ISOs are commonly held to be by-word for quality in business. Covering a vast range of management processes or approaches, ISO standards are held by millions of businesses worldwide, demonstrating holders’ capabilities, compliance and culture.

Here we cover essential insights regarding ISO standards, including why ISO standards are important and which standards are applicable or valuable for the manufacturing sector.


What are ISO standards?

ISOs were developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (IOS), with the intention of defining and sharing standard approaches and best practices across all industries. While they began by standardising things like weights and measures, they have expanded over the years to cover everything from manufacturing processes to digital networks.

Based in Switzerland, IOS is an independent, international organisation made up of experts from 166 national standards bodies. So ISOs are global and applicable to all.


Why ISO standards are important:

ISO standards were developed to “address shared challenges”. While many consumers may not even be aware of their existence, they give people confidence that the products and services they use are being developed or delivered safely, reliably and to a good standard.

They are important for holders and consumers alike, ensuring standardization, safety and quality in operations. For example, ISOs define what substances or materials are safe for use in manufacturing, ensuring products such as children’s toys do not contain harmful chemicals.


What are the benefits of securing ISO standards?

The benefits of ISO standards are far-reaching for holders. There are legal benefits to operating safely and compliantly, operational benefits from productivity and quality, as well as commercial and reputational benefits. The advantages include:

  • Benchmarking & Improving – While going through the certification process, businesses securing ISO standards have the opportunity to review their processes. By working to globally held standards businesses can benchmark their operations, identify the most efficient or effective ways of working, or spot any risks or challenges they may have.
  • Marketing – Once secured ISO standards can be incorporated into marketing materials or tender applications as a quality mark, whether that’s simply stating that you hold the certification, or using elements from your certification process to define your service offering, capabilities and unique selling points.
  • Productivity – By setting out the best ways of working, ISO standards increase productivity, minimise wastage and reduce risk for holders. And by challenging processes and approaches, standards often foster innovation.


How many ISO standards are there?

There are 23,992 ISO standards, covering every aspect of our lives. And this number will continue to grow as new challenges are discovered and new processes developed. When we consider ISO standards for manufacturing, there are four main ‘families’ of standards:

  • ISO 9000 Family: Quality Management – perhaps the best-known ISOs, these encompass quality management practices and processes.
  • ISO 45000 Family: Occupation Health and Safety – an essential set of ISOs, ensuring worker, process and product health and safety.
  • ISO 14000 Family: Environmental Management – a popular set of ISOs, overseeing environmental performance and protection.
  • ISO/IEC 27001: Information Security Management – a growing set of ISOs, concerned with the security of digital information.


What’s the difference between the ISO 9000 Family and an ISO 9001 standard?

The ISO 9000 Family covers quality management, helping holders to define and improve the quality of their products or services. ISO 9001 is the standard itself – the certification which businesses can secure. ISO’s website explains: “The ISO 9001 standard sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is the only standard in the family that can be certified to.”


What are the ISO standards for manufacturing?

With almost 24,000 ISO standards available, some are more relevant or valuable to certain sectors and industries. For the manufacturing sector, the following ISOs are widely used:

  • ISO 9001: Quality Management – this certifies that holders maintain high standards for process-based requirements in their operations. While it is not a marker of overall product or service quality, it indicates good quality processes behind said products or services.
  • ISO 14001: Environmental Management – this verifies how holders use resources. It is concerned with waste management, reduction of pollution and mitigation of contamination, efficiency, and the use and control of resources.

In practice, ISO 9001 certification shows that processes are focused on performance, productivity and meeting the customers’ needs. Similarly, ISO 14001 certification demonstrates processes are efficient, sustainable and compliant. These standards offer both financial and reputational benefits for holders and customers alike, alongside the wider commercial and environmental benefits.


So, what’s the verdict?

ISOs are a valuable investment for all business types, irrespective of size or sector, demonstrating a commitment to high standards, safety and quality. They are particularly valuable in sectors such as manufacturing, demonstrating holders’ ability to deliver quality management processes and systems, and commitment to customer service, culture and continual improvement.