ISO Certification—Is It Worth It?

The ISO-certified shops I recently contacted all say the cost and effort to become certified were well worth it. Consider the feedback and suggestions they provide if you’re thinking about becoming certified.

Columns From: 2/13/2009 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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The unanimous response I received from managers of some small- to mid-sized ISO-certified shops was that it was worth their effort to become certified to ISO 9001.

That said, the decision to bring your shop into compliance with the popular international quality standard is not easy. In the end, the $15,000 (or so) registrar’s fee can be a small fraction of the total cost of compliance when you consider the work hours consumed in training and document management in addition to a consultant’s fee if one is used.

Admittedly, most of the managers say they were spurred to ISO certification because a customer required it or they felt it improved their chances of attracting new business. ISO certification demonstrates that you have an effective quality management system in place and firm control over your processes and procedures. However, those queried say ISO is more than just an effective marketing tool, and it is important to recognize that.

The managers’ feedback suggests that the true goal is not to frame and hang a nifty certificate on a foyer wall. Instead, the principles of ISO should provide the framework to build and grow your business. The managers believe ISO certification is a necessary step toward improving manufacturing efficiency. However, if you look at it only as a task to be completed, you won’t truly realize all the potential for process improvement. The principles of ISO must become part of your company’s culture.

Oftentimes shop leaders don’t realize the extent to which ISO—when properly applied—can positively affect their business until after they achieve certification. Establishing and maintaining a documented quality system means you’ll deliver what you say you will when you say you will. That ultimately leads to sustained customer satisfaction because you’ll create fewer defective parts and have fewer delays. Also, as your efficiencies increase, so too will your profits.

My goal here is not to convince you that you have to get certified. If you’re on the fence, though, I suggest contacting some certified shops—particularly ones about the same size as yours—to get a feel for whether ISO is right for your situation.

If you do decide to become certified, assign a leader who will help you meet your goal. ISO offers the destination, but it doesn’t tell you how to get there. Having a person lead the ISO effort will help you get to where you need to go.

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