ISO 9001 is a family of standards relating to quality management systems (QMS). To receive ISO 9001 certification, UK-registered businesses must apply to an accredited ISO certification body such as the British Assessment Bureau. It’s important to note that ISO itself does not issue certifications, but instead accredits local bodies to conduct inspections and award certifications.
Any type of business, regardless of the industry and size, can apply for ISO 9001 certification. However, not every application is approved. Although ISO standards aren’t legally binding, being ISO-certified is a seal of excellence in a particular industry. Even government agencies and academic institutions seek ISO certification.
With many local and national regulations following ISO standards and practices, there’s a good chance your business may already be complying with some of the ISO 9001 standards.
In this post:
Why ISO 9001 certification is important for UK-based businesses
While UK-based businesses aren’t required by law to obtain ISO 9001 certification, it’s still an important step if you want to achieve international recognition and credibility.
Crucially, being ISO-certified can help to make your business more attractive to investors and customers. The rigorous process of certification and compliance with the international standards make ISO a prestigious hallmark of quality. After all, not every business that applies for certification is approved.
ISO 9001, specifically the latest ISO 9001:2015, is the gold standard when it comes to quality management systems or QMS. Complying with the standards will help make your business more competitive in several ways:
- It creates consistency and repeatability in your business processes
- It can significantly improve efficiency by removing long and/or unnecessary processes
- Certification brings an element of prestige that will impress your customers and prospects
- Being ISO-certified can help to keep staff engaged and increase employee commitment
- Your business can achieve operational excellence by applying the best practices
- Becoming more efficient can save your business a significant amount of money in the long run.
You can read more about the benefits of ISO certification for your business and its customers here.
The process of obtaining an ISO 9001 certification
You can hire a consulting firm if you want a more detailed guide on how to obtain ISO 9001 certification. You may also purchase and download the ISO 9001 document from the ISO website. Hiring a credible consultancy firm to help you process your ISO application is the most convenient way to apply. However, if you already have a team of management experts in your organisation, handling the process yourself will probably cost less.
Generally, the process of obtaining ISO certification involves two main steps – submitting the required documents and the physical audit or verification of those documents. The specific process may vary slightly depending on the type of organisation or industry but it can be summarised as follows:
- Step 1: Gap analysis – your business’s current QMS is compared with the ISO standards. This allows you to identify which standards, systems or practices still need to be applied or improved.
- Step 2: Implementation and amendment support – if you have to amend some components of your management system, you may need to hire consultants or experts to guide you through the process.
- Step 3: First stage of assessment – it’s at this point that your business is assessed by an accredited ISO certification body. They will determine whether you have complied with the documentation requirements.
- Step 4: Internal audit – the internal processes, operations, organisational structure, and standards will be thoroughly reviewed at this stage.
- Step 5: Second stage assessment – inspectors may perform a physical or on-site assessment of your business. Based on the results of the assessment, your business may either be approved or rejected for ISO 9001 certification.
Throughout the ISO 9001 certification process, you’ll need to pay certain fees and complete the necessary paperwork. Your staff may also have to undergo training to be compliant with the standards.
Frequently asked questions about ISO 9001
If you’re not particularly familiar with ISO 9001 standards, you may have questions or require clarification on certain points. The ISO website contains a wealth of useful information or you might want to download and read the ISO 9001 document itself (although bear in mind that there’s a fee for doing so).
Here are answers to three of the most common questions about ISO 9001:
- How hard is it to get the ISO 9001 certification?
This largely depends on your current QMS. Naturally, achieving ISO certification is likely to be easier for those businesses that are already complying with most of the standards. This is why it’s crucial to conduct a gap analysis before you proceed with your application. Even if your business is already complying with the UK legal requirements, it may still be lacking some crucial aspects. What’s more, for many businesses complying with ISO standards is often more difficult than complying with local regulations and legal requirements, although just how difficult varies on a case-by-case basis.
- How long does it take to get ISO 9001 certified?
The length of time it takes to receive an ISO 9001 certification depends on the size of your business and the requirements you need to comply with. Don’t forget that you may also need to allow time to train your employees and implement the necessary system. It typically takes between three to six months from conducting the initial gap analysis to being awarded ISO certification. However, in some cases, certification may only take a few weeks.
- How much does it cost to get an ISO 9001 certification?
Again, this varies on a case-by-case basis. The final cost will depend on the size of your business and the consultancy firm you hire (if applicable). While you can assign a team of employees to manage the application process internally, this can be very tedious and might be beyond the scope of their expertise. Many businesses find they simply don’t have the time or the manpower to do it themselves. If you want to use an external company to manage the process for you, you’ll need to request a quote. A full consultancy service may cost as much as £13,000, although some independent consultants or registrars may charge significantly less than this. If you choose to manage the ISO certification process yourself, you can expect to pay around £2,200.
- How hard is it to get the ISO 9001 certification?
Although getting ISO 9001 certification can be relatively difficult and costly, it brings international recognition and a wealth of other benefits. UK-based businesses can either apply for ISO certification themselves or they can enlist the help of a specialist consultant. Both the cost of the application process and the time it takes to achieve certification vary depending on the size of your business and the current level of compliance.
ReAgent’s ISO certifications
ReAgent is proud to hold four ISO accreditations: ISO 9001 for quality management, the ISO 14001 environmental certification, ISO 13485 for quality management systems relating to medical devices, and ISO 45001 for occupational health and safety.
For more information on our ISO certifications, please contact us.
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