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What is an ISO Certification?

Sonal Panse
Getting an ISO certification is good for business. Read on to know more about this international body of standards.
Increasingly, more and more companies around the world have found it to be a smart business move to get an ISO certification. This conveys that the organization is following the best production and managerial practices, preventing waste, promoting eco-friendly methods, and producing goods that meet international quality and safety standards.
The term 'ISO' is derived from the word 'isos', which is Greek for 'equal'. It is an appropriate title for the International Organization for Standardization, and was adopted by it to avoid the confusion of a variety of acronyms arising from the translation of its name in different languages.
This body had its origins in the British military standards set up to regulate and increase production of weapons during WWII. After a series of explosions in the armament factories, the need for having a set standard for production was realized. After the war, in 1947, the ISO as an independent organization was formed.
Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland, where it has its Central Secretariat, and it has members from 162 countries. Each country is allowed one member, who is not an individual, but a leading national standards institute from that country, which may be from the public or private sector, and may or may not have been mandated by the government.
The ISO itself is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) and does not regulate any standards. It only develops and proposes them, and it is left to the member countries whether they implement them or not, and in what manner.
All members are on an equal footing, whatever the size of their national economy, and they can each exercise only one vote. They meet annually at a General Assembly to discuss their strategic objectives.
These standards are helpful in the following ways:
  • They provide a standard guide for the manufacture of products.
  • They promote efficiency and safety in the manufacturing process.
  • They promote fair and efficient trade between countries.
  • They provide technological know-how to developing countries, so that they can spruce up their production methods with the latest technology and management practices, are able to meet international market requirements, and can cut down on costs, errors, and waste.
  • They reassure consumers about the safety and quality of the products/services they are using.
It is important to have these standards for the following reasons:
  • The required quality of products and services is established.
  • With reliability standards established, you can know what to expect from the products and services you use.
  • The required safety rules and regulations are followed.
  • Environmentally-friendly manufacturing methods are implemented.
  • They increase manufacturing efficiency and reduce overall costs.
  • Making products, parts, machinery, and devices as per an established standard promotes interchangeability in use.
Their benefits can be described as under:
  • If you are running a business, this is a guarantee that you are offering products or services that meet accepted international specifications, and therefore, you can access global markets.
  • You can avail information on the latest technical know-how and best management practices from the other members. You will know what kind of product quality you need to aspire towards in order to compete effectively on global level. You will know how to utilize the resources available to you, and how to avoid squandering materials, manpower, and money.
  • If you are a worker, you can count on the safety and reliability of the machinery and tools that you use at the workplace.
  • If you are an innovator, you don't have to reinvent the wheel from scratch. You can rely on existing products to build your new idea.
  • If you are a consumer, you benefit by getting a wider choice of cost-efficient products and services. You are assured of safety and competency in the products/services that you use.
  • If you're involved in making legislations on health, safety, and environmental issues, you can avail the technological and scientific standards established by the ISO.
  • If you are a trade official, you don't have to spend time checking if the products are of a certain technical standard. Products made as per these standards also facilitate trade agreements between nations.
  • ISO standards promote 'green' manufacturing methods and adopting those can help bring down pollution levels and help in preserving the planet.
On the downside, there is an issue of some companies getting a certification merely to make themselves more marketable, without actually adhering to the standards. Auditing agencies need to take more responsibility to ensure such malpractices are avoided.