What does ISO stand for? What does it even mean? It appears that ISO means different things to different people.
Many people think ISO stands for something, that it’s an acronym for the developer and publisher of International Standards — the International Standards Organization. But that ISO organization is actually called International Organization for Standardization or IOS. Since the IOS is an international organization, it would have a different acronym in different languages. Hence, the ‘ISO’ in English versus the ‘IOS’ in Swiss or the ‘OIN’ in French (Organisation internationale de normalisation).
The ISO standards are not named after an acronym. ISO comes from the Greek word ‘isos’ for equal. All ISO standards use the name ISO to mean ‘isos’ and not to mean an acronym I.S.O. So now, no matter what country or language that ISO is used in, the ISO standards are always pronounced the same. It is not an I.S.O. standard as many people think, it is an ISO standard — ISO is one word, with no pauses or periods.
You may remember the term ISO being used on canisters of film to denote the film speed (i.e. ISO 400 meant the amount of light needed for exposure or the chemical emulsion process to take place). Higher ISO numbers mean a greater sensitivity to light.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies, at present comprising 140+ members, one in each country. The object of ISO is to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world with a view to facilitating international exchange of goods and services, and to developing cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity. The results of ISO technical work are published as International Standards.
The ISO film speed standard is one such standard (out of over 20,000+ standards) used to promote worldwide trade in film. Today film is mostly a digital process, but the nomenclature is still used on digital cameras to represent the digital sensors response to light (sensitivity) or digital film speed.
The ISO 9000 family of standards represents an international consensus on best quality management system practices with the aim of ensuring that the organization can continuously deliver products or services that meet the client’s quality requirements. These best practices have been distilled into a set of standardized requirements for a quality management system (ISO 9001), regardless of what your organization does, its size, or whether it’s in the private, or public sector.
To keep customers satisfied your product (or service) needs to meet their requirements. ISO 9001 provides an internationally tried and tested framework for taking a systematic approach to managing your business processes (your organization’s activities) so that they consistently turn out products conforming to customer expectations. Thus resulting in consistently happy customers!
What’s more, many industries from all over the world now require it from their subcontractors including the automotive (IATF 16949), Aviation (AS9100) and government/military contracts.
The bottom line is that more and more, customer are demanding a commitment to and proof of quality.
The requirements for a quality system have been standardized even though most of us think our business is unique. So how does ISO 9001 allow for the diversity of an enterprise versus a multinational manufacturing company with service components, or a public utility, or a government administration?
The answer is ISO 9001 lays down the requirements your quality system must meet, but does not dictate how you should meet them within your organization – which leaves great scope and flexibility for implementation in different business sectors and business cultures…as well as different national cultures.
The ISO 9000 family includes standards that give organizations guidance and requirements on what constitutes an effective quality management system. ISO 9004-1 (and the other parts of ISO 9004) are the standards giving guidelines on the elements of quality management and a quality system.
The family also includes ISO 9001:2015 criteria, which can be used to audit the organization to provide clients assurance that the system is operating effectively. Lastly, the family includes ISO 9000, which is a standard on terminology, that can be described as “supporting tools”, and others like ISO 19011 to provide guidance on specific aspects, such as auditing quality systems.
Take a look at the graphical symbols on the dashboard of your car or at the pictorial symbol on a package marked with handling instructions such as “This way up”. Various ISO technical committees have developed or adopted hundreds of carefully researched signs and symbols that convey clear-cut messages which cross language bounderies.
On the inside cover of nearly every book, there is something called an ISBN number. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. Publishers and booksellers are very familiar with ISBN numbers, since they are the keyway that books are ordered and bought. Try buying a book on the Internet, and you will soon learn the value of the ISBN number there is a unique number for the book you want! And, it is based on an ISO standard.
Almost everything you need and use for work and home comes from somewhere else. Whether departure and destination points are as close as A to B, or as far apart as Antwerp and Bangkok, freight containers ensure a smooth passage for your goods and materials. From truck to train, from boat to plane, there are more than five million freight containers transiting across the globe. This has become possible principally through international standardization.
Yet another example: the chair that you’re probably sitting on, or the desk your computer is perched on, are held together by bolts and screws. Humble bolts and screws also hold together our children’s bicycles and also the aircraft we trust our lives to during business trips or holiday travel. The diversity of screw threads used to represent big problems for industry, particularly in maintenance, as lost or damaged nuts and bolts could not easily be replaced. A global solution is supplied in the ISO standards for metric screw threads.
A last example: the credit card you may have used to buy your computer can be used worldwide because all its basic features are based on ISO standards. We are so familiar with many objects, like credit or telephone cards, that we tend to assume they just “fell out of the sky”. In fact, the ease with which we can use them can be traced back to an ISO standard.
Download Free Sample ISO Procedure Templates to see how easy it is to edit MS Word Templates to build your own policy and procedure quality management system.
Below is a list of organizations that provide additional information on ISO 9000 and ISO 14000.