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The 21st century will bring new challenges and new opportunities to corporations worldwide. New markets will be intensely competitive and demand higher product quality standards from your company. Quality assurance and managing new quality goals will be essential for success. The ISO 9000 Series of Standards is a relatively new business tool.
The basic intent of the ISO 9000 Series of Standards is consistent customer satisfaction through the timely supply of products or services that conform to the requirements and expectations of your customers. Any other benefits your company may derive from your quality assurance efforts are secondary to the goal of consistently satisfying your customers.
If ISO quality assurance leads to satisfying existing customers, then it can also attract new customers. An investment in a quality management system is also an investment in future sales success.
A successful quality assurance system does require an unequivocal commitment from company management to support the program and its implementation.
ISO has its roots in post-World War II Europe. The need to rebuild infrastructure, and retool industries, also created the need to develop common standards.
In 1946, the International Organization for Standardization was founded. Its stated purpose was to develop common manufacturing, trade and communications standards. Today, for example, we accept without question that sea and air containers can be handled worldwide. Or that the international telephone system will seamlessly connect any call from anywhere to anywhere.
Without agreed basic standards, chaos would quickly result. Standards are the ?nuts and bolts? connecting the global community. International trade operates on the tacit assumption that everything fits together. The international standardization that we now enjoy did not occur spontaneously. Standards were generally established outside the arena of geopolitics; consensus did not always come easily but commonsense, in the interests of all nations, seems to have prevailed since the late 1940s.
ISO takes its name from the Greek word, isos, meaning equal. The English prefix, iso (from the same Greek root), also means equal and is found in such words as isobar (a line on a weather map connecting places having the same or equal barometric pressure) and isostatic (under equal pressure from every side). For anything to be equal it must contain uniform or standard characteristics.
ISO is therefore both a (French language) acronym for the International Organization for Standardization and an accurate description of its purpose. Now based in Geneva, Switzerland, ISO is comprised of over 100 member countries. Each country is represented by its appointed member body. This national body is the function that establishes and controls its own country?s national standards. Each nation has a single vote despite the often vast disparities in size, population and level of economic development among member countries. The United States is represented by The American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Member countries are not under any international legal obligation to adopt or locally enforce ISO standards. However, many countries chose to adopt ISO standards as their own national standards. Some do so only by key industries; others by wider mandates. ISO develops universal standards for all industrial and commercial activities, except in the electrical and electronic engineering industries. These are the responsibility of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), also based in Geneva. ISO and IEC work closely and cooperate on the development of common standards.
From its early beginnings in 1946, ISO has responded to the awesome task of bringing the world together through common standards. Today, ISO standards are found in almost every industrial and commercial endeavor from heavy manufacturing to world currency exchange rate calculations. Quality assurance standards are only a small but nevertheless an important part of the global ISO commitment to standardization.
The development of quality assurance standardization was both hampered by, and benefited from, the Cold War. Many early national and international standards arose from quality control demands for military and civilian nuclear industry needs. These standards were either quality system requirements to be used by contractors or specification requirements for purchasers and suppliers. Most were also classified and therefore not available for wider industrial or commercial use.
The ISO 9000 Series of Standards in use today is, in part, a direct descendant of the U.S. Department of Defense MIL-Q9858 quality assurance program adopted in 1959. In 1968, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, more widely known as NATO, adopted the principles and much of the content of the successful Department of Defense program under a series of standards prefixed AQAP.
The first broad civilian use of quality assurance systems came in 1979 when the British Standards Institute (BSI) issued standards for industrial and commercial use. The development of the European Union was also a major catalyst in the logical growth of international quality assurance standards.
The 1970s also brought rapid global improvements in information and transportation technology. Computers, telecommunications satellites and widebody jets all changed the way the world did business. The need for harmonized product quality requirements and guidelines became increasingly obvious. Differing national quality standards were increasingly seen as serious barriers to global trade. Countries could no longer insist that their standards were superior to other national standards. Trade was becoming more complex and potentially more costly. The solution was to provide product standards and quality system guidelines to companies worldwide as the basis of export/import trade and domestic vendor/customer relationships. Standards were now essential to facilitate world trade.
It was not until 1987 that an ISO Technical Committee finally agreed to a common set of quality standards and published the ISO 9000 Series. The term ISO 9000 Family or Series refers to the comprehensive group of standards developed by Technical Committee 176 and published in its entirety as ISO/TC176. Only ISO 9001, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003 are quality assurance standards. The other ISO/TC176 documents are guideline standards.
ISO standards are always published in English and French, two of the three ISO official languages. The third official language, Russian, is also used extensively. Any standard adopted by a member country must be translated and published in the official language of that country.
ISO 9000 is now a vital part of the way the world does business. It is a universal quality ideal that is widely understood and transcends language and cultural barriers.
Many U.S. companies adopted an ISO 9000 standard through the loss of a key customer or on the mistaken assumption that ISO 9000 registration would be a requirement for doing business in Europe or Asia.
Other companies have become convinced that ISO 9000 registration is good for business and a valuable process management system. Registration continues to skyrocket. Tens of thousands of businesses in the U.S. are now registered. Thousands more are in ISO compliance or are introducing ISO 9000 quality assurance systems.
Most ISO certification is in the manufacturing sector but new ISO success stories in construction, service, healthcare, and even the hospitality (hotel) industry, demonstrate the flexibility and usefulness of the ISO 9000 series.
The Big Three automakers (Ford, Chrysler and General Motors) have their own quality system for its suppliers. QS-9000 includes all the elements of ISO 9001 with additional automotive manufacturing standards for use by the thousands of suppliers in the auto and truck manufacturing industries. American-made autos have largely overcome many of the disastrous quality image problems that plagued the auto industry in past decades. Japanese auto manufacturers now use the American developed QS-9000 standards for many of their own global operations.
ISO 9000 works. Companies voluntarily use ISO 9000 quality assurance. There are no Federal or State laws requiring ISO compliance. (The U.S. Federal government encourages its departments to adopt voluntary consensus standards and a 1995 law requires those departments that do not do so to provide a written explanation.)
They key to its global success is its flexibility. One size does not fit all. ISO 9001 is essentially a twenty step program for changing and maintaining desired company behavior. Each company has the ability to build on the key principles contained in their ISO 9000 standard with procedures that meet their specialized needs.
The principles of ISO quality assurance work equally as well in Indiana as they do in India.
ISO 9000 is here to stay. It has proven its worth worldwide and is accepted as not just ?another management fad.? It is a gateway to new markets and customers. It will continue to grow as a vital global trading requirement.
It will also continue to strengthen the domestic production capabilities of successful companies. As the world grows smaller through new technology, and as more non-stop flights connect major foreign cities, quality assurance will become a basic tenet for business success. Companies that cannot convince their customers of ISO quality assurance standards will inevitably lose business to their new competitors. As tariff barriers continue to fall, those new competitors may not be across town but on a different continent and may speak a different language. Tomorrow?s customers may rate the ability to delivery conforming product ahead of location and national loyalties.
The world grows smaller as the 21st century approaches. ISO 9000 will bring customers closer to suppliers. It will also bring competitors closer to traditional customers and markets.
?Quality? is an easy concept to understand but difficult to define. Most contemporary definitions are subjective in nature. In the context of an ISO 9000 standard, ?quality? is defined as:
?The totality of characteristics of an entity that bear on its ability to
satisfy stated and implied needs.?
Simply put, ?quality? is the sum total of all the parts of an entity that directly or indirectly affect its actions or ability to meet the goals or expected result. Quality is therefore not only the result itself; it is also all the activities that lead up to that result. (Note: An ?entity? in this definition can be a process, a product, a company or organization, a system, a person, or any combination thereof.)
Understanding the accepted and narrower product (or service) definition of ?quality? is nevertheless important. It is usually defined as a ?fitness for use? or ?fitness for purpose.? A manufacturer that consistently produces product that is unfit for use is unlikely to stay in business. Most manufacturers base production activities on agreed technical standards so as to produce a standard result. Specifications are often technically complex, and production well managed, leading some executives to question the need for additional ISO 9000 quality assurance standards.
However, ISO 9000-1 (the basic guidance document in the ISO 9000 Series) states, ?Specifications may not in themselves guarantee that a customer?s requirements will be met consistently.? It is important to recognize that ?quality? under ISO guidelines is not exclusively the result of product standards and/or technical specifications. Quality is also a separate but an interconnected result of an effective quality management system.
ISO 9000 standards are founded on the principle that consistent product quality is achieved by the parallel applications of a quality system and product standards. The latter provides the technical standards under which the production process operates to produce the desired result. However, a quality system is not related to the any particular technical standard. It is a method under which your company uses ISO 9000 standards to identify and empower the management systems needed to design, produce, deliver and support products that conform with customer expectations.
Product standards are specific to that product. The Quality System enhances every activity, irrespective of the specific product. ?Quality,? under the ISO definition, is therefore achieved through the control of two types of standards: technical and behavioral. Both are equally important but neither is overly reliant on the other. Managing technical quality has historically relied on inspection ?after the fact.? Managing human error has traditionally relied on the apportionment of blame, sometimes with disciplinary consequences. ISO 9000 principles seek to move past these traditional approaches by systemizing quality control and reducing negative quality events. It is a system of total process overview with the ability to quickly intervene when quality problems arise.
ISO 9000-1 bases effective quality control on four fundamentals:
The first two fundamentals rely on product standards and technical specifications. The others rely primarily on the quality system. An effective quality assurance management program essentially contains an equal commitment to product specifications and the human production processes.
The frequently used term, ?Quality Assurance,? is not necessarily interchangeable with ?Quality.? Quality is the end result of effective Quality Assurance efforts. Quality assurance is defined as:
Assurance: ?all the planned and
systematic activities implemented within the quality system, and demonstrated as
needed, to provide adequate confidence that an entity will fulfill requirements
The intent of your quality assurance system is to prevent problems. By preventing problems, you reduce and hopefully eliminate, the production of nonconforming product that does not meet the expectations of your customers (or ?conform? to specifications).
For your quality assurance efforts to prevent problems from occurring, it is critical that you are able to detect them when they do occur. You must then identify the cause, remedy the cause, and prevent recurrence. If you do not, you do not have a true quality assurance system. Without the ability to identify and correct nonconforming events (quality failures), all other quality activities will be jeopardized.The successful introduction of a viable quality system for your company can only be accomplished by embracing the totality of the ISO 9000 philosophy. Elements of the systems may be progressively introduced in a timely manner but there also needs to be a clear commitment to the total concept of quality management at all company levels.
The original ISO Series, issued in 1987, was revised and reissued in 1994. The external quality assurance standards, ISO 9001, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003, contain specific elements that a company?s quality system must contain for compliance and subsequent certification. However, the standards do not specify how a company is required to implement the essential elements. The requirements are generic and broadly suited to any industrial or economic activity.
ISO standards are not intended to enforce a worldwide uniform quality assurance method. Companies are encouraged to adopt the standard best suited to their needs and then adapt a quality system that complies with the essential ISO elements but is also consistent with the individual requirements of each company. A flexible quality system is intended to conform with the company?s processes and not to force company to change its basic production methods.
There are three basic ISO quality standards groups. These are defined as:
The purpose of the three primary or conformance standards is to demonstrate confidence to the company?s customers that its quality system will provide a mutually satisfactory and consistently delivered product or service.
The three standards (ISO 9001/9002/9003) are not different levels of quality; the standards differ only in their scope. This offers the flexibility required to adapt an effective quality system to different company needs.
For example, ISO 9001 includes a Design Control element
while ISO 9002 does not. A company that does not have a product design function
might prefer the ISO 9002 standard for its quality system. Customers may also
demand a particular certification standard from all their vendors. If your
company has not determined its applicable standard, consider your customers?
needs first. If you are required to deliver product that conforms to one
standard, then that is the standard you should use.
If not, consider the following explanations of each primary or
9001, Quality systems?Model for quality assurance in design/development,
production, installation and servicing is the most comprehensive primary
or conformance standard. It includes all the elements or key parts of ISO 9002
and ISO 9003 and also requires a that quality system be in place for company
design, development and servicing activities. ISO 9001 is commonly used in
manufacturing and processing companies where it necessary to control product
quality throughout the entire production cycle, from design and raw materials to
shipping and after-sales servicing. It is also used where a customer contract
specifies product design and/or the raw materials to be used in the production
9002, Quality systems?Model for quality assurance in production, installation
and servicing is similar to ISO 9001 but does not include the design
function. It is useful for any company that does not design product but instead
operates only production processes in accordance with designs and technical
specifications supplied or approved by their customers.
ISO 9003, Quality systems?Model for quality assurance in final inspection and test is the least stringent primary standard. Its elements provide for quality assurance only during the final inspection and testing cycle of a company?s product. This standard is suitable for products and services that are not unduly complex in nature. Unlike ISO 9001 and 9002, the standard does not provide any in-process quality controls. The identification of nonconforming product is made only at the final stage of the production process immediately prior to shipping product to customers.
Carefully consider your application before deciding on a standard. Most manufacturing and other production process activities are better suited to the ISO 9001 standard (or ISO 9002 if their is no design or development activity in the company). The simplicity of ISO 9003 may be a tempting compromise for some companies but it can also be an expensive proposition.
ISO 9001 and ISO 9002 give you the tools you require to introduce a quality system throughout the production process. Progressively, the system will reduce and eventually even eliminate in-process quality failures resulting in a significant drop in nonconforming product throughout the full production cycle. But identifying problems only at the point of final inspection and testing does nothing to correct costly mistakes. It only prevents nonconforming product from reaching the customer.
ISO 9003 is ideally suited to companies with simple production processes where nonconforming product can be easily reintroduced into the production process for reworking, and can be done so without significant financial loss. Other operations are better suited to ISO 9001 or ISO 9002 standards.
It is important to choose the standard that suits your company?s needs. The primary or compliance standards are designed to provide the basic building blocks for customizing a quality system. It is not necessary to document every production task or operation if the lack of such documentation does not adversely impact on the goal of external quality assurance. Avoid the trap of creating a paperwork nightmare. Procedures and task instructions must meet specific quality control objectives. A quality management system is not an end in itself; it is a tool designed to complement existing company production methods.
The principles of ISO external quality assurance are broad and flexible. An effective quality system works for the company and its customers. It should not become an all-consuming activity that impedes production or other company activities.
Standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics, to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.
For example, the format of the credit cards, phone cards, and "smart" cards that have become commonplace is derived from an ISO International Standard. Adhering to the standard, which defines such features as an optimal thickness (0,76 mm), means that the cards can be used worldwide.
International Standards thus contribute to making life simpler, and to increasing the reliability and effectiveness of the goods and services we use.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from some 130 countries, one from each country.
ISO is a non-governmental organization established in 1947. The mission of ISO is to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world with a view to facilitating the international exchange of goods and services, and to developing cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity. ISO's work results in international agreements which are published as International Standards.
Many people will have noticed a seeming lack of correspondence between the official title when used in full, International Organization for Standardization, and the short form, ISO. Shouldn't the acronym be "IOS"? Yes, if it were an acronym ? which it is not.
In fact, "ISO" is a word, derived from the Greek isos, meaning "equal", which is the root of the prefix "iso-" that occurs in a host of terms, such as "isometric" (of equal measure or dimensions) and "isonomy" (equality of laws, or of people before the law).
From "equal" to "standard", the line of thinking that led to the choice of "ISO" as the name of the organization is easy to follow. In addition, the name ISO is used around the world to denote the organization, thus avoiding the plethora of acronyms resulting from the translation of "International Organization for Standardization" into the different national languages of members, e.g. IOS in English, OIN in French (from Organisation internationale de normalisation). Whatever the country, the short form of the Organization's name is always ISO.
The existence of non-harmonized standards for similar technologies in different countries or regions can contribute to so-called "technical barriers to trade". Export-minded industries have long sensed the need to agree on world standards to help rationalize the international trading process. This was the origin of the establishment of ISO.
International standardization is well-established for many technologies in such diverse fields as information processing and communications, textiles, packaging, distribution of goods, energy production and utilization, shipbuilding, banking and financial services. It will continue to grow in importance for all sectors of industrial activity for the foreseeable future. The main reasons are:
Industry-wide standardization is a condition existing within a particular industrial sector when the large majority of products or services conform to the same standards. It results from consensus agreements reached between all economic players in that industrial sector - suppliers, users, and often governments. They agree on specifications and criteria to be applied consistently in the choice and classification of materials, the manufacture of products, and the provision of services. The aim is to facilitate trade, exchange and technology transfer through:
Users have more confidence in products and services that conform to International Standards. Assurance of conformity can be provided by manufacturers' declarations, or by audits carried out by independent bodies.
Below are some examples of ISO standards that have been widely adopted, giving clear benefits to industry, trade and consumers.
ISO is made up of its members which are divided into three categories:
A member body takes the responsibility for:
Member bodies are entitled to participate and exercise full voting rights on any technical committee and policy committee of ISO.
A correspondent member is usually an organization in a country which does not yet have a fully developed national standards activity. Correspondent members do not take an active part in the technical and policy development work, but are entitled to be kept fully informed about the work of interest to them.
ISO has also established a third category, subscriber membership, for countries with very small economies. Subscriber members pay reduced membership fees that nevertheless allow them to maintain contact with international standardization.
The technical work of ISO is highly decentralized, carried out in a hierarchy of some 2 850 technical committees, subcommittees and working groups. In these committees, qualified representatives of industry, research institutes, government authorities, consumer bodies, and international organizations from all over the world come together as equal partners in the resolution of global standardization problems. Some 30 000 experts participate in meetings each year.
The major responsibility for administrating a standards committee is accepted by one of the national standards bodies that make up the ISO membership - AFNOR, ANSI, BSI, CSBTS, DIN, SIS, etc. [See the Links Heading on this page for definitions and links to these organizations] The member body holding the secretariat of a standards committee normally appoints one or two persons to do the technical and administrative work. A committee chairman assists committee members in reaching consensus. Generally, a consensus will mean that a particular solution to the problem at hand is the best possible one for international application at that time.
The Central Secretariat in Geneva acts to ensure the flow of documentation in all directions, to clarify technical points with secretariats and chairmen, and to ensure that the agreements approved by the technical committees are edited, printed, submitted as draft International Standards to ISO member bodies for voting, and published. Meetings of technical committees and subcommittees are convened by the Central Secretariat, which coordinates all such meetings with the committee secretariats before setting the date and place. Although the greater part of the ISO technical work is done by correspondence, there are, on average, a dozen ISO meetings taking place somewhere in the world every working day of the year.
Each member body interested in a subject has the right to be represented on a committee. International organizations, governmental and non-governmental, in liaison with ISO, also take part in the work. ISO collaborates closely with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) on all matters of electrotechnical standardization.
The publication ISO Memento provides information on the scope of responsibility, organizational structure and secretariats for each ISO technical committee. Detailed rules of procedure for the technical work are given in the ISO/IEC Directives. A list of the 500 international organizations in liaison with ISO's technical committees and subcommittees is given in the publication ISO Liaisons.
The scope of ISO is not limited to any particular branch; it covers all technical fields except electrical and electronic engineering, which is the responsibility of IEC. The work in the field of information technology is carried out by a joint ISO/IEC technical committee (JTC 1).
ISO standards are developed according to the following principles:
There are three main phases in the ISO standards development process.
The need for a standard is usually expressed by an industry sector, which communicates this need to a national member body. The latter proposes the new work item to ISO as a whole. Once the need for an International Standard has been recognized and formally agreed, the first phase involves definition of the technical scope of the future standard. This phase is usually carried out in working groups which comprise technical experts from countries interested in the subject matter.
Once agreement has been reached on which technical aspects are to be covered in the standard, a second phase is entered during which countries negotiate the detailed specifications within the standard. This is the consensus-building phase.
The final phase comprises the formal approval of the resulting draft International Standard (the acceptance criteria stipulate approval by two-thirds of the ISO members that have participated actively in the standards development process, and approval by 75 % of all members that vote), following which the agreed text is published as an ISO International Standard. It is now also possible to publish interim documents at different stages in the standardization process.
Most standards require periodic revision. Several factors combine to render a standard out of date: technological evolution, new methods and materials, new quality and safety requirements. To take account of these factors, ISO has established the general rule that all ISO standards should be reviewed at intervals of not more than five years. On occasion, it is necessary to revise a standard earlier.
To date, ISO's work has resulted in some 12 000 International Standards, representing more than 300 000 pages in English and French (terminology is often provided in other languages as well).
A list of all ISO standards appears in the ISO Catalogue.
The financing of ISO closely reflects its decentralized mode of operation with, on the one hand, the financing of the Central Secretariat activities and, on the other hand, the financing of the technical work as such.
The financing of the Central Secretariat derives from member subscriptions (80 %) and revenues from the sale of the Organization's standards and other publications (20 %). The subscriptions required of members for financing the operations of the Central Secretariat are expressed in units and calculated in Swiss francs (CHF). The number of units that each member is invited to pay is calculated on the basis of economic indicators: gross national product (GNP), and value of imports and exports. The value of the subscription unit is set each year by the ISO Council.
The ISO member bodies bear the expenditure necessary for the operation of the individual technical secretariats for which they are responsible. It is generally estimated that the operating expenditure of the Central Secretariat represents about one-fifth of the total cost of financing the ISO administrative operations.
To that, one must also add the value of the voluntary contributions of some 30 000 experts in terms of time and travel. While no precise calculation has ever been made to assess in figures this contribution of fundamental knowledge to the work of ISO, it is nevertheless certain that this expenditure amounts to several hundred million Swiss francs each year.
ISO collaborates with its international standardization partner, the IEC, whose scope of activities complements ISO's. In turn, ISO and the IEC cooperate on a joint basis with the ITU (International Telecommunication Union). Like ISO, the IEC is a non-governmental body, while the ITU is part of the United Nations Organization and its members are governments. The three organizations have a strong collaboration on standardization in the fields of information technology and telecommunications.
ISO is building a strategic partnership with the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the common goal of promoting a free and fair global trading system. The political agreements reached within the framework of the WTO require underpinning by technical agreements. ISO is being recognized as providing a special technical support role in relationship to the new and expanded WTO programmes.
Many of ISO's members also belong to regional standardization organizations. This makes it easier for ISO to build bridges with regional standardization activities throughout the world. 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. These recognitions are based on a commitment by the regional bodies to adopt ISO standards ? whenever possible without change ? as the national standards of their members and to initiate the development of divergent standards only if no appropriate ISO standards are available for direct adoption.
In addition, ISO liaises with some 500 international and regional organizations interested in specific aspects of its standardization work.
Enquiries about standards involve those of ISO and a number of recognized standards agreed within other international technical organizations. There are, in addition, several hundred thousand standards and technical regulations in use throughout the world containing special requirements for a particular country or region. Finding information about all these standards, technical regulations, or related testing and certification activities, can be a heavy task.
ISONET, the ISO Information Network, is there to assist customers in retrieval of information required. This is a worldwide network of national standards information centres which have cooperatively agreed to provide rapid access to information about standards, technical regulations, and testing and certification activities currently used in different parts of the world. Members of this network - usually the ISO member for any given country - act effectively in the dissemination of information and in identifying the relevant sources of information for solving specific problems. Each national member of ISONET has a dual responsibility. By joining ISONET it has become the international reference point for information about the standards, technical regulations and certification systems which operate in its own country. Secondly, it is expected to provide its own nationals with an efficient information service on national, foreign, regional and international technical rules.
Information on ISONET members is presented in the ISONET Directory, which gives the addresses of ISONET members, their information centres and sales services, and lists the types of information they are able to provide. The Directory also includes, where relevant, the names and addresses of the enquiry points established under the WTO* Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO TBT) and under the WTO Agreement on Sanitary Phyto-Sanitary (WTO SPS).
* World Trade Organization
ISO and many of its members are actively involved in consulting and training services which include seminars on the application of standards in quality assurance systems, technical assistance to exporters concerning standards requirements in other countries, workshops on consumer involvement in standardization, and conferences and symposia covering recent developments in testing and certification.
For the particular needs of its developing country members, ISO operates a special programme consisting of training seminars, publication of development manuals, and various other kinds of expert assistance. This programme, which is supported by governmental aid agencies and ISO members from several industrialized countries, provides an important mechanism through which developing countries may accelerate the advancement of their national standardization and quality assurance systems.
The international collaborative network of standardization and standards-related activities is open to all interests and is directly accessible through the ISO members or the ISO Central Secretariat in Geneva.
International standardization began in the electrotechnical field: the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) was created in 1906. Pioneering work in other fields was carried out by the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA), which was set up in 1926. The emphasis within ISA was laid heavily on mechanical engineering.
ISA's activities ceased in 1942, owing to the Second World War. Following a meeting in London in 1946, delegates from 25 countries decided to create a new international organization "the object of which would be to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards". The new organization, ISO, began to function officially on 23 February 1947.
The first ISO standard was published in 1951 with the title, "Standard reference temperature for industrial length measurement".
Read Friendship among equals ? Recollections from ISO's first fifty years for a historical perspective of ISO.
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