Just when the public transport industry was starting to get used to the ISO 9000 series of international quality management standards, along came a rewrite.
Although the basic principles remain the same in the 2000 edition, there are some pretty important differences as well. The result is that those registering to the standards, whether transit agencies, suppliers or consultants, need to know how much changed and how long those registered to the 1994 and earlier editions are “grandfathered” in before they must reregister to the new edition.
The most obvious change is the reduction in the number of standards. Under earlier editions, there were five distinct standards in the ISO 9000 family. Two, ISO 9000 and 9004, were guidance documents that further defined and explained concepts. The remaining three, labeled ISO 9001-9003, were the so-called “conformance” standards. They were models of requirements to be followed if an organization was to be registered by a third-party auditor, which was itself similarly certified by an outside party, to one of the models.
Now, under the 2000 revisions, those four are condensed to two standards. ISO 9000 is the guidance document and ISO 9001 is the quality systems model, the conformance standard. That eliminates confusion about which standard an organization should choose to be registered to, and it is thus implemented according to that organization’s own circumstances.
Rewrite affects millions
“The most popular series of standards ever produced has undergone its first significant revision ever,” says Rick Giguere, a certified lead auditor with the registrar NQA and a U.S. transition coordinator for ISO 9001.
The implications of those changes will affect millions of end users of goods and services offered by the tens of thousands of organizations worldwide that obtained certification, he says. Giguere also conducts training seminars on ISO 9000:2000.
For those with a pretty high bar to reach in their quality assurance policies, the changes incorporated in the new standard should not be considered new, he says. After all, the concepts, such as continual improvement and customer satisfaction, have been circulating and in use for some time.
On the other hand, Giguere adds, “as a major rewrite, just about every sentence has been modified to some extent.
“Some organizations will find that these requirements are already a part of the way they do business. Others will need to do some stretching to meet new requirements. All, however, will find the new standard focused in the right direction, flexible where it needs to be and ultimately driving improvements to achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction,” he says.
Implementing the changes
Significant other changes between the Y2K and 1994 editions include:
A shift in emphasis from a documented system to a management system.
Use of a process approach more in line with business applications.
An enhanced requirement for continual improvement.
More emphasis on the role of top management.
Development of measures of customer perception.
Emphasis on establishing measurable objectives and other measures of product and process performance.
A measured degree of flexibility via provisions for exclusions.
A closer alignment with ISO 9004 and 14001, the international environmental management standard.
“To practitioners of the ISO 9000 series of standards a common refrain would be that the new ISO 9001:2000 version is a step in the right direction,” Giguere says. “Beside the obvious format change to a process-oriented flow, the highlighted emphases are now in areas that have a greater potential for positive impact within an organization and with the customer.
“The new standard will lead companies in the direction of understanding their customers’ perception of their performance. It will lead them to establish measurable objectives, appropriate measures of product conformance and process performance, all intended to enable an organization to have a better grasp of where they are in relation to where they want to be.”
For companies that registered to a previous edition of the ISO 9000 standards, the transition period is three years from the release of the new standard, which was Dec. 15, 2000. In other words, all registration certificates for the 1994 version will expire on Dec. 15, 2003.
Companies whose certificates expire before that date may be able to renew their certificate to the 1994 version of the standard, if they have not successfully transitioned to the 2000 version, but the certificate will be valid only for the balance of the transition period.
Eventually anyone wanting an ISO 9000 certificate will have to be audited to the 2000 edition of 9001. You should contact your certification body for details on the transition process.
Stamp on industry mixed
So has the standard been useful to the industry thus far? There are mixed reviews.
“For our bus buys, LACMTA requires ISO 9000 certification as part of our contract requirements, and this certification is reviewed as part of our pre-award site visit,” says John Drayton, manager of vehicle procurement at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA).
Yet, he says that while it improved quality, it hasn’t been a home run. “In an ideal world, ISO standards should have put the QA [quality assurance] burden primarily on the vehicle manufacturer. Our experience suggests that ISO procedures have improved the QA function at bus manufacturers. However, we can’t say that ISO certification eliminated QA related manufacturing defects,” he adds, asking the rhetorical question: “Wasn’t this ‘the promise’ of ISO?”
Partly for that reason, some manufacturers do not choose the ISO path and go down the “or equivalent” road instead. After all, they reason, transit bus buyers continue to do the same inspections anyway, so why go through the time and expense?
Perhaps Drayton best sums up ISO 9000’s record in the transit industry to date: “Despite improvements in a manufacturer’s QA, we continue to see a need to provide diligent inspection oversight throughout all aspects of vehicle manufacturing/production.” That’s the ultimate objective the standard’s 2000 edition must address.