What is ISO9000? The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from 100 countries, one from each country. This council decided upon a set of industrial standards in 1947 and has been updating them ever since. Recently, ISO9000 has become commonplace in the industrial world. Usually, one of the first questions that customers will ask of a potential supplier is, “Are you ISO9000 certified?”
That certainly explains the importance of ISO9000. What is a good example of a ‘standard’ at work? Imagine for a moment that each credit card company decided to make their cards different thicknesses. Each department store would have to have several different scanning machines in order to read all the different cards. Instead, a standard was set and agreed upon by everyone who made credit cards. The standard stated that all credit cards (and indeed, any card requiring scanning) is to be 0.76mm thick. That is a standard at its best! What did it achieve? It made life simpler, increased reliability, and it increased effectiveness of the cards and in effect a large portion of the economic world. So, I’ve answered the first two questions that should have told you what ISO9000 is and why it is needed. Now, how does this relate to the chemical industry? Let’s say that you are the owner of a large chemical company that uses methanol to produce many various chemicals for your customers.
If the methanol that you are purchasing is not 99.5% pure, you can’t use it due to process problems that it would create not to mention the poor product quality that may result. You have the utmost confidence in your Quality Control department to catch these shipments that do not meet your purity requirements. So, you require your supplier to perform any organized testing methods for the methanol that they send to you. Although the chances are slim, a shipment that is only 99% pure slips through the suppliers testing due to an oversight in procedures and the same oversight in procedure at your company allows the methanol to enter the reactors at your plant. What happens? Off specification products that have to be downgraded cost your company thousands of dollars. Then the remaining methanol has to be pumped out of the tank and sent back to the supplier. Now, you are very upset with your supplier and begin to seek another. But how can you find a supplier that won’t make the same mistake? What about the mistake that happened in your lab which allowed the methanol to pass inspection and get into the production line? What could have happened? Maybe the NMR used to analyze the sample wasn’t cleaned properly. Why not? It’s not stated in the procedure manual and a new lab technician was on duty. This is where ISO9000 comes into play. A large part of ISO9000 is to help close these quality “holes” where problems like this can come into play.
If your company and your methanol supplier were ISO9000 certified, you could have been assured that proper procedures were in place to prevent such an incident. That is not to say that is still could not have happened, but now both companies have grounds for disciplining the employees at fault to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, because after all, “it was in the procedure manual!” This ‘offbeat’ example should have made you think about the advantages of ISO9000 and why so many customers are interested in it. It is a very complex system that is designed to help assure quality products, improve safety, reduce waste, reduce costs, and increase efficiency. If you remember anything about 1 of 2 9/28/2009 1:27 PM ISO9000, remember that last statement.
If I had to summarize ISO9000 in a statement, I would chose the same one that many people do: In order to become ISO9000 certified, a company has to implement a standard way to documentation and operation. The procedure manuals for companies that are ISO9000 certified should be formatted according to a specific outline. The link below will show this outline and detail its makeup. ISO9000 STANDARDIZATION OUTLINE ISO9000 is a very complex quality control system. I have presented the basics for you here. If you like further information, just jump onto your favorite search engine and search for ‘ISO9000’ and you should find enough information to keep you busy for hours. One side note, many educational institutes are already beginning to teach ISO9000 and a required course. If you think that you can slip through the chemical industry without ever having to deal this ISO9000, you couldn’t be more wrong!