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Explanation of ISO 9000

by Ron Kurtus (updated 17 December 2022)

ISO 9000 is a series of international standards establishing global requirements for quality management systems.

These standards were developed by a technical committee of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in Geneva, Switzerland and have been updated several times. The most recent version is ISO 9000: 2008.

Registration of certification in ISO 9000 has been required of many companies since its initiation.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Quality management

Quality management is the effort to assure specifications are complete and are met, such that the product or service will have a consistent quality level.

Quality is usually defined as meeting the specifications or expectations of the customer. A company's customers may be end users or to other companies.

If something like reliability of a product or service is not stated in the specification, the customer will still expect a certain level of it. Quality is not luxury. An expensive luxury automobile may still have shoddy workmanship in the expensive materials.

ISO 9000 series

The ISO 9000 quality system standards is just one of the series of five standards that establish International requirements for quality management systems. Three of the standards are models for quality assurance and the other two consist of guidelines.

Quality model standards

ISO 9001, 9002 and 9003 are quality system models that represent three distinct forms of functional or organizational capability suitable for two-party contractual purposes. Companies seeking registration to ISO 9000 generally pursue one of these standards.

ISO 9001

ISO 9001 is titled Quality Systems - Model for Quality Assurance In Design/Development, Production, Installation and Servicing.

This is the most comprehensive quality model. Companies pursue this standard when they assure conformance to specified requirements during several stages, which may include design and development, production, installation and servicing.

ISO 9002

ISO 9002 is titled Quality Systems - Model for Quality Assurance in Production and Installation.

Companies pursue registration to this standard when they assure conformance to specified requirements during production and installation.

ISO 9003

ISO 9003 is titled Quality System - Model for Quality Assurance in Final Inspection and Test.

Companies pursue registration to this standard when they assure conformance to specified requirements only during final inspection and test.

Guideline Standards

ISO 9000 and 9004 are two supporting guideline documents.

ISO 9000

ISO 9000 is titled Quality Management and Quality Assurance Standards - Guidelines for Their Selection and Use.

This standard provides an overview of the entire series. It describes quality concepts, defines quality terms and helps a company decide which quality model standard to use.

ISO 9004

ISO 9004 is titled Quality Management and Quality System Elements - Guidelines.

This standard provides further insight into the three quality model standards. It helps a company develop and implement an internal quality system or evaluate an existing system for ISO 9000 compliance.

Registration requirement

Many companies require compliance to ISO 9000 of their suppliers. It has been a prerequisite for doing business with companies in countries in the European Economic Community.

Registration or certification to the ISO 9000 series standards assures customers that your company will provide quality goods and services.

Exactly, what is this registration?

An organization's quality management system, not its products, is registered to ISO 9000 standards - specifically to either ISO 9001, 9002 or 9003.

Registration is accomplished through an independent third party which conducts an audit or series of audits with a company. Initial registration must be confirmed with semi-annual, follow-up audits to assure continued compliance.

Registration of a company's quality management system can be approached in several ways: by the entire organization, individual business groups, individual facility, or by a combination of the latter two. The approach to take is the decision of the company pursuing registration. It should be based on the organization's level of autonomy and control and the relative status of each unit.


The reasons to become certified in ISO 9000 are that you are to satisfy customer requirements, to be able to do business in Europe, to be able to advertise your certification, and to improve your company's operations.

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Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


ISO Online - International Organization for Standardization website

ISO Standards Translated in Plain English - Extensive listing

ISO 9000 Certification Information - Good listing of ISO 9000 resources

ISO 9000 References and Resources


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