4 Questions with Mark Ames
Position: President, AQS Management Systems, Inc.
Role: Leading the charge in helping companies to become more competitive in the marketplace via training and certification in a variety of management systems programs.
What are the origins of ISO certification?
Management Systems' roots date back to the last century when businesses had what they called "best practices"--the best way to do things. These best practices, or "standards" as we know them today, evolved from the solutions to problems people were experiencing. For
example, it is better to fix the cause of the problem rather than the symptom, and it is better to assign a competent person to perform an important task rather than assigning someone who is readily available. ISO 9001 evolved from these preventive actions.
Standards are a big deal, but we don't always notice them in our daily lives. The stop sign, for example, has the same color and shape in several places throughout the world. If you touch your kitchen sink and plug something into an outlet at the same time, you're alive
because there's a standard for electrical wiring in your house. Essentially, we've carried the concept of best practices into ISO 9001.
ISO 9001 is behavior based. Instead of being a product standard, it is a standard that tells people how to avoid problems in order to achieve a desired product or process outcome. It says to approve your documents before you use them, train your people before you assign them
to work, and keep records. If you find a problem, track it until it's fixed. ISO 9001 is simply a comprehensive list of preventive practices.
How long does it take to become certified?
It depends. If an organization chooses to go through this process quickly, it can achieve certification in four to six months. But typically an organization will take eight to 12 months to go through the process. Your organization is different than any other organization in
the world, so it's important to figure out what communication and documentation methods work for you.
Why have some companies been hesitant to pursue certification in the past?
There is a preconceived notion that ISO 9001 requires a great deal of documentation and paperwork, and that it is rigid and inflexible. There have been those who've had this experience or have heard stories about these experiences, and they have chosen to stay away from ISO
9001 certification. Most of those problems have either gone away or been exaggerated or both. If people breeze through it and come up with a big checklist that they have to live with because they're certified, it can become a real burden. But a very high percentage of the
organizations that take their time and do this in the proper way recognize and appreciate the value that's added.
What are the benefits of becoming ISO 9001 certified?
If an organization is practicing the preventive steps within ISO 9001, it is more likely to be trusted by its customers--especially if this trustworthiness is verified through the ISO certification process. Being certified allows you to sell your products and services in
markets that prefer and, in many cases, demand certification, such as the automotive, aerospace and medical markets. You will have greater diversification and more overall market opportunities as an ISO certified company.
If you're a more "preventive-based" organization, your costs go down. To put it simply, your organization becomes more preventive and less reactive.