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QUALITY AND ISO CERTIFICATION

By Syed Faisal Gillani
Oct 16 - Oct 22, 2000

There is a general notion among people that an ISO certification means good quality products/services. However this may not be the case in general.

This notion or perception has been created partly due to if I may say, the exploitation of ISO certification through media that some how implies on the good quality of products/services, and partly due to the abstract concept of 'quality' itself.

What one has to understand is that ISO does not certify the "quality of products/services" per se, it actually certifies the company's Quality Management System according to the critieria or standards established by the International Organization for Standardization.

On the other hand it is also not necessary that all the activities of an organization must be ISO certified. A company can get the certification only for their manufacturing operations or distribution set up or the quality control department. In which case the question arises, what about the quality of their other areas that have not been certified? Are they not delivering the quality? Well, yes and no.

As stated earlier 'Quality' is an abstract concept. Any product or service could be a good quality for one person and a bad quality for another. By the same token one product at one particular time may prove to be good for the same person where as at other time it might prove otherwise. The official definition of quality is "the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs". Reference ISO 8402/BS4778.

It is the later part of the definition that makes the difference the ability to satisfy stated or implied needs. For example if a person needs to write only, he/she might go for pen worth of Rs. 2/-, however if he/she also needs to create an impression of his status he/she might use a very expensive pen. In the first case a stated need is being satisfied where as in the second case it is the implied need that is being satisfied. Hence both products are quality products.

The concept of quality is not new; it started perhaps with the start of civilization. Each and every company strives for quality in its own way. So what is the hype about?

It seems that this interest in quality has been created due to the overwhelming success of Japanese businesses where in they have practically beaten the United States and other Western organizations in different fields.

Japanese realized that the needs and wants of consumers are continuously changing, they are in the dynamic state. That quality actually resides in the minds of the consumers or users, and that quality is not a fixed goal but a moving target.

Hence we can say that a company that is capable to identify the changing needs and wants of its customers and then interactively designs, develops, procures, manufactures, services and maintains its products and services in the most economical way is actually doing an over all good quality job.