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ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies, at present comprising 127 members, one in each country. The object of ISO is to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world with a view to facilitating international exchange of goods and services, and to developing cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity. The results of ISO technical work are published as International Standards.
The ISO 9000 family of standards represents an international consensus on good management practices with the aim of ensuring that the organization can time and time again deliver the product or services that meet the client's quality requirements. These good practices have been distilled into a set of standardized requirements for a quality management system, regardless of what your organization does, its size, or whether it's in the private, or public sector.
To keep customers - and to keep them satisfied - your product (which may, in fact, be a service) needs to meet their requirements. ISO 9000 provides a tried and tested framework for taking a systematic approach to managing your business processes (your organization's activities) so that they consistently turn out product conforming to the customer's expectations. And that means consistently happy customers!
The requirements for a quality system have been standardized - but most of us like to think our business is unique. So how does ISO 9000 allow for the diversity of say, on the one hand, a "Mr. and Mrs." enterprise, and on the other, to a multinational manufacturing company with service components, or a public utility, or a government administration?
The answer is that ISO 9000 lays down what requirements your quality system must meet, but does not dictate how they should be met in your organization - which leaves great scope and flexibility for implementation in different business sectors and business cultures...as well as different national cultures.
So, the ISO 9000 family includes standards that give organizations guidance and requirements on what constitutes an effective quality management system. ISO 9004-1 (and the other parts of ISO 9004) are the standards giving guidelines on the elements of quality management and a quality system.
The family also includes models against which this system can be audited to give the organization and its clients assurance that the system is operating effectively. The three quality assurance models are ISO 9001, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003.
Lastly, the family includes a standard on terminology, and other standards, which can be described as "supporting tools", that give guidance on specific aspects, such as auditing quality systems.
If you have heard of ISO 9000, then it is most probably through ISO 9001, ISO 9002 or ISO 9003, the three quality assurance models against which organizations can be certified. At some stage, you have probably wondered what the difference between them is. The answer is that the difference is simply one of scope. It works like this:
Each ISO technical committee is responsible for reviewing its standards every 5 years in order to determine their continued relevance. ISO/TC 176 is planning its next release as early as the Year 2000. For the Year 2000 standards, several key goals were adopted by the committee:
Progress towards these goals have been made with the release of the following Draft International Standards (DIS):
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