Exacting family of standards leaves room for flexibility

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 12:00am

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies representing one member body from each of the 130 countries.

Founded in 1947, the non-governmental body adopted the mission of promoting the global development of standardisation and related activities.

It also strives to facilitate the exchange of goods and services while fostering co-operation in intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activities.

The most widely recognised certificate series awarded by the organisation is the ISO 9000. First established in 1987, the certificate was revised in 1994 to reflect applications in all industries.

ISO 9000 is actually a generic family of standards primarily concerned with quality management. The certificate sets out to establish, document and maintain ef fective quality standards and ensure customer value.

'The ISO 9000 family of standards represents an international consensus on good management practices with the aim of ensuring the organisation can time and again deliver the products or services that meet the client's quality requirements,' according to the official ISO Web site (WWW.iso.ch) of the Geneva- based organisation. 'These good practices have been distilled into a set of standardised requirements for a quality management system, regardless of what your organisation does, its size or whether it's in the private or public sector.'

ISO 9000 lays down what requirements a quality system must meet but does not dictate how an organisation should fulfil these goals. This allows organisations flexibility for implementation.

Within the overall family of ISO 9000, there are five universal standards. The most comprehensive is ISO 9001 which applies to a broad range of industries. These include design and development, manufacturing, and the installation and servicing of products or services.

Companies often undergo ISO certification to assure customers they live up to a standard quality benchmark. Companies that receive ISO certification report a dramatic drop in customer complaints and in operating costs and an increase in demand for products and services.

Companies seeking registration must apply to a 'third party registration agency' in their home country. In Hong Kong, there are several certification agencies, the largest being the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency (HKQAA). For more information, contact the agency through their Web site at www.hkqaa.org

The HKQAA is a non-profit organisation established by the government in 1989 to assist industry and commerce in the development of management systems.