Today, it is seen as a seal of quality to create the right image in the marketplace. This has stimulated many a corporate to resort to standard systems of quality in manufacturing to ensure that the end-user gets consistent quality at all times.

ISO 9000 certification comes into the picture at this point. Basically, a certification that documents processes which conform to those required to produce goods or deliver services of a consistent predetermined standard quality, the ISO 9000 series is the basis for a third party quality system registration programme.

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Obtaining ISO certification ensures that a company has standardised quality assurance and management systems at every level, and so the quality of a product is consistent at any time. ISO 9000, as a generic term, represents five different standards, namely, ISO 9000, ISO 9001/2/3 and ISO 9004 as per following details.

ISO 9001:

A system for quality assurance in design/development, production, installation and servicing. Applicable to those organisations which design the products/services then manufacture/develop and sell to customers.

ISO 9002:

A system for quality assurance in production and installation. Applicable to organisations which produce and sell standardised products/services.

ISO 9003:

A system for assurance in final inspection and testing. Applies to organisations with no design or manufacturing facilities, but which purchase components from sub-contractors and assemble and test them, and sell finished products to customers.

ISO 9004:

Quality management and quality systems guidelines.

Obtaining ISO certification involves an assessment by a company of its systems relative to ISO standards, and an independent auditor certifying that the process and systems followed conform to the appropriate standard (ISO 9001/2/3) accepted internationally.

As a follow-up, surveillance audits (warranted or unwarranted) are carried out, semi-annually or annually, to maintain the status registered.

Generally, it takes one to one-and-a-half years to obtain ISO certification, valid for three years. Once certified, a system cannot necessarily be frozen. Processes determining quality are subject to any number of amendments as long as they are documented and pass follow-up surveillance audits.

However, ISO 9000 certification has no bearing on the quality of the product or service, even though some companies tend to,equate it with the guaranteed quality of their products or services, by releasing high- profile advertisements. This means that a company cannot sell a particular product with an ISO mark printed on it as done with the ISI mark.

ISO certification only proclaims the existence of an established system in an organisation which is assumed to have translated into producing quality output.

ISO as a marketing tool:

Apparently, there are three motives for going in for ISO certification for Indian as well as global corporates. First, some corporates, especially those that survive on exports to the EU, fear barriers in Europe and want an assured market. Second, there are those companies pursuing ISO standards on demand from their customers.

And third, there are those who want to use ISO as a marketing tool in the domestic market. However, in the final analysis, an ISO certified company can reap the benefit of improved quality of products/ services.

Such certification may make customers feel more comfortable about the quality of a supplier’s product. ISO-certified companies can also hope to observe a reduction in the number of customer grievances.

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