Let our complete ISO audit 101 guide answer all your questions about ISO standards and certifications. How much does it cost? What are the benefits? We have all the answers and provide you with helpful tips for a successful audit.
Depending on which industry or sector you work in, it is likely that you have come across one or several of the so-called ISO standards and certifications. If you are wondering what they entail and what an ISO audit even is, we have got you covered.
To begin with, there exists no single and universal ISO audit or standard. Instead, being ISO certified endorses an organization or business by validating that its processes, services or documentations are in alignment with the agreed-upon industry standards. ISO standards and certifications carry a lot of authority, as the organization is an international body that acts independently and is non-governmental. Founded in 1947, ISO stands for International Organization of Standardization and unites national standards bodies from 167 different countries across the globe.
The international standards that ISO publishes are carefully developed and a reaction to the ever changing industry and public landscape. In response to the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, the organization released a guideline for the development of safer Covid testing methods in 2022.
ISO aims to ensure the quality and safety of products and services within a wide range of sectors. Covering multiple industries – from food safety to environmental or risk management – ISO is first and foremost a network that aspires to “make lives easier, safer and better”.
An ISO audit is the means by which you can achieve an ISO certification. Use an ISO audit to check whether your strategies and achievements meet the required standards and either get certified from there on or continue working on your objectives.
You want to learn more about ISO and the benefits your company can reap from a standardized quality and management review? We inform you on how to prepare and pass an ISO certification audit and fulfill ISO requirements.
ISO certifications are invaluable assets to any organization as they can influence a brand’s image positively. Proving that a product or service adheres to agreed-upon standards builds consumer trust and ensures an organization’s recognition on the market.
In order to get ISO certified you need to perform ISO audits to control
ISO Audits have a clear purpose: they help you to assess your progress and evaluate your internal procedures. An internal audit process is valuable not only to ensure ISO compliance, but also to keep track of your operations. This way you can continuously figure out what works and what does not, implement corrective actions and optimize your mechanisms. By implementing a standardized system and regularly ensuring its upkeep, you can save time and money in the long run and lead an efficient business.
There are several types of ISO audits and most of them are included in every ISO standard certification process. There are generally three types of audits that you need to know about. The internal, supplier and certification audit. They all serve different purposes and are relevant in their own right.
Before you can begin thinking of the official audits, however,it is important to focus on the implementation of ISO standards first. Getting ISO certified is rewarding and beneficial, but it is also a lengthy process that should be kicked off appropriately. You can begin your ISO journey internally or get in touch with a consultant for expert advice. Ask questions, set a system in motion to fulfill the requirements and make a plan.
Once you have completed this step, it is time to get familiar with the audit types that await you:
Since its founding days, ISO has published over 24,000 standards within 17 sustainability goals ranging from no poverty over quality education to climate action. Since they are so manifold and varying, it is impossible to simply enumerate a general list of requirements. However, ISO themselves encourage you to view the standards as follows: Think of them as a formula that describes the best way of doing something.
The most popular standards can be found in the following 6 categories:
One of the most popular and used standards is ISO 9001, a general quality management standard and part of the so-called “ISO 9000 family”. The standard acts as a base and prerequisite for many others. The IATF 16949 audit, for example, defines guidelines for a QMS in the automotive industry and can be largely understood as an addition to ISO 9001:2015. Other standards, such as ISO 13485, addressing the quality management for medical devices, also use ISO 9001 as their baseline.
ISO 9001 is a powerful and versatile standard that can be used by any kind of organization. No matter its size or field of activity. According to ISO, one million organizations across the globe adhere to ISO 9001 guidelines.
As with most standards, ISO 9001 is divided into multiple requirement chapters that support a company’s top management structure, customer relationship and process approach. As the world’s leading quality management standard, being certified with ISO 9001 helps you to build trust, offer great quality services and products and forge strong business relationships.
Whereas ISO 9001 is a quality management system, ISO 27001 details requirements for information security management systems (ISMS) and is part of the 27000 Family. Providing security for any kind of digital information, ISO 27001 can be employed in companies of any size and supports them in their goals.
Organizations can effectively minimize security risks, prevent data loss and data misuse by implementing ISO 27001. Even if you don’t get certified for the standard (something that is not obligatory), simply adhering to the requirements can greatly benefit your organization by having a strict and approved guideline of best practices to follow.
Before we get into the details about ISO certifications, their processes and benefits, it is important to note that the ISO network itself does not perform certifications. The institution develops and publishes the standards upon which certifications are based, but the actual issuing is performed by an external certification body that needs to be accredited.
An ISO certification is, in essence, an endorsement for you and your organization. It proves to third parties that you comply with the standards and have taken care to implement structures to ensure your business works well, is stable and can be trusted. Depending on your line of business and the certifications obtained, this means that your services are outstanding, your products of high quality, your customers well taken care of and your results to be trusted. Such an endorsement is relevant in any field and valuable for every organization.
In order to find the perfect certification body for you, ISO recommends following the subsequent steps:
It also helps to be aware that not every ISO standard needs to be certified to be implemented successfully. Some ISO standards require a certification while others are voluntary.
As there are so many different ISO standards, ISO certification costs vary greatly. They generally depend on the size of your organization and on how much or how little work you have already invested. Additionally, it may be that you want to get certified for more than one standard at a time, which can also drive up costs but (on occasion) bring in some discounts as well. These are some of the factors that influence your expenses:
Overall, it is best if you request quotes from several certification bodies and choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.
As with costs, it is difficult to predict how long it will take for your organization to be fully ISO certified. However, you can expect a timeframe anywhere from 3 to 6 months. If your business is particularly large, however, the certification process may take up to a year.
Some standards also take more time to be certified than others. It all depends on the systems and documentation you already have in place, as well as your planning and strategizing.
In general, ISO certification audits are a fairly long process that you can imagine somewhat like this:
As previously mentioned, getting ISO certified can be a lengthy process that requires attention and careful planning in order to be successful. With the right mindset and diligent preparation and planning however, you can conduct ISO audits effortlessly and reap the benefits – whether you choose to actually get certified or not.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail is a popular saying ascribed to Benjamin Franklin and it rings true. The first step to success is to prepare and plan appropriately. The more you anticipate, the more issues you can prevent from happening. This leads to smooth operations and successful management.
It is equally important that you prepare your employees, let them know about the steps you are taking and why you are taking them so that the whole organization can work as one to implement ISO standards for a better business, more safety and higher quality.