hard to do.  If you have disciplined repeatable processes with improvement built in already….then less benefit can be realized because you are already so good.  If there are things you can do to improve, ISO will help you with the structure and motivation to make that happen.

In practice, organizations will see a tidier, better organized facility.  Documentation and records will be in the right place and up to date.  Metrics (which you really have to have) will show an increase in performance and there will be confidence that things are working more reliably.  Customers can be assured of that confidence too.  This should lead to better performance, reduced errors, more reliable on time delivery and more customer commitment.  Technically this equates to increased profits and more growth at the same time.

While this is about QMS and not certification, the audits that certification requires also provide motivation for better discipline and organization.  While you think you can be “this good” without certification, the impending audit always causes tidying, organization and performance.  The audit associated with certification brings tangible benefits itself.

Cavendish Scott, Inc. has been helping organizations with ISO projects for 25 years.  We understand the needs of business and optimize the benefits of implementing an ISO based system.   Click here for us to answer questions about your specific situation.