ISO Certification: The Pros, Cons, and Looking Ahead

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By: TR Cutler

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certification is not new. Many manufacturers endure the rigor of registration because global customers require the certification to conduct business. The rigor is not imagined. ISO certification requires training to implement successfully, and it is expensive to establish quality management systems (QMS). ISO certification, no matter how automated, requires heavy emphasis on documentation and the time to achieve certification is lengthy. 

ISO certification comes in different “denominations” depending on the industry sector or process being certified. Of late, and unless mandated by customers, the case for ISO certification may not be as compelling as twenty years ago. There is resistance to change due to fear and misperceptions of ISO. Often there is inadequate team support or management sponsorship to dwell on the added costs and resources to implement and maintain ISO.  

Poor project management or change management can spoil an ISO certification program due to unrealistic expectations prior to deployment.

History and Vision of ISO through 2030

ISO is a nonprofit organization that develops and publishes standards of virtually every possible sort, ranging from standards for information technology to fluid dynamics and nuclear energy. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, ISO is composed of 162 members, each one the sole representative for their home country. ISO fills the vital role as a conduit achieving agreement between individual standards developers across the world to further the goal of standardization.

ISO President, Eddy Njoroge recently commented: “It is my pleasure to share with you the new ISO Strategy 2030, a result of a collaborative effort between our members, partners, and all stakeholders. Inclusiveness and finding common agreement on products and services is the lifeblood of standardization and for 75 years, ISO has been at the heart of this process. It is therefore fitting that the vision of ISO for 2030 should be founded on the same tenets.”

The ISO Strategy 2030, like International Standards, will be regularly reviewed and revised ensuring that it remains purposeful and adapts to intentions and actions with the changing environment. The strategy is complemented by two key tools: the implementation plan, which outlines concrete actions and the measurement framework. 

The global health crises have demonstrated the universal nature of issues facing humanity and brought new perspective to the ISO work. ISO has an indispensable role to play in supporting coordinated action providing global solutions. 

ISO’s Future

There is acceleration surrounding profound changes in society, especially digital technologies for remote learning and working. Digital transformation and the need to find new ways of working and delivering solutions are threads that run through the new ISO 2030 strategy. The new plan moving forward is well aligned to the United Nations Global Agenda for 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


Drivers of Change

Identifying external drivers of change and evaluating impacts ISO’s role over the next decade. The four primary drivers of change identified by ISO include the economy, technology, society, and the environment.

These drivers are all strongly interlinked and large-scale disruption or crises may affect multiple drivers simultaneously. Change presents both risks and opportunities. Understanding how it occurs by monitoring these four drivers enables ISO and companies holding ISO certification to anticipate and respond to transformative impacts in a shifting global context.

Economy: Trade and Uncertainty 

The evolution of the international trading system and its impacts on the global economy are uncertain. Even as the concepts of globalization and multilateralism are increasingly challenged, the interdependence of global supply chains remains strong and essential. This context makes it difficult for organizations to predict long-term development, as access to global markets for products and services are impacted. Changes resulting from economic and trade uncertainty affect the demand for, and relevance of, International Standards.

Technology: the Impact of Digital

The growth of digital infrastructures and integration of digital technologies are rapidly and significantly changing the way people live and work around the world. Advancements in digital technology boost efficiency and productivity, creating a competitive advantage, and promoting innovation. ISO harnesses the power of digital technologies to improve its own value chain and agility.

Society: Changing Expectations and Behavior

Public and civil society actors want higher levels of transparency and collaboration. There is an expectation that individual rights be upheld. By 2030 or sooner, organizations must be more inclusive, more accountable, and better able to integrate stakeholders in the decision-making processes. 

Environment: the Urgency for Sustainability

The world faces major threats to the environment; failing to adequately address risks such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution are not negotiable. These and other issues cut across national borders and cannot be solved by one individual, company, or government alone. International cooperation is required, with a view of achieving sustainability rather than short-term solutions. Despite the challenges of ISO implementation and continuous process improvement, perhaps the greatest role for International Standards is the shift towards a more sustainable future.

ISO certification companies are invited to sponsor special issues of Manufacturing Outlook and upcoming episodes of the Manufacturing Talk Radio broadcast. 

To learn more call 973-808-8300.

Author Profile

Thomas R. Cutler authored more than 1000 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing and industrial sectors, with emphasis on robotics, lean manufacturing, technology breakthroughs, and media coverage of the sector.

Cutler was the President and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based,  TR Cutler, Inc., celebrating its nearly quarter century in business. Cutler was the founder of the 9000+ Manufacturing Media Consortium which includes more than 9000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. 

Cutler had established special divisions including African manufacturing, LATAM/Colombian manufacturing, Gen Z workforce, and Food & Beverage, and Industrial Coaching. 

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