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Gaining a Competitive Advantage

Have you ever found yourself going to a movie because the starring actor was an Oscar winner? After the Grammy Awards, are you more inclined to download a song because of the results? You’re not alone. It’s human nature to embrace credibility.

Which brings me to the subject of quality and two recognized, respected measures of it. A quality management system (QMS) is critical to attracting suppliers and retaining customers for this very reason. In a global economy filled with numerous competitors, a QMS demonstrates credibility because it signifies that an organization adheres to industry standards in numerous areas appealing to suppliers and consumers. Some of these factors include: consistency in delivering quality products and services; commitment to continuous improvement; structure and resources to produce quality products; sustainability and customer satisfaction. A QMS validates that a company is complying to standards with cost-effective and efficient practices and to enable the manufacture of stable, top quality, and safe products.

Another measure of quality credibility is ISO certification. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9000 series is an internationally recognized set of standards related to quality management systems. ISO was created in 1947 and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Obtaining ISO certification officially authenticates that a manufacturer can address the needs of customers while meeting specific requirements.

Three Key Advantages of ISO Certification

  • Increased Sales: An increasing number of consumers and suppliers are becoming aware that ISO certified manufacturers offer superior products and services to customers. As a result, many prefer to purchase products from manufacturers with this certification.
  • Fewer Quality Audits: Since ISO certifications include the tools necessary to develop superior quality management systems, there will be fewer customer complaints and quality audits. Instead of making adjustments and changing directions, manufacturers will be able to focus on more important business aspects and use resources more efficiently.
  • Enhanced Communication across Organizations: A key benefit of ISO certification is the focus on employee involvement. Raising quality awareness among employees and making them part of quality management systems will improve communication within a company, helping management teams find better ways to address and solve issues hindering organizational progress. It’s more than about improving processes. Obtaining certification encourages teamwork across various aspects of an organization and fosters interdepartmental cohesiveness.

Recent ISO 9001 Changes

Every five years, ISO standards are revisited to update the qualifications and respond to market changes; ISO 9001:2015 reflects the most recently revised standards. Consequently, many suppliers are requiring their manufacturing partners to adopt the updated provisions. Some of the changes include:

  • Quality management will now be more closely aligned with organizational business strategies.
  • There will be a stronger focus on leadership providing motivation towards organizational goals and objectives.
  • The introduction of risk and opportunity management.
  • Management systems will be used as a “meter stick” to help identify business opportunities and bottom line improvement.
  • There is a shift towards easier implementation of multiple integrated management systems.

For more information on the changes, you can visit the International ISO website.

Please Note: There are numerous certifications covering various aspects of improvement including environmental efficiencies and industry-specific enhancements. This is just one example.

MEP Success Stories

Our local MEP Centers have experience helping U.S. manufacturers obtain ISO certifications. Some of our recent success stories include:

  • Manufacturer Bolsters Quality and Boost Sales: A manufacturer from Minnesota earned ISO certification with MEP assistance. As a result, the company recognized $3.5 million in new and retained sales and realized $250,000 in cost savings. Read the full success story.
  • Company Raises Standards, Enters Aerospace Market: A company from Massachusetts was certified in ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards, but wanted to get an additional certification (AS9100C) in order to become more competitive in the aerospace industry. By achieving certification, the company increased sales by 15% and grew its workforce by 20% to manage the new demand. Read the full success story.
  • New Certification Opens Doors: A Michigan-based organization had to demonstrate compliance with ISO 9001:2008 to become an approved vendor and supply products under a new contract. Through obtaining certification, the company experienced 30% growth in revenue and a 60% increase in capacity. Read the full success story.

QMS and ISO Certification can help manufacturers gain a competitive advantage and improve efficiencies. Learn more about MEP’s services by connecting with your local MEP center.

About the author

Brian Lagas

Brian Lagas manages NIST MEP's Continuous Improvement, Toyota Kata, Sustainability and Export initiatives.

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After closing a few winning trades one usually thinks it is better to open more trades. What can we have?
I agree with the benefits of acquiring ISO certification and the importance of establishing effective quality management systems in factories. One question that I'm curious about is this: what's the validity of ISO certifications granted to factories in developing countries, such as China or Vietnam? My understanding is that there's risk of corrupt practices in granting certification and that ISO may be less reputable than in a country like the United States.
Very well done! The breakdown of the quality systems is spot on. Can you comment further on other non-industry specific QMSs? My understanding is that there are others out there that may help answer John's question above, too. I'm mostly familiar with the dietary supplements and F&B QMSs, ISO included. Thanks for the additional information!
Great insight, I agree, if implemented well ISO certification is a great tool to beat competitive advantage.
In addition to other benefits, the ISO certification mark alone increases the reliability perception of a given business.
ISO certification is no guarantee of excellence in process or systems. It is only an indicator that the company leadership desires to take quality seriously. How seriously is the tale told by employees when they are bragging on the company or disparaging it. Most any company can achieve ISO certification by putting the right words into the right documents and forking over the dollars it takes to become registered but not many companies ever achieve the full potential of a strong QMS. A strong QMS can radically transform the way you do business, provide a guideline for achieving transformation and increase customer confidence in your integrity. That's probably what Paul means when he writes "if implemented well." It's not easy to implement well but nothing worthwhile is.
Very well said :) Quality should be a mindset, not a department or internal audit group.
Daniel Waldron here, Head of Content at I agree that ISO certification adds a degree of credibility, but many manufacturers produce quality products without the certification. Therefore, it's not a guarantee of excellence in process or systems - as Roger said. Is it not misleading to advise consumers that ISO means manufacturers produce as you quote "superior products and services for customers. As a result, many prefer to purchase products from manufacturers with this certification," Brian? Saying something is certified adds a sense of glamour of course, but is it fact? For instance, Donald Trump is certified in business, but does that make him a quality presidential candidate? Certification is subjective, some consumers will see it as an assurance, others won't have a clue what it means. I'm unconvinced that ISO certification delivers a competitive advantage? While you reference a few success stories, there are various forums where ISO certification is a regular topic and many businesses don't bother with it because of the time and cost implications.
Great article, now I understand the effects of quality assurance which is re-enforced through certifications stated in the article to the market base both from the manufacturing and consumer side. Much appreciated
Spot on! I think quality should be the first thing and the rest of the process will go smooth.
Very good post, I was really searching for this topic. I would like your permission to share this article with subscribers to our mailing list, and connect with you regarding Creative Healthcare.
Yes, you are welcome to share the article with your subscriber list.
ISO 9000 provides credibility to the business. It proves that the company is dedicated to providing quality to its customers. Also, owners and managers should have an adequate understanding of the quality standards. Incomplete understanding results into a waste of time and effort.

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