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How to get ISO 9001 Certification

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Achieving certification to the ISO 9001 quality management standard can seem like a daunting task at first, but if approached methodically and at your organisation’s own pace it can be a smooth journey. The requirements of the standard are generic so that they can be applied to any size or type of organisation. In keeping with this flexibility, it incorporates guiding principles against which organisations set their own objectives.

The role of certification

There is a lot of help available from the body that created the standard, the International Organisation for Standardisation, at www.iso.org, when it comes to understanding and applying the principles. Once achieved, certification is not mandatory but it can be very useful in demonstrating to your marketplace that you consistently meet customer, statutory and regulatory requirements. Customers increasingly ask for it and, in some industries, having certification is a must in order to enter contractual trading agreements.

Three levels of conformity audit

While ISO is responsible for developing standards, is it not involved in certification and does not issue certificates or test for conformity. There are three audit options to consider to demonstrate conformity, with only one offering independent certification:

1. First party – this means you run your own internal audits and document the findings to create a self-declaration of conformity
2. Second party – this is where you invite customers or a regulatory body to audit your system and assess conformity
3. Third party – this is the use of an external assessment body to provide an independent audit of conformity and to issue certification.

Third-party certification

While an organisation cannot be certified by ISO, it can achieve certification from an independent body that shows it meets the requirements of the ISO standard. It is the quality management system that is certified and not the organisation as a whole or its products and services.

Working with a third party will incur an additional cost of the acquisition of the actual standard, so it is worth putting as much pre-work in as possible. The following are some guidelines for selecting a certification body:

  • Be clear on what you need. Do you want an organisation to come in and certify your quality management system, or do you want one that will help implement and train and then certify? Once you are clear on your requirements, visit our ISO 9001 Certification page for certification provision.
  • The certification bodies themselves can use the Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO) standard from the ISO to guide the certification process. When choosing a certification body, it can be useful to look for one that meets the CASCO standard and has its own accreditation. Remember, though, that lack of accreditation does not necessarily mean that the certifier is not competent – accreditation acts as a risk mitigating tool.
  • Shop around and find a certifier that has worked with organisations similar to your own and is familiar with your industry.
  • Ask about the certification process – is it in stages, e.g gap analysis followed by a formal audit of your documentation, and then an audit of the system in practice? Is there online support and how much of the certification process is carried out online?

Any questions, please give one of our experts a call on 0800 511 8230

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