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ISO 9001 - A Brief History and Overview
ISO 9001 has evolved considerably since its inception and is now much more readily applicable to service sector type businesses and organisations than was originally the case.

The standard started out as BS5750 and arose out of the need to improve the quality of production line manufacturing, this being the predominant industry type in the UK in the 50s and 60s. This emphasis however eventually caused many problems with its interpretation and application to the service sector industries that arose in the 80s and 90s.

The BS5750 name was dropped in 1987 in favour of the international standard, known since by its generic convention ISO 9000, and the use of The Standard then grew throughout many other industrialised countries as well as in the UK. A significant reason for the rise in ISO 9001 certifications in the UK has been the increasing demands by governmental type organisations and major civil engineering contractors etc. that their suppliers were ISO 9001 registered.

Although meeting the Standard was intended to guarantee quality, this unfortunately did not always happen as ISO 9001 did not, in its earlier form, really encourage business improvement as such, and notably did not even say much about customer service; rather it was more a means of controlling conformance as well as the presumed nonconformities.

It became normal for businesses to focus so much on the ISO 9001 requirements themselves that they missed the point about meeting their customers’ needs and improving the quality of their products or services. It was not unusual for ISO 9001 to be seen as totally separate from the real day to day business operation. Sadly, examples of this misconception are still around today.

Fortunately many of the earlier shortcomings were addressed in the significant Year 2000 update which moved away from just managing conformance to cover many of the wider issues concerned with managing a business, as well as laying greater emphasis on the key areas of customer focus, people involvement, and importantly, continuous improvement.

The most recent update to ISO 9001 was in 2008 and the current version to which organisations are assessed is ISO 9001:2008, however the changes made in 2008 are quite minor and do not significantly affect the actual requirements; the changes being mostly to clarification notes.

There are in fact a range of standards within the ISO 9000 family, and one that is worth a closer look is ISO 9004, which is in fact a very useful guide to implementing ISO 9001, and can help users to understand more fully how to go about ensuring genuine continuous improvement.

The current revision of ISO 9001 is certainly more relevant to today's service sector industries, however the key to ensuring that ISO 9001 delivers real business benefits and service improvements is in its implementation.


"The effectiveness of using ISO 9001 is simply a matter of how well it is implemented"



If you want to just ask a question or two, or wish to discuss further how ISO 9001 Consulting can help improve your business, then do call or email.



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ISO 9001:2008

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Brian Mead, Business Improvement Services
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Tel: +44 (0) 1892 458156
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