The development of the industry, the emergence of a larger number of entities providing the same range of services, results in strong competition between them. It is no different in the contract electronics manufacturing industry. At the same time, as the industry grows, customers are becoming more and more aware of their choice of a particular supplier - they compare prices, check opinions and expect an increasingly high quality of service.
The consequence of such a situation for contract manufacturers is not only meeting price requirements (which should not be the only criterion for choosing a supplier), but also constant self-improvement at all levels of the company - from manufacture to management, allowing for maintaining high quality. ISO certification serves this purpose, allowing the company to organise and structure its own work systems in accordance with internationally recognised standards. This company philosophy translates into customer loyalty and trust.
To talk about ISO certification, one should start by elaborating on the ISO acronym itself. ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. It is a non-governmental organisation of more than 160 countries, with one independent member per country. It is an independent organisation that is not influenced by entrepreneurs, corporations or governments. ISO develops quality standards, and the standards developed by the organisation cover virtually every field.
The implementation by companies of the standards developed by the committee is a certification process. An entity that adjusts its activities to the specified standards obtains an ISO certificate in a given field, thus confirming the high quality of its services and products. The ISO certificate is thus the culmination of a series of actions.
Which ISO certifications should a good EMS provider have?
ISO certification should not be an art for art’s sake, but a well-thought-out action to actually improve the quality of management and service. Therefore, the best solution is to focus on the implementation of ISO in selected areas, according to the specifics and real needs of your company.
ISO 9001 – quality management
The most common ISO certification in the manufacturing industry is ISO 9001, which creates a widely recognised standard for quality assurance, improvement, and customer satisfaction in many industries, including the electronics industry. It helps companies to meet customer expectations and improve safety standards.
ISO 14001 – environmental management
The ISO 14001 certificate is the leading standard for environmental management systems. It is a confirmation of the company’s consistent implementation of elements aimed at the maximum reduction of its negative impact on the environment. The aim of implementing this certificate is to continually improve and enhance the effects of environmental activity and to be prepared to respond in the event of an ecological emergency.
ISO 13485 – medical devices
ISO 13485, like ISO 9000, is a set of solutions for a Quality Management System. However, ISO 13485 standard, compared to ISO 9000, is more detailed and requires a more thoroughly documented Quality Management System. Its certification was developed to support medical device manufacturers. The standard ensures the consistent design, development, manufacture, installation and delivery of medical devices that are safe in the context of their intended end use.
ISO 22301 – business continuity management
Implementing ISO 22301 allows you to understand and prioritise the business continuity risks of your business. The standard specifies the requirements placed on a management system to prevent disruptive incidents from occurring, as well as to reduce the likelihood of them occurring and to ensure that, should they occur, the business is not harmed or losses incurred are minimised.
Benefits of ISO certification for an electronics manufacturer
ISO certificates in specific areas confirm the quality of the products and services provided by the holder. However, apart from a certain form of external prestige, each implemented ISO certificate brings great added value to the EMS provider, including:
- confirmation of high quality products/assembly services - the implementation of ISO standards requires necessary analyses at various levels of the company. As a result of the conclusions drawn from these analyses, changes are introduced from the management level downwards, which ultimately translate into a better product or service for the target customer;
- knowing that someone has checked the quality of the services so that ISO can be accepted - ISO is not something that you ‘buy’. Obtaining ISO certification is not a one-sided declaration by the company that holds it. The implementation process in the company is followed by an audit by an external accredited body that is not affiliated with the company, which verifies the compliance of the conducted activities with the standard and on this basis, grants the certificate;
- better trained staff - ISO certificates are not acquired indefinitely, they need to be renewed at certain intervals, which forces an organisation to continually improve itself, which also means the need to organise regular training for staff involved in the certified processes;
- performing work according to defined norms and standards - ISO standards provide a comfortable framework in which one should operate, perform one’s duties, and in which one can succeed. When the work environment is structured and the division of responsibilities is clear and legible, people work better;
- better team organisation - norms and standards allow for a clear division of tasks between teams/departments, and to assign responsibility for specific elements to specific people. This prevents dilution of responsibility or duplication of work.
Does ISO certification always make sense?
It turns out that it is not always worth the commitment, effort, and cost to become ISO certified - not every company will experience the above benefits of certification. There are several factors to consider:
- company size - a two-person service organisation is unlikely to achieve the same benefits of certification as a larger supplier. Due to its size, its processes and division of competencies will not be as extensive;
- investment costs - the cost of the certification document itself is not the most expensive part of the project; it is the money spent on the necessary development, implementation and subsequent process management throughout the validity period of the certificate;
- business processes - their creation and further efficient functioning requires commitment, investment and dedicated management staff. It is not only a plan that remains on paper, but also skilful record-keeping, training of people involved in the business processes and constant monitoring of the process operation in order to maintain its continuity or introduce improvements;
- building a culture of self-improvement - an ISO certificate is not given once and for all. Its cyclical renewal forces the whole enterprise to continually develop and improve itself. This requires investing time and effort in continuous analysis to improve the process.