Technical Committee 176 of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is actively revising ISO 9000, the international quality-assurance standard. The organization expects to release a final draft of its revisions later this year and publish the new standard in 2000.
TC 176 drafted the original ISO 9000 and is responsible for maintaining it. The standard is one of the most popular that ISO has published. The latest available figures show that 226,349 companies worldwide hold ISO 9000 certificates.
Even its most ardent detractors agree that the standard provides a good benchmarking tool for ensuring consistency. However, there are concerns—inside and outside TC 176—that ISO 9000 does not promote the desired level of quality or match the hype that has surrounded it throughout the 1990s.
TC 176 is reportedly determined to write ISO 9000: 2000 in such a way that it raises the quality bar while beating back critics of the existing standard.
There are also those who knock TC 176’s plan to revise ISO 9000. However, few are as vocal as the president of Foundry Quality Systems Inc. (see sidebar at end). He has developed an entire Web site aimed at convincing industry that ISO 9000: 2000 “is a monster that needs to die.”
Revisions Raise Questions
The current draft of ISO 9000: 2000 states that one standard—ISO 9001—will replace the existing ISO 9001-04 series. The new ISO 9001, which emphasizes customer satisfaction, will incorporate eight quality-management principles in lieu of the current 20.
Besides streamlining the new standard and making it easier to use, TC 176 is writing the new ISO 9000 to more closely resemble national quality awards, such as this country’s Malcolm Baldrige Award. Unlike the current standard, these award programs stress continuous improvement and process.
Although there is general support for TC 176’s new approach, questions have arisen. In fact, so many were raised in committee meetings held in February that there is talk that the final standard might not be ready for publication by the beginning of 2000.
One group that has voiced concerns is the European Union (EU). In 1994, it began requesting that ISO 9000 focus more on process and less on elements that build internal bureaucracy but don’t necessarily promote quality. An example is the current emphasis on testing for specific elements, such as calibration, instead of promoting continuous improvement.
EU quality and competitiveness official Antonio Silva Mendes says the main concern, though, is the consolidation of the various standard series. What, he asks, will be the impact on a company that has earned registration for an existing ISO series in order to comply with certain EU directives?
“We’re not for or against the revisions,” says Silva Mendes, “[but there is a] problem, because we have directives that identify different ISO 9000 series. Some of those standards won’t exist under the revised version.”
To understand what this means, consider that certain series have more requirements than others. If series are consolidated, some firms will get to “pass the test” even though they haven’t fulfilled as many requirements as other companies.
“This isn’t just a question for the EU, but for everyone,” says Silva Mendes. “There will be squabbling about who has done more work.”
Preparing for 2000
As mentioned earlier, the revisions are far from complete. However, committee members such as Reg Blake, manager of regulatory affairs at the British Standards Institute, say the “major headings” are there for companies to begin examining.
Few, if any, companies will have to re-earn a certificate from scratch. “No one is asking anyone to reinvent the wheel,” says Blake. “There may be some extra work. But companies won’t have to re-earn an entire certificate.”
He says that those companies without mature ISO 9000 systems in place or that don’t emphasize continuous improvement in their day-to-day operations will encounter the most problems when adopting the new standard. But they can start remedying the situation right now by examining how they implemented ISO 9000.
If a company earned ISO 9000 for what Blake calls the wrong reason—“to pass a test”—it should look at the total quality-management aspect of the standard. It should examine how ISO 9000 work is organized and how employees are involved in the process, set up work teams that involve all employees, implement a communication structure that promotes input from the bottom up, and establish a system for documenting procedures.
Companies with employees who can accurately record procedures, store them, propose changes, and disseminate information—who practice ISO 9000 “the right way”—will find themselves well prepared to adopt ISO 9000: 2000.
About the Author
Amy Zuckerman owns A-Z Intl. Associates, a market-research firm in Amherst, MA, that specializes in supply-chain issues. She writes regularly about ISO 9000 and is the author of ISO 9000 Made Easy.
The Angriest Man On the Internet
“Hate it. Need to kill it,” screams a Web site devoted to derailing ISO’s plan to revise ISO 9000.
Ralph Teetor III, president of Foundry Quality Systems Inc., Loves Park, IL, developed the site (www.iso9000y2000.com), filling it with his candid reactions to changes being proposed by ISO’s Technical Committee 176. “I am dismayed by the new standard,” he says. “All it does is add cost without adding benefits.”
According to Teetor, the new standard will require registered companies to rewrite much of the paperwork that they have already produced. He believes these alterations will cost each ISO 9000-registered firm in North America between $45,000 and $75,000.
Richard Ruh, ISO 9000 project manager at City Machine Tool & Die Co. Inc., doesn’t think that implementing the new standard will be as difficult or expensive as Teetor says. “I don’t know that it will be that much additional work for us,” he says. “I found the old version somewhat cumbersome, and I think the new revision will fix some of the problems.”
Ruh applauds many of the proposed changes, including those that emphasize the process aspect of quality assurance. Since the 100-employee shop in Muncie, IN, has already tried to focus on process in its existing ISO 9000 documentation, he sees TC 176’s new emphasis as very positive.
Ruh is in the minority, says Teetor, adding that he has heard from many companies that have vowed to drop their ISO registrations if the revisions go into effect.
Teetor says that individuals who oppose the plan to revise ISO 9000 should complain to TC 176, which he believes is acting without regard for the companies that will be affected.
“When you do surgery in a closet with the lights off and use a chainsaw, bad things happen,” Teetor says. “TC 176 did this and butchered together a Frankenstein.”
— Lisa Mitoraj
To voice concerns or ask questions about the revisions to ISO 9000, contact members of TC 176. They’re listed at www.iso.ch/presse/cd2e.htm, where changes made to the draft standard are posted regularly.
Related Glossary Terms
Checking measuring instruments and devices against a master set to ensure that, over time, they have remained dimensionally stable and nominally accurate.
- quality assurance ( quality control)
quality assurance ( quality control)
Terms denoting a formal program for monitoring product quality. The denotations are the same, but QC typically connotes a more traditional postmachining inspection system, while QA implies a more comprehensive approach, with emphasis on “total quality,” broad quality principles, statistical process control and other statistical methods.
On a rotating tool, the portion of the tool body that joins the lands. Web is thicker at the shank end, relative to the point end, providing maximum torsional strength.