Worldwide, there are more than one million organisations across 170 countries that have achieved ISO 9001 certification.
When nearly half of all ISO 9001 compliant companies win new business through being certified to it, it’s not hard to see why so many are willing to put in the time and effort.
But what is ISO 9001, and what does it take to achieve and reap the benefits of certification?
ISO 9001 is the internationally recognised standard for quality management. The formal set of guidelines provides a universal framework for managing the quality of systems, regardless of an organisation’s location, industry and size.
The benefits of becoming ISO 9001 certified
ISO 9001 quality management systems can require a great deal of effort and commitment from staff at all levels of a business. When a business decides to strive towards improved compliance, they need to be prepared to invest not only this, but also resources, funds and time.
This considered, for organisations to knowingly encounter the costs of becoming ISO 9001 certified, they need to see the value in these efforts. Luckily, there is a myriad of benefits that come with building compliant, quality-driven systems, all of which often make the commitment justifiable.
While the initial cost of introducing quality management systems can be daunting, this is often outweighed by the financial benefits that follow. For instance, in many cases, organisations find that ISO certification helps them attract and secure new customers that preference quality products and services.
But, the benefits don’t stop there. Through achieving and maintaining ISO 9001 compliance, organisations can:
- Reduce waste and the associated costs;
- Improve consistency across processes, as quality can be effectively managed and monitored in all business locations, including both interstate and international;
- Improve their reputation and customer’s confidence in their products and/or services;
- Improve operational performance and alleviate inefficiencies without compromising on quality. This can, in turn, boost employee productivity, which often translates into financial gain;
- Operate under the assurance that they’re adequately satisfying relevant legislative requirements;
- Monitor ongoing progress towards goals and compliance with ease.
ISO 9001 certification can also be easily integrated with other ISO standards, such as ISO 14001 and ISO 45001. This can help organisations improve their compliance across numerous organisational areas simultaneously, without the administrative burden of clunky, inefficient systems.
However, to achieve these benefits, you first need to actually become ISO 9001 compliant – and knowing where to start can be difficult. First and foremost, you need to choose the right ISO 9001 consultant for your business.
Choosing an ISO 9001 consultant: key considerations
While there are many different ISO 9001 consultants for your business to choose between, which one is a fit for you will depend on an array of factors.
As a business, your unique circumstances, goals and budget will likely strongly influence your final decision. While this can be expected, if you haven’t looked into ISO compliance before, it can be difficult to know what to look for when finding the right consultant for you.
What determines how much an ISO consultant charges? If you go with a more affordable offer, will this be reflected in your system outcomes? What level of industry experience is preferable? How much information should your potential ISO consultant provide you with?
It’s more than reasonable to want answers to these questions before committing to anISO 9001 consultant. That’s why, in the following article, we’ve compiled some of the most important information for companies to be across when choosing a consultant.
By weighing up multiple aspects, you can make a considered decision that’s best suited to your business’ distinct circumstances, needs and compliance goals.
What will ISO 9001 certification cost?
Depending on which route you take when striving towards ISO 9001 certification, the final cost can vary, given how the services differ. Before getting on board with a particular consultant, you of course want to ensure their service cost fits within your budget.
While more affordable solutions, such as template systems either created by a consultant or those where individuals can ‘do it themselves’, can be tempting because of their low cost – they’re not always a reliable option. Often, organisations find that by getting a qualified consultant on their team instead who will customise a system to suit their specific needs, they can achieve far more maintainable outcomes that save them time, resource and money in the long run.
However, even if you’ve decided template systems aren’t for you, there are still numerous consultants to decide between, and there can be large discrepancies between the prices they charge.
It’s important to note that higher cost doesn’t automatically equal quality outcomes. That said, at each price point, it’s worth taking the time to understand what exactly you’re paying for and whether investing in a more expensive consultant now could lead to better outcomes both in the short and long-term.
Before committing to a certain consultant, regardless of cost, make sure you’ve done your research. This includes checking their website and taking note of client testimonials and case studies, speaking directly with them to establish whether they’re a good fit for your needs and so on.
Industry experience and expertise
It’s also suggested that you speak with the ISO 9001 consultant about their prior relevant industry experience. This can, again, help you establish a stronger idea of whether the consultant can provide you with the level of service you’re after.
When a consultant has experience working with businesses like yours, they’ll be familiar with what needs to be done if you’re going to achieve certification success. This can help make the entire process seamless and as quick as possible, so you can enjoy the benefits of effective, robust management systems sooner.
In addition, equipped with more relevant industry knowledge, an experienced ISO consultant can bring you more valuable insights, guidance and skills. As such, you and your employees not only come out the other end with compliant systems, but also practical tips for maintaining your ISO 9001 certification.
ISO consultants that have worked in the industry for some time also know their way around ISO 9001 and each of the key steps. Many organisations find this invaluable, as it often translates into the shortest possible implementation time and clear, systematic direction throughout the entire certification process.
Having worked with a diverse selection of businesses, experienced consultants understand the potential challenges and the like to avoid and/or be well aware of during each stage. With fewer costly mistakes along the way, you can achieve better outcomes without avoidable setbacks.
All of this considered, more experience doesn’t necessarily mean a consultant is right for you. After speaking with individuals and discussing your needs, you may find a less experienced ISO 9001 consultant is a better fit for your business – and that’s perfectly fine as well.
Check your ISO 9001 consultant’s references
This is another instance where doing your research is imperative. In this case, it involves looking at how many successful implementations of ISO 9001 your prospective consultant has achieved.
When doing this, heading to your potential ISO 9001 consultant’s website and finding any client testimonials, case studies or reviews is a great place to start. Following this, you may want to check any references they provide, finding out how they found working with the consultant.
In addition to the above, you can simply look at the types of companies they’ve worked with in the past. This can help you determine if the consultant has worked with businesses that are a similar size to yours and the like.
The ISO 9001 consultants’ implementation plan
This is when you want to determine how your potential consultant actually plans to implement your ISO 9001 management systems. For instance, what are the key steps and/or stages they intend to follow?
Moreover, it’s important to ensure they provide you with clear guidelines regarding how long they expect the process to take from start to finish. This includes giving you realistic timelines with milestones and estimated completion times.
The exact time required will vary from business to business, depending on where their systems are currently at and if they’ve achieved ISO certification before. For example, if this is your first time getting certified, it will likely take longer than a business that has achieved compliance before.
You will also need to discuss and establish the level of participation that’s required and expected from your team. A critical aspect of ISO 9001 certification is making sure employees are encouraged to be actively involved in and take ownership of any changes. This helps to ensure that any changes aren’t purely surface level and, rather, are heavily engrained in the way your organisation operates.
In addition to the above, when looking into your potential ISO 9001 consultant’s implementation plan, it can be valuable to consider:
- If the consultant delivers training and guidance for training, or if you will be responsible for organising this;
- The types of risks and/or challenges you may encounter during each stage of the ISO 9001 certification process;
- How the ISO consultant intends to go about developing documentation;
- If the consultant will be using cloud-based IMS;
Whether the ISO consultant provides ongoing support for system maintenance and the like, such as regular ISO internal audits.
When it comes to achieving ISO 9001 certification, clear, ongoing communication between you and your chosen consultant is crucial.
In the initial stages of selecting an ISO consultant, you can likely get a good idea of whether their communication style is suited to your needs and preferences.
If you’re not sure which types of points to take into account, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- How clearly do they communicate with you?
- Do they actively listen to your objectives, needs and concerns?
- Are they confident in the advice they’re providing?
- Will they keep you informed every step of the way?
Speak with our ISO 9001 consultants
If you’re ready to take the first steps towards becoming ISO 9001 certified, get in touch with our team. We’re experts in compliance, and can help you reach your compliance goals quickly and effectively.
We also have experience with a range of other services and ISO standards, including ISO 14001, ISO 45001, cloud-based IMS, legislative services and integrated management systems. Find out more by contacting us today.