ISO process: the 6 stages of ISO 9001 certification
Before we explore the ISO 9001 certification life cycle, it’s important to recognise that every organisation is different, and there are no definitive time frames or periods for completion that can be applied across the board.
Typically, a small to medium-sized business that is relatively low in complexity and has a good level of existing quality control can complete the ISO process within 3-6 months.
A large-scale corporation that is more complex (for example they might employ night shift workers) may take longer.
This article provides insight into the key elements of the ISO process. Managers will need to view the process through the lens of their own organisation to get the most benefit.
1. Understanding ISO
The first (and most crucial) element of the ISO 9001 lifecycle is to get a deep understanding of exactly what the standard means and the purpose it serves within an organisation.
A full appreciation of the ISO 9001 standard will help to make the certification process much more straightforward for the entire organisation.
2. Recognise the gap
Identifying the current quality standards of your organisation is a crucial element of the ISO 9001 certification lifecycle.
Conducting a thorough gap analysis will allow you to see the current quality benchmark within your organisation.
From here, the timeline should start to become clearer, as it becomes more apparent what is required to achieve and maintain ISO 9001 certification.
“Conducting a thorough gap analysis will allow you to see the current quality benchmark within your organisation.”
3. Prepare your documentation
Documentation is a key part of the ISO process. Documentation provides the entire organisation with procedures to follow, with objectives to achieve and policies to adhere to,
The ISO 9001 standard is designed to provide an ongoing quality management system for your organisation. Without the appropriate documentation, the systems will not be successful.
4. Implement your plan
In this phase of the ISO certification lifecycle, ISO 9001 elements and requirements become part of the organisation itself. This is a transition phase for the organisation and can often be quite time consuming.
Implementation of ISO 9001 requires comprehensive training and education with employees – they are the ones on the frontline of the new quality assurance system and managers need to be confident they have all the information required for things to run smoothly.
Auditing is an ongoing element of the ISO certification lifecycle and requires input both internally and externally. The organisation itself needs to ensure internal training is provided, so that stakeholders are proficient in carrying out objective assessments of the ISO requirements originally planned and documented in the initial stages of the ISO life cycle.
6. Ongoing improvement
Improvement of the quality system of the organisation over time, with an external audit from independent assessors providing the actual ISO standard certification.
Undertaking ISO certification is more than just a recognition or a badge of honour; it forms the foundation for a culture of ongoing improvement within your organisation.