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What is ISO 9001?

The current version of the ISO 9001 standard is 9001:2015.

ISO 9001 is the international standard for a quality management system (“QMS”).  In order to be certified to the ISO 9001 standard, a company must follow the requirements set forth in the ISO 9001 Standard. The standard is used by organizations to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements and to demonstrate continuous improvement.


A few details about ISO 9001:

There are several different documents in the ISO 9000 family of standards, but ISO 9001 is the only standard in the 9000 series that requires certification.  Typically, an entire organization will seek certification, but the scope of the QMS can be tailored to improve performance at a particular facility or department.  The current version is ISO 9001:2015, which was published in September of 2015 (thus the: 2015).

  • It does NOT matter what size your organization is: 1 person or 1 million people. See ISO 9001 Implementation for Small Businesses
  • It does NOT matter what industry you are in (service or manufacturing) – it can be a restaurant, consultancy, manufacturing company, government entity, etc. There are other standards based upon ISO 9001 for a few specific industries.
  • It is NOT a standard for products. It does not define product quality.  This is a process-based standard: you use it to control your processes, then your end product should meet the desired results.
  • It is NOT a personal Standard – a person cannot get certified to ISO 9001, instead an organization or company becomes certified. Individuals, however, CAN become an ISO 9001 Certified Lead Auditor after a 5 day training course.  This then allows them to audit other companies.
  • There is no such thing as “ISO Certification” or “ISO 9000 Certification”, only ISO 9001 certification.
  • It is NOT a membership group – An organization cannot “join” ISO 9001. To become ISO 9001 certified, your organization must
    • Follow the steps to implement an ISO 9001 quality management system.
    • Then a Certification Body (CB or Registrar) audits the performance of your organization against the latest version of the ISO 9001 Requirements. If you pass this audit, the Registrar issues an ISO 9001 Certificate demonstrating that your organization is Registered to ISO 9001 for a three year period. (See Who is able to grant certification)
    • Finally, the organization must be re-certified every three years in order to maintain their ISO 9001 certification status.

A great way to understand how ISO 9001 works is to apply it to an example.  Here is an easy example of ISO 9001 applied to making cookies.


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The Definition of ISO 9001 Certification

ISO 9001 Certified” means an organization has met the requirements in ISO 9001, which defines an ISO 9001 Quality Management System (QMS).  ISO 9001 evaluates whether your Quality Management System is appropriate and effective, while forcing you to identify and implement improvements.

Continuous improvement assures your customers benefit by receiving products/services that meet their requirement, and that you deliver consistent performance. Internally, the organization will profit from increased job satisfaction, improved morale, and improved operational results (reduced scrap and increased efficiency).


Some Helpful Resources:

What is the resource impact of ISO 9001 on my company?

As with most business processes, the more you do yourself, the less the cost, but the more time it may require. No matter how many external resources are utilized, there will need to be involvement by your employees and staff to varying degree. While there is no total “do it yourself” solution, you can go a long way on ISO 9001’s basic requirements by using pre-formatted materials for documentation and training. (Check out our materials here!) While the procedures and methods in these must be tailored to your situation, they are typically created with the goal of minimizing the changes required and maximizing the ability for others to use and comprehend them. The goal of any quality management system should not be to add unnecessary paperwork, but to make all references clear and highly usable.

History of ISO 9001 Revisions

What is ISO 9001:2015 (Current Version)?

ISO 9001:2015 is the current version of the  ISO 9001 standard which outlines the requirements an organization must maintain in their quality system for ISO 9001:2015 certification.  ISO 9001 is explained in detail above. It is the most recent version of the standard which included several changes from ISO 9001:2008 including:  

For more detailed information, please see below:

What is ISO 9001:2008?

ISO 9001:2008 became obsolete effective September 2018 and is replaced by ISO 9001:2015.  9001:2008 is the standard that outlines the requirements an organization must maintain in their quality system for ISO 9001:2008 certification. There are several different documents in the ISO 9000 family of standards, but ISO 9001 is the only ISO standard that requires certification.

Learn more about ISO 9001:2008 – Changes from 9001:2000

What is ISO 9001:2000?

The ISO 9001:2000 revision allowed exceptions to design and development procedures if a company does in fact NOT engage in the creation of new products, as well as introducing a few concepts:

Changes from 1994 to 2000

The text has been reworded for easier adaptation to a wider range of organizations. Some definitions have been changed.

  • “Subcontractor” was changed to “supplier”.
  • “Organization” now refers to the main organization seeking certification.
  • “Customer” remains unchanged.
  • Compare ISO 9001:1994 to ISO 9001:2000

The standard has a process-oriented structure. It includes a process model based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, which outlines the product and/or service cycle and the management control cycle.

The 20-point format was replaced. The text of the standard is now organized into four major processes:

  • Section 5. Management Responsibility
  • Section 6. Resource Management
  • Section 7. Product Realization
  • Section 8. Measurement, Analysis, and Improvement

Documentation requirements are less-prescriptive, and allow greater flexibility.

What is ISO 9001:1994?

ISO 9000:1994 emphasized quality assurance via preventive actions, instead of final product inspection, requiring evidence of compliance with documented procedures.  This version also included ISO 9002 and ISO 9003 as in the 1997 versions.

What is ISO 9001:1987?

ISO 9001:1987 was based on BS 5750, with three quality management systems depending on the activities of the organization:

  • ISO 9001:1987 Model for quality assurance in design, development, production, installation, and servicing was for companies and organizations whose activities included the creation of new products.
  • ISO 9002:1987 Model for quality assurance in production, installation, and servicing had basically the same material as ISO 9001 but without covering the creation of new products.
  • ISO 9003:1987 Model for quality assurance in final inspection and test covered only the final inspection of finished product, with no concern for how the product was produced.
  • ISO 9000:1987 was also influenced by existing U.S. and other Defense Standards (“MIL SPECS”), and was better suited to manufacturing.