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The Path To Becoming ISO 9001 Registered

In order to become ISO 9001 registered, you are basically committing to the certifying body (CB) also known as a registrar for a period of three years, your ISO 9001 registration cycle. If you wish to be recertified with the same registrar (which is the norm), then you will sign another agreement for another three years. Either way, the relationship will be a critical one for you to remain ISO 9001 registered, so you must take your time and go through the correct steps to make sure your choice is a good one.

Starting With A Registrar

Although some contracts are written differently, the norm is that your agreement will include at least two types of audits on your way to becoming registered. First there will be what is known as a Registration Audit, followed by Surveillance Audits. The key element in gaining ISO registration is the Registration Audit. is the initial audit that will be done to see if you will achieve ISO 9001 registration (if that is your aim, or it could also be one of the other ISO standards). As noted above, in order to retain ISO 9001 registered status, this registration will have a three year duration and then it must be renewed. (See typical Registration Process Steps)

At regular periods (which could be six months to a year, the Registrar will return to complete a Surveillance Audit. In effect, this is to ensure that the company is following the systems that were set in place during the registration process and that these systems continue to function under the guidance of the particular standard you are registered under. This process can vary from registrar to registrar so discussing the how, where, what and why of this process – before you select a registrar – can be very important to maintaining your ISO registration.

Registration can be claimed for that three year period after your certificate is issued. If you wish to maintain ISO registration after that time, the process (which is typically less onerous the next time since all the systems are in place from your original efforts to become ISO 9001 registered) must be repeated.

Knowing When The Time Has Come To Choose A Registrar

It is very natural to want to wait until all of a company’s quality systems, processes and documents are in place and working before you actually choose a registrar. But there are some inherent advantages in choosing one earlier, even before the documentation has been compiled. Here’s why:

  1. You don’t have the last minute problem of wanting someone who is then not able to fit you into a schedule which meets your time frame (and ISO registration is often driven by external factors such as customer requests which often cannot be ignored)
  2. Even though you cannot ask a registrar to help you fix a wide variety of issues with your quality program (Registrars can’t formally consult with those entities to which they must provide registration services.), they can go over in detail how they plan to audit your company. If you engage them earlier in the process to become ISO 9001 registered, however, you can ask them questions relating to their auditing focus, process, priorities, and other questions. This will give you tremendous insight into what they will ultimately be looking at since each registrar using a slightly different approach. The earlier you bring them on board, the more this process can work to your advantage.


A variety of factors work into the typical costs that a registrar may charge. The amount of time they expect it to take for the audits (both registration and surveillance), the number of locations that need to be visited, how large your company is and the number and type of registrations you are seeking are some ofthe common factors that go into the registration cost structure. That said, here are some general guidelines you can expect:

  • Registrars in today’s economy (from our experience) charge around $1,500 per day, plus travel, food, and related expenses. (The best bet is to contact a registrar for a firm quotation, however.)
  • If you have a larger company that is more complex, than plan on more days.
  • There are maximums on the amount of time a registrar can take to audit a company here is how you can calculate number of audit days.

Making A Choice For Your Registrar

As with most business relationships, the key is how well your registrar can serve your company during the registration process. This often starts with just how much experience or familiarity they have with your industry and if they have worked with companies of similar size, structure and function. You will want to check references of other companies that the registrar has helped to be ISO 9001 registered for issues such as responsiveness, communication, schedule performance, dependability and background of individuals who will be involved in your audit. You should know that registrars must follow rules from groups like like the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB). See ANAB Rules

Key Tip: Evaluate at least three potential registrars and use our handy checklist/questionnaire during the process to make sure you are comparing them directly. Clearly you will want to ask about all services and ways to deliver (and pay) for them. If you happen to have someone in the area, that is a good way to reduce travel costs and potentially increase responsiveness. However, the trade off between industry experience and other factors can often justify using someone farther away. These are not just vendors, but someone that can help you improve your business through the ISO 9000 registration process, which is proven to be money and time well spent.

Read about steps to registration.



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"I have just passed my ISO-9001 Audit with zero non-conformances for the second year in a row using your ISO products to write my entire QMS. Thank you for producing documents of this quality"

Bettye Patrick

United Plating, Inc