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by Dirk Dusharme

Monday, Dec. 15 came and went. So much for Black Tuesday. The sky didn’t fall. Armageddon didn’t commence. Hundreds of ISO 9000 coordinators and managers didn’t throw themselves off towers of manuals, procedures and ISO 9001:2000 interpretations (although more than a few auditors were on the verge), and Santa Claus, once again, picked cookies off the fireplace and left shiny registration certificates in their place. All is well; all is right.

We hate to admit it, but all of us prognosticators of doom were wrong. Somehow, almost all ISO 9000-registered companies--about 95 percent--made the transition deadline.

So, with the anticipated 120-point headline now up in flames (“Transition Deadline Takes Deadly Toll”) and our scorched earth, post-nuclear holocaust cover design in the trash, what is there to write about?

They made it.

This, our final ISO 9001:2000 transition survey, was conducted immediately following the Dec. 15 transition deadline. Despite the closeness to the holidays, we received a respectable number of responses to the 30,988 fax invitations to the survey--1,600 responses exactly--or a response rate of more than 5 percent.

We also sent a questionnaire to all registrars to see if their figures would correspond with survey results. Of 76 registrars contacted, 15 responded.

The survey shows that 87 percent of all U.S. and Canadian companies registered to an ISO 9000 or related standard are now registered to ISO 9001:2000, with another 8 percent now being registered to a different standard. So, roughly 95 percent of all companies contacted are registered to some quality management system standard. In our last survey, conducted in July 2003 and presented in the August issue, this group comprised about 56 percent. That means the remaining 39 percent of registrations, between 20,000 and 25,000 certificates, were completed within the last six months. It’s no wonder that the registrars we tried to contact for this story were either unavailable or downright grumpy--the volume of work was pushing the registrars and their auditors to the limits.

Some didn’t make it.

A little more than 3 percent of survey respondents reported that they didn’t make the deadline. This corresponds pretty closely to the numbers supplied to us by the registrars. In total, these registrars, which represent more than 25 percent of all registrations in the United States and Canada, claim that just fewer than 7 percent of their clients didn’t make the transition.

It’s no surprise that the primary reason given for missing the deadline is that the companies simply ran out of time. Of those companies that lost their registration (which excludes companies that are going to another standard, such as ISO/TS 16949), 47 percent reported that they ran out of time. Other reasons were spread fairly evenly: too expensive, no perceived value, plant closures, no customer mandate and so forth.

Interestingly, although lack of time was the key issue, most respondents blame their companies and not the International Organization for Standardization’s deadline for missing the transition date. Responding to the statement, “There was insufficient time allotted by ISO to make the transition,” responses were evenly distributed among disagreeing (34%), agreeing (30%) and neutral (31%). On the other hand, in response to the statement, “There was insufficient time allotted by my company to make the transition,” the majority of respondents (54%) agreed, and just one-fourth (25%) disagreed.

Companies didn’t seem to blame their registrars for missing the boat either. Nearly 45 percent of those that missed transition felt their registrars had been proactive in helping them make the transition. Only 17 percent felt their registrars weren’t proactive enough, and 38 percent were neutral.

That said, the percentages from the 2004 survey were much tamer than those from the August survey, in which respondents more strongly disagreed with both of the statements (a difference of about 20 percentage points, as illustrated in the chart below). This could be reflective of a “no problem; we’ve got plenty of time” attitude that may have existed five months before the deadline. Having missed the deadline, respondents may now be more critical of it.

But just because these companies didn’t make the transition doesn’t mean they’re bowing out. More than 69 percent of those that didn’t make transition say that they still plan to get registered, 16 percent say they won’t and 16 percent aren’t sure. Regardless of whether they eventually register, within that same group, 93 percent say they plan to maintain compliance with either the 1994 or 2000 version of the standard.

 

Other standards

By far, the most prevalent standards to which companies were registered other than ISO 9001:2000 were ISO/TS 16949 and QS-9000. Of those companies registering to another standard, 39 percent reported they’re registering to ISO/TS 16949 and 26 percent with QS-9000.

For those planning to register to ISO/TS 16949, there was no need to become registered to ISO 9001:2000 because the new automotive standard already includes all of ISO 9001:2000. However, the Big Three’s mandated deadline for becoming registered to ISO/TS 16949 is as far away as 2006, providing extra time for companies to get their quality management system into shape. For organizations that are already registered to QS-9000, their ISO 9001:1994 registration remains valid until they transition to ISO/TS 16949.

Perceptions of value

As with last August’s survey, the overall value of ISO 9001:2000 registration is perceived to be very high, with 79 percent of respondents agreeing with the statement, “Overall, I found the process to be beneficial to our organization.” This is the same percentage we got last year for the same question.

Registration’s effect on products and services or on a company’s internal processes was also favorable and similar to last August’s survey. In this survey, 46 percent of respondents agreed that products or services had improved as a result of registration, and 21 percent disagreed. More than 73 percent agreed that their organizations function better as a result of registration; 12 percent disagreed.

Given the fact that registrars had been slammed with a tremendous amount of work to get every organization registered before the deadline, we were somewhat surprised that the registrars got a high score for helpfulness, only a bit lower than the last survey. In response to the statement, “Our registrar provided us with helpful guidance during the registration process,” 68 percent of respondents agreed with the statement compared to 71 percent in August. We would have expected customer service to fall off considerably during this hectic period, but it only showed a slight decrease.

In terms of the ISO 9001:2000 transition, it appears that consultants didn’t pick up much work. Only 38 percent of registered companies report having used a consultant. The most probable reason for this is that companies that were transitioning already had experience with the registration process and felt capable of doing it on their own. Although we didn’t ask the question, we wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of those that did use a consultant were registering to a quality management system standard for the first time.

 

Methodology

This year’s survey was faxed to 38,090 U.S. and Canadian numbers pulled from the Quality Digest’s Online Database of North American Registered Companies, a subscription to which is available at www.qualitydigest.com/iso9000database.shtml. Of those, 30,988 faxes were successfully sent. Of those, 1,600 online surveys were completed, a response rate of 5.2 percent.

For the first time, the survey was also presented in French, allowing us to include responses from predominantly French-speaking companies, in particular, those located in Quebec. Translation was provided by Daniel Désilets from the Canadian headquarters of registrar Intertek Systems Certification.

The online survey was designed using SurveyGold from Golden Hills Software Inc. Responses were collected by Golden Hills Software and downloaded to Quality Digest at the survey’s conclusion.

Data analysis was done by Quality Digest. The choice of data to extract was based on conversations with registrars and our knowledge of topics that interest our readers.

About the author

Dirk Dusharme is Quality Digest’s technology editor.