Management Systems /About ISO
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards.
ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 163 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system.
ISO is a non-governmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. On the one hand, many of its member institutes are part of the governmental structure of their countries, or are mandated by their government. On the other hand, other members have their roots uniquely in the private sector, having been set up by national partnerships of industry associations.
Therefore, ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society.
Because "International Organization for Standardization" would have different acronyms in different languages ("IOS" in English, "OIN" in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), its founders decided to give it also a short, all-purpose name. They chose "ISO", derived from the Greek isos, meaning "equal". Whatever the country, whatever the language, the short form of the organization's name is always ISO
Why standards matter
Standards make an enormous and positive contribution to most aspects of our lives.
Standards ensure desirable characteristics of products and services such as quality, environmental friendliness, safety, reliability, efficiency and interchangeability - and at an economical cost.
When products and services meet our expectations, we tend to take this for granted and be unaware of the role of standards. However, when standards are absent, we soon notice. We soon care when products turn out to be of poor quality, do not fit, are incompatible with equipment that we already have, are unreliable or dangerous.
When products, systems, machinery and devices work well and safely, it is often because they meet standards. And the organization responsible for many thousands of the standards which benefit the world is ISO.
When standards are absent, we soon notice.
What standards do
Make the development, manufacturing and supply of products and services more efficient, safer and cleaner
- Facilitate trade between countries and make it fairer
- Provide governments with a technical base for health, safety and environmental legislation, and conformity assessment
- Share technological advances and good management practice
- Disseminate innovation
- Safeguard consumers, and users in general, of products and services
- Make life simpler by providing solutions to common problems
Who standards benefit
ISO standards provide technological, economic and societal benefits.
- For businesses, the widespread adoption of International Standards means that suppliers can develop and offer products and services meeting specifications that have wide international acceptance in their sectors. Therefore, businesses using International Standards can compete on many more markets around the world.
- For innovators of new technologies, International Standards on aspects like terminology, compatibility and safety speed up the dissemination of innovations and their development into manufacturable and marketable products.
- For customers, the worldwide compatibility of technology which is achieved when products and services are based on International Standards gives them a broad choice of offers. They also benefit from the effects of competition among suppliers.
- For governments, International Standards provide the technological and scientific bases underpinning health, safety and environmental legislation.
- For trade officials, International Standards create "a level playing field" for all competitors on those markets. The existence of divergent national or regional standards can create technical barriers to trade. International Standards are the technical means by which political trade agreements can be put into practice.
- For developing countries, International Standards that represent an international consensus on the state of the art are an important source of technological know-how. By defining the characteristics that products and services will be expected to meet on export markets, International Standards give developing countries a basis for making the right decisions when investing their scarce resources and thus avoid squandering them.
- For consumers, conformity of products and services to International Standards provides assurance about their quality, safety and reliability.
- For everyone, International Standards contribute to the quality of life in general by ensuring that the transport, machinery and tools we use are safe.
- For the planet we inhabit, International Standards on air, water and soil quality, on emissions of gases and radiation and environmental aspects of products can contribute to efforts to preserve the environment.
The ISO brand
Every full member of ISO has the right to take part in the development of any standard which it judges to be important to its country's economy. No matter what the size or strength of that economy, each participating member in ISO has one vote. Each country is on an equal footing to influence the direction of ISO's work at the strategic level, as well as the technical content of its individual standards.
ISO standards are voluntary. As a non-governmental organization, ISO has no legal authority to enforce the implementation of its standards. ISO does not regulate or legislate. However, countries may decide to adopt ISO standards - mainly those concerned with health, safety or the environment - as regulations or refer to them in legislation, for which they provide the technical basis. In addition, although ISO standards are voluntary, they may become a market requirement, as has happened in the case of ISO 9001 quality management systems, or of dimensions of freight containers and bank cards.
ISO itself does not regulate or legislate.
ISO only develops standards for which there is a market requirement. The work is mainly carried out by experts from the industrial, technical and business sectors which have asked for the standards, and which subsequently put them to use.
ISO standards are based on international consensus among the experts in the field. Consensus, like technology, evolves and ISO takes account both of evolving technology and of evolving interests by requiring a periodic review of its standards at least every five years to decide whether they should be maintained, updated or withdrawn. In this way, ISO standards retain their position as the state of the art.
ISO standards are technical agreements which provide the framework for compatible technology worldwide. They are designed to be globally relevant - useful everywhere in the world.
ISO standards are useful everywhere in the world.
How to recognize an ISO standard
In paper form, an ISO standard is published in A4 format - which is itself one of the ISO standard paper sizes. It may be anywhere between a four-page document and one several hundred pages' long. ISO standards are also available as electronic downloads and many are available as part of a collection on CD or in handbook. An ISO standard carries the ISO logo and the designation, "International Standard".
ISO has more than 19 000 International Standards and other types of normative documents in its current portfolio. ISO's work programme ranges from standards for traditional activities, such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering, manufacturing and distribution, to transport, medical devices, information and communication technologies, and to standards for good management practice and for services.
Examples of the benefits standards provide >
Standardization of screw threads helps to keep chairs, children's bicycles and aircraft together and solves the repair and maintenance problems caused by a lack of standardization that were once a major headache for manufacturers and product users.
Standards establishing an international consensus on terminology make technology transfer easier and safer. They are an important stage in the advancement of new technologies and dissemination of innovation.
Without the standardized dimensions of freight containers, international trade would be slower and more expensive.
Without the standardization of telephone and banking cards, life would be more complicated.
A lack of standardization may even affect the quality of life itself: for the disabled, for example, when they are barred access to consumer products, public transport and buildings because the dimensions of wheel-chairs and entrances are not standardized.
Standardized symbols provide danger warnings and information across linguistic frontiers.
Consensus on grades of various materials gives a common reference for suppliers and clients in business dealings.
Agreement on a sufficient number of variations of a product to meet most current applications allows economies of scale with cost benefits for both producers and consumers. An example is the standardization of paper sizes.
Standardization of performance or safety requirements of diverse equipment makes sure that users' needs are met while allowing individual manufacturers the freedom to design their own solution on how to meet those needs.
Standardized computer protocols allow products from different vendors to "talk" to each other.
Standardized documents speed up the transit of goods, or identify sensitive or dangerous cargoes that may be handled by people speaking different languages.
Standardization of connections and interfaces of all types ensures the compatibility of equipment of diverse origins and the interoperability of different technologies.
Agreement on test methods allows meaningful comparisons of products, or plays an important part in controlling pollution - whether by noise, vibration or emissions.
Safety standards for machinery protect people at work, at play, at sea... and at the dentist's.
Without the international agreement contained in ISO standards on metric quantities and units, shopping and trade would be haphazard, science would be unscientific and technological development would be handicapped.
For more examples of the many areas of life and work where ISO standards provide technical, economic and social benefits, visit The ISO Café.
Why conformity assessment is important
"Conformity assessment" means checking that products, materials, services, systems, processes or people measure up to the specifications of a relevant standard or specification. Today, many products require testing for conformity with specifications or compliance with safety, or other regulations before they can be put on many markets. ISO guides and standards for conformity assessment represent an international consensus on best practice. Their use contributes to the consistency of conformity assessment worldwide and so facilitates trade.
ISO's international partners
ISO collaborates with its partners in international standardization, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The three organizations, all based in Geneva, Switzerland, have formed the World Standards Cooperation (WSC) to act as a strategic focus for collaboration and the promotion of international standardization.
ISO has a close relationship with the World Trade Organization (WTO) which particularly appreciates the contribution of ISO's standards to reducing technical barriers to trade. ISO collaborates with the United Nations (UN) Organization and its specialized agencies and commissions, particularly those involved in the harmonization of regulations and public policies, such as:
- CODEX Alimentarius, on food safety measurement, management and traceability
- UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE), on the safety of motor vehicles and the transportation of dangerous goods
- World Health Organization (WHO), on health technologies
- International Maritime Organization (IMO), on transport security
- World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), on the quality of services related to tourism.
In addition, ISO cooperates with UN organizations that provide assistance and support to developing countries, such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC). ISO's technical committees have formal liaison relations with over 600 international and regional organizations. ISO has reinforced its links, too, with international organizations representing different groups of stakeholders, including:
- World Economic Forum (WEF)
- Consumers International (CI)
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and
- International Federation of Standards Users (IFAN).
Lastly, ISO also collaborates regularly with the major international organizations for metrology, quality and conformity assessment.
ISO's regional partners
Many of ISO's members also belong to regional standardization organizations. ISO has recognized regional standards organizations representing Africa, the Arab countries, the area covered by the Commonwealth of Independent States, Europe, Latin America, the Pacific area, and the South-East Asia nations. The regional bodies (listed below) commit themselves to adopt ISO standards as the national standards of their members.
- African Regional Organization for Standardization (ARSO)
- Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO)
- European Committee for Standardization (CEN)
- Pan American Standards Commission (COPANT)
- Euro Asian Council for Standardization, Metrology and Certification (EASC)
- Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC)
- ASEAN Consultative Committee for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ)
Why Quality Foundation – Kolkata are the best and leading consultants for development of ISO STANDARDS
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