The History of ISO 9001 Standards


The history of the ISO 9001 Standard has contained numerous iterations, such as ISO 9001, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003. In the year 2000, a decision was made to replace all of the ISO Standards with a singular system that would be able to monitor tasks and activities and embed quality into the business system from the top down, using customer satisfaction as the catalyst to drive improvements.

So, is it important to note the previous Standards and how they inform the framework that we see today? Well, our handy blog post will explore exactly this, looking at the evolution of ISO 9001, from its inception to the superior quality management system we see implemented today across millions of businesses globally.

A timeline of ISO 9001 

Initially, the concept of a quality management system was devised in the 1970s to aid the improvement of products and services across businesses and large organisations. The British Standards Institution (BSI) released the inaugural UK standard in 1971, titled the BS 9000, which targeted quality assurance for use in the electronics industry. This was followed by the BS 5179 and BS 5750 standards in 1979, based upon the Ministry of Defence’s standards of supplier quality assurance.

The ISO 9000 family of standards were first published in 1987, based on the BS 5179 and BS 5750 standards that preceded them. The aim of the ISO family of Standards was to provide organisations with the requirements to create a Quality Management System (QMS) for a range of different business activities. The idea was that a business would choose the version of the Standard that was most suitable from the three following models to achieve certification.

ISO 9001:1987

When the ISO 9001 was first published in 1987, it focused on final inspections and was intended for use by businesses that were involved in design, development, production, installation and servicing. Any company that was involved in the creation of new products.

Over time it was identified that ISO 9001:1987 was too heavily influenced by existing U.S. and other Defence Standards (“MIL SPECS”) and was revised in 1994. In the 1994 version, the Standard was adapted to emphasise quality assurance via preventative actions, instead of final product inspections and required evidence of compliance via documented procedures.

ISO 9002:1987

Upon its initial publication in 1987, ISO 9002 was designed specifically for organisations that were involved in production, installation and servicing. The standard is in fact identical to the ISO 9001 standard in all but one respect- ISO 9002 is only for manufacturers who do not design and develop their own products. This is because the standard does not include any design control requirements.

As a result, the standard was most useful for firms that manufactured other people’s designs. An example may be one of the companies such as Foxconn or Pegatron which manufacture iPhones on behalf of Apple. These manufacturers did not design the products they were making – they were designed by Apple – so ISO 9002 may have been a good choice at the time for those third-party manufacturers.

ISO 9003:1987

Similarly, ISO 9003 was like ISO 9001 with some parts taken out. Specifically, the standard did not include design control, process control, purchasing or servicing. Instead, it focussed specifically on inspection and testing, with the objective of ensuring that products and services met the specified requirements.

As a result, this ISO standard was used almost exclusively by warehouse and resale industries which stocked and sold third-party parts or products but didn’t design or manufacture them. These organisations would usually have to ensure that the products they purchased and re-sold met the expectations of their customers.

ISO 9001 history of revisions

As with any system in place, revisions and changes were made to the framework so that the Standard maintained pace with developments in how businesses were structured and run. In 2000, the ISO 9000 family was subject to a major overhaul, with the merging of the three Standards to create a single standard known as ISO 9001:2000.

This new singular approach was developed to include new concepts, including the process-based approach. To improve quality processes and standards, it was built into the framework that there would be involvement required by management so processes were of high quality across a business. Performance metrics were also introduced, along with continual improvement and customer satisfaction.

By creating a Standard focusing on growth and development, it eradicated previous problems with bulky manuals that were hard to understand and time-consuming to produce.

Essentially, the script was flipped, allowing the running of the quality management system to dictate the nature of the documents produced. This ISO 9001 revision allowed for documentation to evidence that processes were running effectively.

Key principles of the new revised ISO 9001 included:

  • Customer-based focus ensuring good relationships between a supplier and customer.
  • A process-based approach to management.
  • Continual improvement across processes and procedures.
  • Evidence and data would form the basis for decision-making.

The evolution of ISO 9001

As ISO 9001 evolved, it meant for the first time in the history of the ISO 9000 family, businesses were allowed to exclude select parts of the Standard’s requirements. This opened it up to a wider array of business activities and removed the need for multiple versions of the Standard to exist, rendering ISO 9002 and ISO 9003 obsolete.

For companies that previously held ISO 9002 or ISO 9003 certification, certifying to ISO 9001 was not losing a purpose-built system, but rather gaining a system that was more flexible to their business’s needs, delivering many more benefits than before and stripping back the excessive paper trails.

ISO 9001:2008

In 2008, the ISO 9001 Standard underwent one of the smallest revisions of its time, where there weren’t any new requirements added. Instead, the purpose of the revision was to simply offer more clarity on sections within the existing standard. A total of 16 clauses were changed for this purpose.

ISO 9001:2015 

The latest version of the ISO 9001 Standard is the ISO 9001:2015. This revision adopted a new high-level structure (HLS) also known as the ‘Annex SL structure’. This new structure makes it easier to integrate multiple management systems, without reliance upon the use of PAS 99. It aligns common requirements, which make up a third of the text, across varying standards, including ISO 14001 and ISO 27001.

The latest revision of the standard also focuses more on risk-based thinking. Whilst you might be thinking that this has always been part of the ISO 9001 Standard, it is important to recognise that the new version gives it increased prominence.

Other new areas include;

  • the context of the organisation
  • needs and expectations of interested parties
  • organisational knowledge
  • post-delivery activities
  • control of changes

Need help with ISO 9001 certification?

Now you’re up to speed with the history of ISO 9001 Standards, perhaps it’s time to look at getting your business ISO 9001 certified. With Citation ISO Certification, we provide all the tools, resources and support to help you meet the ISO 9001 requirements effectively, helping your business to grow.

ISO 9001 benefits include greater efficiency and a streamlined approach to processes, which aid customer satisfaction and boost your business reputation. Using the latest ISO 9001:2015 Standard means your business can keep providing your valued customers with exceptional services and high-quality products.

Request a quote for your business for ISO 9001 certification today, or you can contact us and speak to our team of expert ISO 9001 consultants who can assist you with any queries you may have. We’re here to help your business save time and money so you can focus on expanding your business to be bigger and better!

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About the author

  • Name:

    Michelle Whitehouse

  • Company:

    Brand and Content Marketing Manager

  • Bio:

    Michelle joined Citation ISO Certification in 2012. Having held several different roles across the business, she uses the insight and experience gained to shape and drive the brand and content marketing strategy. Managing a small team; she ensures that the customer is at the forefront of everything we do. Delivering event programmes and communication strategies that pack value into the overarching experience for both new and existing customers, Michelle is an innovative thinker that believes in offering services that add real value to people’s lives. With a background in sales, digital marketing, content strategy and marketing communications, Michelle takes an in-depth, hands-on approach to her role within the business and is passionate about developing the relationship that exists between the brand and customers through a combination of technology and communication.


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