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Much Ado About Very Little

There has been a great deal of concern about
the decoupling of QS-9000 and ISO 9001.

Did you ever notice that the words "ISO 9001:1994 (in italics) Copyright © International Organization for Standardization" appear on the title page of Quality System Requirements QS-9000? R. Dan Reid, the General Motors representative on the QS-9000 Task Force, assured me recently that the ISO copyright will appear in the third edition of QS-9000, which reaffirms the continued interdependence of QS-9000 and ISO 9001. Stephen C. Walsh of Ford and Warren Norrid of Chrysler have also mentioned to me over the past few months that, as long as the ISO copyright appears within QS-9000, the task force cannot change the ISO 9001 wording within the standard.

Since March, there has been a great deal of concern -- and speculation -- about the future decoupling of QS-9000 from ISO 9001. This concern has focused on the possibility that there will be sudden, dramatic changes to these quality standards that will make them incompatible, resulting in loss of registration and/or increased registration costs. I find this concern understandable but unnecessary.

Recent developments within the task force and Technical Committee 176 -- the ISO committee responsible for the ISO 9000 standards -- make clear that all the speculation is not justified by the incremental changes that are expected to occur in the next three years. It is highly unlikely that future revisions to ISO 9001 and/or QS-9000 -- and the possible development of "AQS 2000" -- will involve any sort of dramatic change in what any of these standards require of your quality    system. 

It is true that any change that improves a product or service is going to raise user expectations, which will drive the demand for even more improvement. The Big Three and their European counterparts seek improved products and services from their suppliers because their customers -- every person behind the wheel of a car, truck or van -- are constantly expecting more for their money, including increased quality.

TC 176 also realizes that companies and their customers have ever-rising expectations tied to quality, which requires the ISO 9000 standards to improve over time to maintain their benefits. This does not mean there will be dramatic changes to ISO 9001 requiring radical alterations to your quality management system. If anything, the next revisions will make ISO 9001 easier to use. In turn, this will require ISO 9004, the generic guidelines standard for building a quality management system, to be a more effective companion piece with which to achieve increased quality "beyond the baseline of ISO 9001."

Just as with the speculation regarding QS-9000, the concern about ISO 9001:2000 is much ado about very little. Lawrence A. Wilson, the U.S. lead expert to the working group (WG 18) that will be drafting the revised ISO 9001/ISO 9004 consistent pair, recently told me that the real changes in 2000 will be to ISO 9004's content, not ISO 9001's requirements.

    What you will most likely see are changes in the ISO 9001:2000 draft to clarify the linkages between its 20 clauses (the requirements for your quality assurance system), to make minor additions to the requirements and to allow elimination of ISO 9002 and ISO 9003. The biggest adjustment expected to ISO 9001 is to its format, which is presently difficult to follow in terms of process flow.

The most significant change to the ISO 9000 series will be the consolidation of more than 25 standards into seven, with a few technical reports. Much of this consolidation will involve ISO 9004:2000, which will probably contain significantly more guidelines on elements of a quality system that aim for total quality management.

What about the integration of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001? The problem is that ISO used the misleading term "integration" when it meant "coordination" or "compatibility." Wilson explains that most major corporations have a single management system that contains, for instance, a training system with separate training programs for quality and for environmental, health and safety. For registration purposes, compatible standards, not a single standard, is most desirable. TC 207 made clear that it does not intend to move toward integration when it voted in April 1997 against a proposal to alter the ISO 14000 revision cycle, set for 2001, to match ISO 9000's.

I think a GM supplier already has one very valid reason to treat all the speculation as much ado about very little -- the December 31, 1997, registration deadline. For those of you who are suppliers to Chrysler, I hope you are already registered or are scheduled to do so in the next few weeks; otherwise, your qualification to be a supplier may be in jeopardy.

About the author

James G. Mroz is senior editor of The Informed Outlook, a twice-monthly newsletter providing information and guidance on ISO 9000, QS-9000 and ISO 14000, published by INFORM (International Forum for Management Systems Inc.), 15913 Edgewood Drive, Montclair, VA  22026; telephone (703) 680-1436, fax (703) 680-1356 and e-mail jmroz@qualitydigest.com.


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