ISO certification is the official recognition by a certification body that your business has achieved an ISO 9001 quality management standard. You can choose to implement a quality management system without seeking ISO certification.
While certification has its benefits, and might reassure your customers that your products and services will meet their expectations, many businesses can benefit from using the standard without actually getting ISO certified.
Steps to ISO 9001 certification
ISO 9001:2015 certification process typically involves the following steps:
1. Start by establishing your baseline status - find out where you are and where you need to be to become certified. Consider your objectives and determine which benefits you expect to gain by certification. Carry out an ISO 9001 gap analysis. You can use the results of this analysis to create a plan and schedule for your compliance project. See our project plan for ISO 9001 implementation.
2. Develop your quality system - improve the existing processes and procedures based on the findings from your gap analysis. You may also need to develop new processes, quality controls or documentation to fulfil the requirements of the standard. Be prepared to incorporate quality management systems into every area of your business. See how to implement a quality management system.
3. Audit your system internally - check that your new or improved processes, procedures and documentation meet the ISO 9001 requirements. A thorough audit will enable you to identify problems or weaknesses in your system, so make sure that you address these before engaging an external auditor.
4. Choose an auditor - you will ideally want an accredited certification body to audit your business. Accreditation is not compulsory; however, it offers independent reassurance that the auditors are competent, impartial and using relevant standards. Using an accredited certification body reduces the risk of selecting an incompetent evaluator and paying for, or more seriously, acting upon invalid results. Find an accredited certification body in the UK.
5. Assessment process - some certification bodies may carry out a pre-audit assessment to ensure that you have the required documentation in place or to highlight areas in need of improvement. The formal assessment involves a visit from a representative of the certification body, who will check that you have developed the necessary ISO 9001 procedures and controls in your business, and assess their implementation to make sure they are working effectively.
6. Certification - if you meet the requirements, the certification body will issue you an ISO 9001 certificate, which is valid for three years. During this period, the auditor will return at scheduled intervals to ensure that your system remains compliant and continually improves. If your ISO audit was unsuccessful, the auditor will suggest corrective action to address any problems and arrange a further assessment if necessary.
What is ISO accreditation?
Accreditation isn't the same as certification. Accreditation is a licence that certification bodies gain in order to carry out ISO certification audits and be able to issue the certificates.
Accreditation isn't mandatory, but it shows that the certification body is compliant with international standards. United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the accreditation body for the United Kingdom.