Some people wish to get certified to an ISO9001: 2000 or AS9100 quality management system because they have a customer who requires it. Some of these companies may view a quality system as a necessary evil, and a cost of doing business. For example, if you supply aircraft hardware to companies such as Boeing, Northrop, or General Electric, having an ISO9001: 2000 or even AS9100 may be a requirement of doing business. Some company owners can not see the benefits of a quality system other than being able to sell to such a large and important customer.

Of course, it does cost money to implement and maintain your ISO9001: 2000 quality system. There are costs of having your people, or outside consultants, write your quality manual, procedures, forms, etc. Depending on the size and type of company, this can run into many thousands of dollars before you even get certified.

Then there's the annual audit. Again, depending on your company's size and type of business, this can also run into thousands of dollars. Auditors and registrars are not cheap. It is common to get billed for auditors' travel expenses as well. Your initial registration audit will usually be the most time consuming, and the most expensive. Surveillance audits that follow are typically much shorter, and less expensive, than the initial audit.

There's also the time and lost productivity from having your people trained to know and implement the ISO procedures outlined in your documentation. This can be substantial.

Altogether, it can be very expensive to implement and maintain your ISO9001: 2000 quality management system.

However, there are ways to mitigate the cost. And if you are serious about quality and customer satisfaction, you may find that having an effective quality system will actually make your company more profitable than if you did not have it.

One way you can save money is to do it yourself. It's not incredibly difficult to implement your own ISO9001: 2000 quality management system. It just takes time to learn how to do it, write your documentation, train your people, and implement your procedures. If you have time, and you're not under a customer deadline to implement ISO, you might go this route. There are a myriad of books and other helpful documents available, including my documents below. If correctly and effectively implemented, an ISO9001: 2000 quality management system can be an important tool to increase sales and profitability. For example, one of the primary goals of ISO9001: 2000 is customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction must be adequately measured, and should improve with time. Greater customer satisfaction usually leads to more customers, and greater business.

An effective quality system can also reduce your costs. Implementing a procedure such as receiving inspection, for example, can significantly reduce the amount of downtime you suffer from defective suppliers' products used in your production. Early detection is key here. It is much better to detect a problem part at the time of receipt than to detect it later on, when it is about to be used in production.

Another procedure that can reduce your cost is a good shipping inspection. It is very expensive to process returns from customers, not to mention that you endanger future customer sales by shipping the wrong item, or a defective item. A simple shipping inspection, with someone held responsible for its success, can drastically reduce customer returns, increasing customer satisfaction and enhancing profitability.

In my time as an ISO consultant and quality manager, I have witnessed company owners who view ISO as simply a cost, a necessary evil, with no real benefits derived. I have also witnessed firsthand how a properly implemented ISO9001: 2000 quality management system can save money, increase customer satisfaction, and increase profitability. Which company would you prefer to be a part of?

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