Frequently Asked Questions About ISO 9000

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Q: What is the history and origins of the ISO 9000 series of standards?

A: After issuing several inspection system documents in the 1950ís the US military later integrated them into a family of requirements documents. On December 16, 1963, MIL-I-45208A, Inspection System Requirements and MIL-Q-9858A, Quality Program Requirements were issued. A third document, issued as a standard clause in procurement contracts, required control over final inspection and testing. This family of three documents provided suppliers a choice of three levels of quality systems. Other documents, including MIL-C-45662, Calibration System Requirements, completed this early family of quality requirements documents.

The Canadian CSA Z 299 series of standards were issued in the mid 1970ís and the British standard BS 5750 was issued in 1979. These offered 4 and 3 levels of quality management systems, respectively. In December 1979 the United States issued the ANSI/ASQC Z-1.15, Generic Guidelines for quality systems. This was a menu of quality management elements, and each organization chose the elements they felt were helpful, allowing for almost an infinite degree of tailoring.

The increase in international trade stimulated the development of internationally recognized quality management standards. It was feared that a mosaic of different national standards would be a barrier to international trade. The ISO Technical Committee (TC) 176 had its first meeting in 1980.

The first standard issued by TC 176 was ISO 8402, which standardized quality management terminology. The committee was faced with adopting a three level scheme, as the British had done, a four level scheme as the Canadians had done, or issuing comprehensive guidelines as the United States had done. In 1987, in a practical act of diplomacy, they issued ISO 9001, 9002 and 9003 establishing three different levels of quality management system. They also issued ISO 9004, which is a set of comprehensive guidelines.

These standards were revised in 1994, and then extensively revised in the year 2000. They have gained wide international acceptance.