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China Leads Continued Growth in ISO 9000
New developments in information security
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2007-11-27 07:31 (KST)   
ISO, the international organization for standards, have published a survey of the numbers of certificates in 2006. These cover management systems for quality and environmental management. For ISO 9000, the standard for quality management, the survey shows continued growth in China, with 162,259 sites certified to the standard. For the environmental standard -- ISO 14001 -- the largest number of certificates is in Japan with 22,593. China is close with 18,842.

The main results from the survey are available for free download in PDF format.

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Both standards share an approach to management through corrective action and system review. They can be used without being certified, though ISO points out that "organizations have chosen certification because of the perception that an independent confirmation of conformity adds value." The process of external audit can be supportive of learning but there is debate about whether the requirements for documented evidence are too restrictive.

In the U.K., where an earlier standard was developed, it has been argued that ISO 9000 is not enough in itself to meet current quality requirements. The Chartered Quality Institute has recently encouraged a focus on leadership. In a recent issue of Quality Professional, Tony Brown suggested that ISO 9000 is still "largely based on command and control," scientific management ideas following F. W. Taylor. This is seen as outdated. "Dr Deming showed us a preventative approach. Prevent defects, don't inspect them out." However, the revision in the standard in 2000 added some sections based on Deming such as the learning cycle of Plan-Do-Study-Act. There are mixed reports on the extent to which senior management have engaged with this approach.

The revised standard may have been seen as an expanded requirement for paperwork. As I live in the U.K., some of my information comes from informal conversation. There is not much research yet on how management regards ISO 9000 in various countries.

Recently the growth of ISO 9000 in the U.K. has stalled and then started to reverse. The peak was in 2004 with 50,884. Now down to 40,909 for 2006. This may be because of decline in manufacturing as well as debate about whether ISO 9000 is useful.

Speaking to the Thames Valley branch of the Chartered Quality Institute in September, Allan J. Sayle predicted that "increasingly, ISO 9000 will be dropped as companies perceive it as an avoidable cost." Sayle is now normally resident in the USA, where ISO 9000 is sometimes seen as coming from Europe and not necessary where quality systems are already established. The number of U.S. certificates stays about level at 44,000.

There are now more specialized standards for specific industries where the essential model is applied in suitable detail. These show varying levels of interest from different countries. ISO 16949 is a standard for quality management in automotive production and relevant service part organizations, the motor industry. Here the USA has more interest with 3,852 certificates, comparing with 4,758 in China and 2,621 in South Korea.

For medical devices, covered by ISO 13485, the USA is well out in front with 2,113. No country in Europe has more than 1,000.

There is another skewed distribution in the case of ISO 27001, covering security techniques for information technology. There are 3,790 certificates in Japan, way ahead of the U.K. with 486. This disparity may change as the standard is new so it may take time for it to be widely understood.

The need for such a standard has been illustrated recently in the U.K. where two discs went missing between two government departments with details on 25 million citizens including bank sort codes. Themes familiar from studying ISO 9000 turn up in the way this is reported. There is an editorial in IT Week for example:

Chancellor Alistair Darling defended himself by saying that the department already had procedures to protect against data being transferred to disc, but anybody who has ever worked in IT could tell him that procedures are useless if they are not regularly communicated, reviewed, policed and enforced.
There is still a problem over how the policing aspect can work with attempts at communication. Requirements for documented evidence of conformity can be restrictive for a learning culture. However, there is now enough momentum around a management standard for positive case studies to be found in many countries. Future stories will look at the issues around learning and standards and other comment on this recent survey.

Related Articles
Quality Control Goes Round in Circles

Later stories will be developed in the blog called "Learning with ISO 9000."
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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