Everything you need to know about ISO Management Systems

Are you confused about what an ISO Management System is?

So, you need to implement an ISO Management System into your business. You’ve been trawling the internet for hours, tearing your hair out trying to find out what on earth ISO Standards are and what all the numbers mean. Have they really produced 50001 versions of these things? During your journey, you’ve come across vague phrases such as ‘helps improve efficiency’ and ‘drives continuous improvement’, but none of these present a clear image of how an ISO Management System works in practice. You’ve asked around, but no one’s even heard of ISO, nor realises their significance and prevalence in everyday life. You’re lost.

It's common for people to go through similar confusion when they are first confronted with the world of ISO Management Systems. 

But, don’t fret.

This article has been written with the intention of turning any Management System layman into someone who is knowledgeable, well-informed and ready to make a decision that will impact the future success and growth of their business. 


So, what are Management Systems and why should I want one?

Let’s begin with an analogy. Imagine you’re driving your car to a location you’ve never travelled to before. At best, you have a rough idea of how to get there – what roads to take, what landmarks to look for, but you can’t be certain. At worst, you’re going to set out and hope that a sign or two will pop up along the way to keep you on the right track, with no idea how long the journey will take. 

Now imagine that you have a sat-nav. All the guesswork is gone. Suddenly, you are presented with multiple routes which you know will get you to your exact destination, taking into consideration the traffic and roadworks which you might encounter along the way. 

Thanks to the sat-nav, you have an estimated journey time and can guarantee that if you drove this route again, you’d consistently arrive in the correct location at a similar time (providing you don't run into trouble).

The sat-nav also helped to keep you safe. Warning you of sharp turns, changes in speed and crossings. 

In summary, having a sat-nav is just like having Management Systems. Management Systems ensure you have the right process in place, that your team are trained and fully aware of how to effectively carry out your service and meet targets. Management Systems ensure that you are consistent in what you do, progressing towards your goal destination, and doing so in a manner which is as safe as possible and minimises resource wastage. 


Processes and Procedures

Formally speaking, a Management System consists of a number of processes and procedures which a business will follow as they go about providing their products and services. The function of Management System guidelines is to help businesses fulfil certain goals - the most common of which are:

    1. The provision of consistent, high-quality services and products
    2. The minimisation of environmental impact
    3. The assurance of data protection from various informational security threats such as viruses and hackers
    4. The protection of the health and well-being of workers
    5. The efficient use of energy
    6. The minimisation of food safety risks and spoilage 

For each of these goals, there is a Management System Standard, a topic that will be discussed in further detail later. Nevertheless, hopefully you’ve now grasped an idea of what Management Systems are and how they may benefit your business. 


Who are ISO and what are ISO Standards?

ISO is the name given to International Organisation for Standardisation.  If you’ve had a look into ISO you may have already learnt that ISO is derived from the Greek word isos which means equal. Basically, ISO is an organisation who aim to create consistency in the way businesses operate worldwide, providing the best quality services and products to consumers.

It is a non-governmental federation consisting of representatives from 164 national Standard bodies who meet at the headquarters in Geneva once a year to offer world-class expertise and develop consensus-based industrial Standards. These Standards, in turn, are published with the intention to help businesses introduce effective Management Systems into their operations.

ISO Standards are everywhere. To date, ISO has published over 22,000 international Standards and related documents which cover almost every industry – from food safety to computers, and health care to new technologies. So, the very phone, tablet or computer you’re using to view this article has probably been constructed following the guidance of ISO Standards. 

ISO Standards themselves are the documentation that underlies Management Systems. They detail the requirements and specifications which enable businesses to ensure they have fully functional Management Systems. 


ISO Families

ISO Standards are produced in series, also referred to as families. This means that they include different editions of the same Standard.

For instance; ISO 9000 is often referred to as the family name. ISO 9001 is the edition you would want to be certified to because it specifies the basic requirements you must fulfil to implement a Management System which demonstrates that you can consistently provide products and services that meet your customers’ needs, as well as the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

When implementing the 9001 Management System, you might then choose to adopt the practices described in ISO 9004 because it is designed to make your quality management system more efficient in achieving your business goals and objectives and it gives guidelines for enhancing an organisation’s ability to achieve sustained success.

There are then further supporting guidelines, such as ISO 19011 (guidelines for auditing Management Systems) which can be of value because it provides guidance on audit programmes, the conduct of internal or external audits, and information on auditor competence.


Updates

ISO continually review and update the contents of their ISO Standards and, on average, release a new version of a Standard once every 3-5 years. But it can be longer. The reason ISO Standards are represented with numbers is because numbers do not need to be translated from country to country. So, an interested party, regardless of location, can appreciate which Standards you conform to, simply by seeing the relevant ISO Number on your paperwork and marketing collateral. In the instance of the 9000 family, this number code represents Standards related to quality management. 


ISO Certification

To use ISO Standards to your advantage, it is recommended that you become certified. To do this, a business must be able to demonstrate their adherence to the set requirements in the presence of a qualified auditor. 

Businesses with certified ISO Management Systems in place not only receive the benefits discussed earlier but also appear more credible to clients as it shows that they have demonstrated an internationally recognised level of operation. This may, in turn, provide a competitive advantage for businesses who are looking to win tenders.


Examples of ISO Standards

You’ve likely come across these before, but just in case, here is a very brief outline of the most common ISO Standards.

Number one is the ISO 9001 Standard. This is the internationally recognised standard for quality management. It has been used by over 1 million business and ensures that they are consistently providing high-quality products and services.

Another popular ISO Standard is the 14001 -  Environmental Management. With the very real threats caused by climate change, it is now more important than ever for businesses to limit their environmental impact, and this standard aims to achieve just that, reducing waste and improving resource efficiency.

In the modern world, the handling of data is common practice, and rife with opportunities for information security threats to corrupt or steal client’s data. ISO 27001 - Information Security Management helps ensure that this data is always protected whether online or offline. 

ISO 45001 is the last one we’re going to cover. It is the international standard for occupational health and safety. Its implementation helps businesses reduce the likelihood of accidents and breaches of legislation.


ISO Consultants

ISO Standards are not the most user-friendly documents in the world if you aren’t familiar with the terminology. They contain a list of expectations which can be subject to misinterpretation. So, you probably don’t want the headache of implementing one of these systems yourself. It can be a laborious and trial-and-error exercise. After all, this time and energy would be better spent running your business.

So, here’s where the ISO Consultant comes into play. ISO Consultants are experts who help businesses to implement Management Systems and achieve subsequent certification. It is highly beneficial to have the support of an ISO Consultant to walk you through the process and offer practical advice at every step of the way. 

A good ISO Consultant will assess the current position of your business and identify the exact steps you need to take in order to fulfil the requirements of the ISO Standards. They know the standards inside out and eliminate any guesswork. This massively speeds up your progression and streamlines the process of becoming ISO certified.


Trust in the experts

QMS international offers a professional, award-winning solution to ISO Management Systems. 

Specialist consultants provide guidance every step of the way to ensure that the Management System is implemented as efficiently and effectively as possible. From the first consultation through to certification, this can take as little as 45 days.


Take away

Hopefully, this article has been insightful, and you now feel far more confident and informed when it comes to the topic of ISO Management Systems, putting you in a good position when it comes to considering whether ISO Standards are right for your business.

If you have any further queries about anything ISO related, be sure to get in contact with us by email or through our 24-hour live chat. We’re more than happy to help. 

Joe Evans

Joe Evans

Marketing Assistant

Joe is currently undergoing a 9-week internship with QMS international.
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